Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Matt Charboneau preview the opening games of the college football season: Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee and Michigan State vs. Tulsa. The Detroit News
Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Michigan offense.
Making an impact
One can argue the offense starts with the quarterback, but one could also argue — and be correct — that it starts with the offensive line. For the first time in years, the offensive linemen are brimming with confidence and that’s in large part because four of five starters are back to work under position coach Ed Warinner, a proven developer of linemen now in his second season with the Wolverines.
Jon Runyan at tackle and veteran and two-time captain Ben Bredeson anchor the left side, Cesar Ruiz returns to start a second season at center, and a slimmer Michael Onwenu is at right guard. Jalen Mayfield was in a tight competition for the starting job at right tackle with Andrew Stueber, but with Stueber’s recent injury, the job is Mayfield’s. The good news for the offensive line is that it is deep. Maybe the backups are not overly experienced, but there’s depth.
As Jim Harbaugh enters his fifth season as head coach, this is the richest in talent and deepest quarterback room he’s had. It all starts with Shea Patterson, the veteran who started every game last year. He is the most familiar with offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ no-huddle spread because he ran something similar while at Ole Miss. The Wolverines have a more-than-capable backup in Dylan McCaffrey, who Harbaugh has assured will see valuable playing time this year, along with Joe Milton and freshman Cade McNamara.
On paper, Zach Charbonnet sounds like a major asset for the Michigan running back group, which needed some good news with the departure of Karan Higdon and suspension of Chris Evans.
Tru Wilson, who had 364 yards on 62 carries last fall, is the most game-experienced of the backs, and Christian Turner, who was talked up quite a bit at the end of last season, also returns. But Charbonnet, who enrolled early but had to undergo a planned knee surgery, has tremendous upside. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said recently that Charbonnet is “coming on like a freight train” and can see hole, obviously can run and also can catch out of the backfield.
Making catch after catch after …
That’s going to be the idea for this pro-spread which intends to utilize all the playmakers, and Michigan has quite a few at receiver. Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black are the three main cogs, but Ronnie Bell and freshman Mike Sainristil are expected to be involved in the receiving game as well.
When Gattis talks about speed in space, he’s talking in large part about the play-making receivers, but he’s also talking about the tight ends, the “big speed in space” he has referenced. Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks think they can be the best tight ends in the country, and in this offense, they very well may get that chance.
Gattis has never been an offensive coordinator — he shared the duties with Mike Locksley last year at Alabama — and has never called plays. Gattis is confident in his ability and hasn’t seemed to sweat this small detail. He comes from a program that was explosive offensively last year, and that’s what he’s set out to accomplish at Michigan. Harbaugh handed over the keys to Gattis, and according to Gattis, he has been hands off. While Gattis will call plays, Harbaugh has not ruled out that he will jump in when he feels he has something to add. Bottom line, though, is how quickly the Wolverines can run this offense without any hiccups. Time will tell.