Maryland coach Mike Locksley on new Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis (they worked together at Alabama last year). Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Chicago — Maryland coach Mike Locksley fielded three questions about first-year Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, and that was definitely enough for him.
Actually, it seemed the first question was enough. When asked about Gattis, with whom he was co-offensive coordinator at Alabama last year although Locksley called plays, he went deadpan with a series of "Who? Who?” responses.
After a third question about Gattis during a breakout session Thursday at Big Ten media days, Locksley clearly wanted to change the focus.
“Who’s that?” he said again. “Why am I getting Josh Gattis questions? Is he here today?”
Gattis wasn’t there but there were Michigan beat writers looking for some insight into the new offensive coordinator who hasn’t called plays in a game. Gattis has brought an up-tempo, no-huddle approach to the Wolverines, a distinct departure from what Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh ran the past four years.
“Josh is a good coach. He was very helpful as an assistant in our program,” Locksley said. “He had an opportunity to see me call every play and how we put together game plans. I hope he does well except against Maryland. Good luck to him.”
Michigan plays at Maryland Nov. 2. The Wolverines have won four straight since losing the last home game of coach Brady Hoke's tenure in 2014. Since then, Michigan has outscored Maryland, 164-34.
There were reports in January that Gattis was going to Maryland with Locksley.
That was the impression Harbaugh had in January when he spoke of Gattis' hire on his podcast.
“Found out through the grapevine that Josh was considering leaving Alabama and going to Maryland,” Harbaugh said at the time. “We reached out and asked if he’d have any interest in Michigan. I called at 10 o’clock in the morning and by 3:30 he was coming to Michigan with a signed memorandum of understanding (contract).”
Locksley said Thursday that Gattis-to-Maryland was never a done deal.
“I never thought Josh was going with me,” he said. “He was a guy that I considered. I was happy he was given the opportunity he was given at Michigan, but I’m also happy I’ve got Scottie Montgomery, who is my offensive coordinator, who has been an offensive coordinator before, who has been a part of winning programs at Duke, Pittsburgh Steelers and played in the league."
Gattis said in January on Harbaugh’s podcast that coming off the national title game he had several opportunities.
“A lot of teams were calling to gauge interest,” Gattis said earlier this year. “It caught me off guard because I wasn’t looking to make a one-year stop anywhere. Opportunities started presenting themselves and I had some tough choices to make. Obviously, professionally and personally one of my goals was to be an offensive coordinator. That’s been a lifelong dream of my mine.
"When Coach Harbaugh called it kind of caught me off guard. The funny thing about it, I had just left a meeting with (Alabama coach) Nick Saban getting my butt chewed out for about 20 minutes telling him I was leaving, and he was trying to get me to stay. It did not go over well. If there was a Band-Aid for that bruise it was that phone call (from Harbaugh). It was exciting to hear his voice.”
Peters-Illinois 'a good marriage'
Illinois coach Lovie Smith was looking for experience in his quarterback room and when former Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters was available as a graduate transfer with two years of eligibility, the fit seemed right.
Peters threw for 672 yards in 2017 when he became the starter late in the season and had four touchdowns and two interceptions. Shea Patterson, who transferred to Michigan from Ole Miss in late 2017, took over as starter last year and will start this fall.
With Dylan McCaffrey, Joe Milton and freshman Cade McNamara at Michigan, Peters decided to move on.
“We’re looking to improve our club,” Smith said when asked why he wanted Peters. “Thought we needed more.”
Illinois also has four-star incoming freshman Isaiah Williams and redshirt freshman Matt Robinson on the roster. Peters should have the edge.
“I wanted a guy with some experience, too,” Smith said. “Just worked out that way. Brandon became available late, we got together, and it felt like a good marriage. We’re excited about what he’s going to do for our program. Different skill set. We need a guy that can throw the ball. Brandon can do that. For him, he knows about Big Ten football. He grew up close to the university (in Indianapolis). There’s a lot of positive. He has jumped right in with our team.
“As a quarterback, a guy with leadership ability, a coach on the field, a guy that can throw the football. Good size. He checks off a lot of boxes. When you meet him, it felt right.”
Recruiting far and wide
Nebraska coach Scott Frost, who is entering his second season as head coach, balked at a question suggesting he has made the state of Michigan a high priority for recruiting.
“I don't know if we'd identified any particular places and made them priorities,” Frost said. “We're going to go where the players are. I don't care where they are, if they're in Jamaica or Kazakhstan, we're going. If they're in Michigan, so be it. We're going to come up and try to get the best players we can.”