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Josh Gattis talks Michigan QB competition, depth at skill positions

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Year two with Gattis at the helm will usher in a new starting quarterback.

Rutgers v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines offense is going to look different in 2020 at a variety of positions. A new quarterback will be throwing to an up and coming group of wideouts and tight ends, with multiple new starters protecting him along the offensive line. The running back group remains in tact but will be bolstered by the versatile Chris Evans being reinstated.

While it remains to be seen how Michigan’s offense will gel next season, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is optimistic about his unit. “A big part of trusting each other is holding each other accountable. I think that’s going to be the biggest area of growth for us from year one to year two, but this team is completely different,” Gattis said on Jon Jansen’s In the Trenches Podcast. “This year two team is going to be completely different. We’re possibly going to have five returning starters. We have a lot of guys that are going to have to step up and provide us with some leadership and some guys that will have to provide us with some depth.”

Gattis wants the quarterback competition to be fair and for each player in the running to have an equal amount of opportunity to show they’re the one to lead the offense. “The biggest thing that we’ve gotta do, is we gotta maintain a system that’s going to be fair, that’s going to give all of the quarterbacks on our roster the opportunity to really push themselves and apply themselves to be able to compete for the job. It’s often a challenge during the season, because when you have a starter in the past, your backups don’t always get the fair amount of reps,” Gattis said. “They’re getting them with the twos and the threes, but they’re not given the same opportunity as the starter. As compared to spring ball, we’ve gotta come up with a system of reps and opportunities, to allow each and every one of our quarterbacks on our roster to be able to compete with a fair amount of opportunity and reps. Whether that’s splitting time with the ones, whether that’s splitting time with the twos by rotation, it’s something we’ve gotta be able to manage, and it’s a challenge, especially when you have multiple quarterbacks.”

While it appears to be a two horse race from the outside looking in, between Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton, redshirt freshman Cade McNamara will receive an opportunity to stake his claim as well. “If the job is coming down to just two guys, then obviously it’s a two-way system. We feel like Cade has developed, Joe has developed,” Gattis said. “I’m really excited to see Joe, I’m really excited to see Dylan, so we gotta figure out a way to get those guys the equal amount of opportunities to be able to show what they can do and lead this team in the direction we need them.”

Beyond the QB room, Gattis is excited with his receiving unit, which includes No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell, along with speedsters Giles Jackson, Cornelius Johnson, and Mike Sainristil, who will be receiving more snaps next season. “The leadership of Ronnie Bell and Nico is something that we’re going to lean on heavily. As the year went on, you saw the emergence of Giles Jackson, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson,” Gattis said. “We’ll be a much better skill unit, even though we’re younger, we just gotta be able to capitalize and make the plays that we need to make.”

In Michigan’s offense, tight ends are just as important as wide receivers and are asked to do a variety of things, and Gattis believes the unit has the versatility necessary to succeed. “When you look at our room with the type of dynamic athletes that we have, in Nick Eubanks, Erik All and Luke Schoonmaker, those guys possess all those traits (pass catchers, pass protectors, run blockers),” Gattis said. “They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, they can run, they have loose hips, they can catch the ball, they’re all smart. So, they’re really the kind of Swiss Army knife of our offense, where they’re asked to do everything, and a lot of times that gets overlooked. But, we could not play and could not be successful without our tight end group.”

Gattis also discussed how the running back group is meshing, a unit that includes a 1A & 1B in Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins along with Chris Evans, Christian Turner, and four-star freshman Blake Corum. “I feel like we have great depth at running back,” Gattis said. “We’ll be able to make sure that our guys are competing at a high level. We have some guys back that have played, and we’re adding some new pieces that have played here before in Chris Evans. So, we should have some competition brewing there.”

Each year brings unknowns an their own unique set of challenges, and this year will be no different for Michigan in that regard. However, hope springs eternal, there’s room for optimism, and we’ll find out if the positivity from Gattis was warranted once the season starts.