Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says "there's no possible way Shea Patterson will be able can put his feet up" in quarterback competition. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said earlier this year he was handing over the keys of the offense to new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis.
But there had only been hints of what type of high-performance car the 35-year-old Gattis might operate.
Harbaugh met with reporters on Monday for the first time since the bowl game three months ago to share insights into his team as it heads into spring practice, and he offered a clearer vision of what Gattis is installing.
The offense is expected to be highly efficient, speedy and attacking. This will be a departure from the previous two seasons with Pep Hamilton, the pass-game coordinator. Gattis also will coach the receivers, while Ben McDaniels, an offensive analyst last season, is coaching the quarterbacks.
Even with quarterback Shea Patterson, who can extend plays and be a threat with his arm and legs, and a deep pool of talented receivers, including Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black, the offense appeared sluggish at times last fall, held back by play-calling and taking, it seemed, too long to get into plays. Gattis was identified by Harbaugh as the coach who could make this talent reach its full potential.
“The biggest difference that people will see, the tempo,” Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s more up-tempo, less huddle. That would be No. 1.”
Harbaugh had been following Gattis’ career and keeping tabs. He had mostly coached receivers early in his career, including stops at Vanderbilt and Penn State with coach James Franklin, but made a big leap as co-offensive coordinator last year at Alabama. When Harbaugh heard Gattis was expected to go to Maryland as offensive coordinator, he went after him.
“It was an opportunity to get a great coach, somebody that I’ve been following,” Harbaugh said. “Saw that he was becoming an offensive coordinator, so we moved fast to make him our offensive coordinator. What’s been going really well, he’s doing a great job. He’s a really good coach. Staff is working really good together. A lot of meetings and time on task to get where we were yesterday which was the first day of practice.”
Gattis is reshaping the offense and will be calling the plays this fall. This doesn’t mean Harbaugh won’t have a say in the way things are run, but everything starts with Gattis.
“We’re all working together,” Harbaugh said, adding he’s “definitely learning” to adjust to the transition. “His style of offense, he’s really good at explaining it and showing us how to coach it. How’s it been for me? It’s been really good. Really enjoying it. Really learning a lot.”
Jim Grobe, who coached Gattis when he was a player at Wake Forest, told The News earlier this year it doesn’t matter that Gattis hasn’t been the play-caller in a game yet. He’s a quick learner and will ease into that part of the game without a hitch.
“He’s been around such great coaches, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue (calling plays),” Grobe said in January. “One thing he’s been able to do, and I’m so proud of him, he’s been around sharp coaches. So many times, you’re looking for the staff’s ideas what to call, and he’s been involved in that. Whether he’s making every call, he’s been on that headset and been involved in making call and with all the good coaches and programs he’s been, being that guy making calls is not going to be a problem for him. This is a great balance with Jim (Harbaugh’s) experience and Josh as a young coordinator.”
Gattis has inherited the type of personnel that should work well with what he’s trying to accomplish.
As far as the quarterbacks, Harbaugh wasn’t about to declare anyone the starter, not even Patterson, who started every game last season after transferring from Ole Miss. Still, the depth chart, as Harbaugh listed has Patterson No. 1, Dylan McCaffrey, who is fully recovered after breaking his collarbone last season, No. 2, and Joe Milton No. 3. They’re all getting equal reps.
“There’s no possible way Shea Patterson will be able to put his feet up, in my opinion,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got serious competition there with Dylan and Joe, right now. It will be a fun spring.”
Brandon Peters, freshman Cade McNamara and Mike Sessa also are competing at quarterback.
Harbaugh insists what Gattis is installing isn’t “that big” of a philosophical shift.
“To Josh’s credit, he has done a phenomenal job of coming in and looking at our personnel, looking at what we do well, what we did well in both the run game, the pass game, the protections and making it cohesive with his system,” Harbaugh said. “Words are different, but (there’s) some of the same amount of the way we do things. It’s blended really good. Our coaches, all of them, have done a good job of making that happen."