John Niyo and Matt Charboneau take a look at the Spartans (4-4) and they preview the Michigan-Maryland game. The Detroit News
Ann Arbor – For a little while there, it felt like Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and Maryland coach Mike Locksley were starring in “As the Coaches Turn.”
At least lately they’ve been playing nice.
Locksley was offensive coordinator at Alabama last year and Gattis was co-offensive coordinator and also coached the receivers. In late July at the Big Ten media days, several months after both had moved on to new jobs, Locksley seemed defensive when asked several questions about Gattis, and then Gattis took some exception to a few things Locksley said.
Gattis hasn’t spoken to local beat writers since after the Wisconsin game, but this week, Locksley told the Washington Post that Saturday’s Michigan-Maryland game will not have an added personal element because of his relationship with Gattis.
“None whatsoever,” he told the paper. “This game is about Michigan and Maryland. I've got my own issues that I'm dealing with as the head coach, and I'm sure he has his issues that he has to deal with as the coordinator there."
Michigan cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich was asked this week if this game might be a bit more personal for Gattis, the first-time offensive coordinator, who reportedly was heading to Maryland as Locksley’s coordinator before Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called him.
“I’m sure it is for Josh, big time,” Zordich said. “Sure it is.”
Harbaugh earlier this week sidestepped answering whether the game might be more personal for Gattis.
“I’ve really felt he’s been personally invested,” Harbaugh said, adding that’s been the case since spring practice, when Gattis installed the new offense. “He’s been 100-percent invested.”
But what about his history with Locksley?
“I would go back every practice I’ve seen him in, every game, he’s been as invested as you could possibly be,” Harbaugh said. “I would expect the same this week.”
Next witness, please.
Harbaugh did say he’s fully confident in Gattis and the job he’s done as offensive coordinator. The Wolverines are ranked No. 14 and are 6-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten.
“He’s doing really well,” Harbaugh said. “He works extremely hard at it. He watches every bit of tape that can be watched. He trusts the players, the players trust him. They have that same unconditional belief. I would say the same for the coaches. He believes he’s going to get his job done, the players believe he’s going to get his job done.”
When Locksley took the job at Maryland, Gattis was reportedly heading there until Harbaugh called and had him change direction to Ann Arbor.
At Big Ten media days, Lockley was asked three questions about Gattis. That may have been three too many. The first time he was asked about Gattis, he jokingly responded, "Who? Who?”
After a third question during the breakout session, Locksley was less patient.
“Who’s that?” he said again. “Why am I getting Josh Gattis questions? Is he here today?”
Reporters who cover Michigan were looking for insight into the new coach from someone who had worked closely with him. Locksley did indulge with some feedback.
“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.”
Harbaugh, during his podcast in January, shared how he learned of Gattis’ availability.
“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 at Big Ten media days 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. … I’m going to spend a little more time talking about Scottie Montgomery and the job he’ll do running the system that I ran at Alabama as the play-caller 100 percent of the time and as the guy that developed the weekly schemes.”
After the initial volley from Locksley in July, Gattis responded just as Michigan was getting into preseason camp.
“I have tremendous amount of respect for Mike Locksley,” Gattis said then. “He called every play. There was never any other comments about that.
“Mike Locksley can say I watched him call every play. Ask him where the game plans usually came from. I’m fine with that, you know what I mean? He did call every play, and I’ve got a notebook upstairs with a lot of the game plans written down in them. ... I consider him a friend and a mentor, and that’s the way I see it. I don’t have any bad feelings. He’s done a tremendous amount for my career and so I respect him for that.”
Locksley responded one last time to the Washington Post after hearing Gattis’ comments.
“I’ve been a first-time play caller before. I think back in 2005 was the first time I had the chance to call plays. And so I know the anxiety that comes along with it,” Locksley said. “Josh knows the truth. I think that’s really important to understand.
“And I also know that there’s a difference between suggestions and decisions. And he’ll have an opportunity to make decisions now. I’m sure that notebook he has upstairs has a lot of suggestions, and hopefully he’ll utilize them in the right way and make good decisions like I did for Alabama.”
So who will have the mic drop ending? Stay tuned for another episode of “As the Coaches Turn” on Saturday at Maryland Stadium.
Michigan at Maryland
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, College Park, Md.
Records: No. 14 Michigan 6-2, 3-2; Maryland 3-5, 1-4
Line: Michigan by 21