On the move: UM offensive coordinator Josh Gattis works from field, to rave reviews

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and wide receiver Tarik Black congratulate quarterback Joe Milton after Milton ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Ann Arbor — Maybe it wasn’t the reason why Michigan demolished Rutgers, but it was a significant change that apparently had a significant effect on the players.

First-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis coached and called plays from the sideline for the first time this season during Michigan’s 52-0 romp over Rutgers at Michigan Stadium on Saturday. It was the most productive and cleanest game the offense has played this season.

Michigan had 476 total yards, its best output of the season, a season-best 335 yards receiving, and six backs got carries. Christian Turner led the way with 48 yards on 11 carries, and Hassan Haskins had 45 yards on nine carries. Overall, the Wolverines had 141 rushing yards on 41 carries and five touchdowns, including three from quarterback Shea Patterson and one from backup Joe Milton.

The change was made after Michigan’s 35-14 loss last week at Wisconsin in which the Wolverines had 299 yards of total offense, including 40 yards rushing.

“We talked about it last week,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Just started the conversation. I was thinking that, he was thinking that, so let’s do it. That’s both of our impressions, let’s go in that direction.”

There had been a noticeable disconnect from practices to games. Gattis spoke about that last Wednesday, and that may have helped trigger the decision to move him to the field. During the game, he animatedly went from position group to position group to speak with the players, patting some on the back or helmet, and then worked with his group, the receivers. Michigan entered the game with nine turnovers, including seven fumbles, but against Rutgers held it to one, an interception in the second half.

“Coach Gattis is on the sideline every day in practice, so I think it’s just something we’re used to,” Patterson said. “I really liked it. I think all the other guys liked it, too.”

This is the first time in his coaching career Gattis has called played. In March during spring practice, he said he would call games from the press box.

“It will be different for me,” Gattis said at the time. “I’ve got a lot of rage on the sideline to try to control. Now you’re gonna put me in a clear box and try to keep that rage.”

Apparently, he and Harbaugh found the timing was right to put that self-described rage back on the sideline.

“We’ve seen a lot of good offensive play in practice and you want to see it in games,” Harbaugh said. “And we have seen it in games at times, at times not. I would agree with Shea, it felt more like that. That’s more of the way it runs in practice. I thought it was also really good for substitutions. We’ve been having some substitution errors in the first three games. For Josh to be there as the game’s getting formulated, he can react to the kind of subs he wants in the game, who he wants running what particular route or play.

“It flowed much better today. It could still be better, the operation and mechanics of it, but I thought it took a big leap today.”

Patterson said having Gattis on the sideline was a “little bit more personal,” something Turner echoed in his comments after the game. For Harbaugh, it allowed for direct and more immediate communication with the coach running his offense.

“I thought it was better,” Harbaugh said of communication. “Eveyrthing was better face to face, me communicating with him, him communicating with the players, players hearing it from him and not from the box. It was a good move. Glad we did it.’

Turner said it definitely felt more comfortable with Gattis on the sideline and said he brought “more energy.”

“It felt more personal,” Turner said. “It was kind of like practice. We were able to see his reactions. It just felt better.  It felt better having him out there. It felt more personal, in a way, having our offensive coordinator on the sideline.”


Twitter: @chengelis