Michigan football OC Josh Gattis: After rough 2020, 'we've got a lot of work to do'

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Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press
·3 min read
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Months after Michigan football limped to a 2-4 record during a pandemic-shortened season, offensive Josh Gattis appeared humbled by the poor results.

The bombast and unbridled confidence he once projected were replaced by soberness and even contrition.

Gattis acknowledged the Wolverines’ failures last fall when the foundation of the program cracked. He accepted some of the blame for what transpired, but expects more from Michigan after conducting an autopsy of a season when the Wolverines flatlined.

As Gattis explained to the media on Wednesday, Michigan executed poorly at the beginning of games, struggled to sustain possession, routinely was stopped in short-yardage situations and never established a rhythm that carried from one week to the next.

Michigan Wolverines offensive coordinator Josh Gattis talks with quarterback Joe Milton (5) during the third quarter against Michigan State at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.
Michigan Wolverines offensive coordinator Josh Gattis talks with quarterback Joe Milton (5) during the third quarter against Michigan State at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Gattis said. “No one was pleased with the performance we had last year. There was positives, negatives. But no one was pleased. It’s not our expectation. It’s not anything we’re going to accept. We just don’t get a pass because we put on this winged helmet. No one is just going to roll over and say, ‘Hey, they’re Michigan.’ We learned that the hard way.”

[ Why Michigan AD is 'very happy' with Harbaugh's contract, new football staff ]

In wake of receiving that harsh lesson, head coach Jim Harbaugh overhauled his staff. Six new assistants — all under 40 — were hired, including two on the offensive side. Matt Weiss was assigned to coach the quarterbacks and Mike Hart the running backs.

"Everything I did I believe was best for our programs and our players and for the Michigan football program," Harbaugh said last month

The new additions will try to help Gattis revive an offense that finished 66th in scoring while averaging 28.3 points per game. It won’t be an easy task. Gattis will have to rely on his third starting quarterback in as many years whenever a winner is declared in the competition between Cade McNamara, J.J. McCarthy, Dan Villari and incoming graduate transfer Alan Bowman. Meanwhile, the offensive line remains relatively inexperienced and will be led by a new position coach, Sherrone Moore.

“We have a very young group of guys,” Gattis said.

They will be part of a collective effort to make Michigan’s offense a more functional operation. The Wolverines ran the second-fewest plays in the Big Ten and converted only 36% of their third-down attempts, the fourth-lowest rate in the conference.

Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis high-fives fans before the Michigan State game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.
Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis high-fives fans before the Michigan State game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.

According to Gattis, poor performance at the outset of most series set Michigan back, putting it behind the chains.

The Wolverines were also hampered by early deficits; all six of Michigan’s opponents last season scored first. That changed the Wolverines’ strategy and perhaps explains why they controlled possession for less time on average than all but one team in the Big Ten as it tried to chase down the other team.

But Gattis is hopeful Michigan will find some solutions that will lead to more success and consistency.

Pointing to the players, he said, “They’ve been up for every bit of the challenge. As hard as we are coaching them, they are taking it the right way. They are being receptive to coaching and they are showing up each and every day with great positive energy. That’s the key. The collaboration together amongst the coaches and players has been at a really good place.”

Contact Rainer Sabin at rsabin@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Big Ten newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football's Josh Gattis