more like snarlton [Bryan Fuller]

Unverified Voracity Speeds In Space Comment Count

Brian January 15th, 2019 at 11:26 AM

File under "let's see if it happens." Jim Harbaugh's latest podcast discussed Josh Gattis and his role at Michigan; Sam Webb has transcribed the newsworthy bits:

“I like the idea of him running it. We have some very fine offensive coaches here, no question about that. They feel like, ‘yeah, let's go! This is the direction that we're going, so let's go and make it great. Let's make it work.’ Everybody has the attitude that Josh has. When I talked to him he said, ‘you're going to get my best.’ When he said that, that's what we're looking for.”

This is framed as Michigan "handing the keys" to Gattis. There's been some offseason discussion of Michigan going into games with a particular plan and then going back into the run-run-pass hole as a reflex—one that would be absurd next year with Michigan's surfeit of WR talent and NFL-ish senior QB. If Gattis is a bonafide offensive coordinator calling his own plays that is unlikely to be a problem: he's a former WR coach who's been involved with Penn State's Deep State era and then this latest ridiculous Alabama passing offense.

When Gattis talks about running the ball, it sounds perfunctory.

“I think when you look at it from an offensive standpoint, I think one of the things is that we want to be an explosive offense,” Gattis said on The Attack Each Day Podcast.  “Obviously, we're not going to get away from some of the base foundations that we truly believe in, with it starting with the run game and being able to impose a physical presence. That's where it's going to start for us. But it's also about getting our skill players involved and having answers for what teams want to be able to do defensively.

Boilerplate about running from a guy whose hashtag of choice is #speedandspace.

I believe that Gattis has been promised the full shebang as an OC. He was already "co-OC" at Alabama and would have likely continued in that capacity had he not left; seemingly the only thing Michigan can offer Gattis is full control that he wouldn't get at Bama. We'll see how that develops when push comes to shove.

One thing is clear: this is not a Nussmeier situation. Gattis:

"When Coach Harbaugh called, it kind of caught me off guard because I had just left a meeting with Nick Saban getting my butt chewed out for 20 minutes telling him I was leaving and he was trying to get me to stay. It did not go over well."

Nussmeier was being shopped. Saban probably wasn't planning to lose Locksley, Gattis, and Dan Enos one after another.

The other shoe. Michigan certainly planned on making Ben McDaniels the WR coach. Harbaugh directly stated that his interim title would be going away after Jim McElwain's departure. With Warriner, Sherrone Moore, and Jay Harbaugh presumably locked in for next year Michigan's options are to either shove Pep Hamilton into a lifeboat and push or not hire McDaniels. Hamilton's been interviewing and showing up on NFL sidelines; he carries an enormous salary that Michigan probably does not plan on keeping around after they hired Gattis for a million per year.

But: Gattis has a hell of a track record as a WR coach and Michigan could roll with him and some GAs at WR if Pep can't find a place that really really hates slants.

It's not hard to read between the lines:

Both groups took a leap in 2018 and figure to show improvement next season. So, what’s the next step?

“Just letting guys go make plays,” Patterson said. “All the best athletes in the country are getting put into open space, and there’s no reason why we can’t. We did a lot of good stuff this year, but I think we’re realizing how talented we really are -- and explosive we can be.”

Michigan's passing unit is super frustrated.

[After THE JUMP: Zavier Simpson's mind!]

Beilein on the sideline. Illinois puts the media right behind the coaches, which I wish Michigan still did. This is probably not a good idea when you have a ragebot like Izzo or Huggins, but I think you can deal with the fallout from listening to Beilein mid-game. Brendan Quinn did for the Athletic and came back with an excellent story:

6:35 — Poole again wants a 3. It’s early in the shot clock after a second-chance offensive rebound. Michigan can eat some clock and run its offense. Instead, Poole, standing on the wing with a defender at arm’s length, spontaneously decides to chuck a 3, barely drawing iron. The possession comes up empty and Beilein throws his arms in the air, pacing. “Stupid!” he yells at Poole. “JP, that’s a stupid shot! Why?!” Poole extends one arm and hand out, replying, “Relax!”

Beilein: “No. That’s stupid!”

Poole: “Relax!”

Beilein: “Don’t tell me to relax!”

Poole walks down the floor. Beilein takes a step out onto the court, still yelling. Matthews interjects, telling Beilein he’ll dial Poole down.

“It’s cool,” Matthews says. “I got ’em.”

Beilein, pointing at Poole, responds to Matthews, “Tell him to get over himself and play some defense!”

This is not "I WILL EAT YOUR FAMILY IF YOU TAKE ANOTHER SHOT LIKE THAT," which I assume is one of the milder things you'd overhear Izzo say during a typical game.

I crave more of these. More hook shot stories! I demand more. All of the hook shot stories:

At an open gym two seasons ago, then-freshman Zavier Simpson found himself guarded by D.J. Wilson on a fast break. Wilson, who would become a first-round NBA draft pick after that season, is 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. Simpson is generously listed at 6-foot.

A strong drive to the hoop wouldn't suffice against Wilson's length. So Simpson tried a running hook shoot, off the glass. It went in.

"I did it on accident," Simpson said Wednesday. "And I knew it would be a good shot if I perfected it."

Also included in this story is a brief summary of why that verticality change is so good.

Starting with the 2016-17 season, it became legal for a defender to jump straight up, with his arms raised, to try and block a shot, even if he is in the restricted arc in front of the basket. Officials call this action the "principle of verticality." Coaches refer to it as "walling up." Previously, this was a defensive foul, and often inspired offensive players to initiate mid-air contact. Simpson's predecessor, Derrick Walton Jr., exceled at that.

Simpson went to work on a new way to score in the paint.

The three running hook shots he made in the second half against Indiana on Sunday were no accident. Simpson practices the shot daily. Michigan coach John Beilein calls it "BOBA," an acronym for "body on, ball away." Take the contact, keep the ball away from the defender.

"The only way the smaller guards can score right now in front of a 'jump wall' is the old-fashioned hook," Beilein said on Sunday. "We work on it, and you'll probably see a lot of it in the future. It's soft and nice. Kareem would be proud."

Verticality gives the defender a right to his position on the court; it prevents (most of) the frustrating fouls where an offensive player initiates contact; it encourages defenders to attempt to block shots (which is legal in the restricted area) instead of take charges (which is not). It feels like justice.

Podcast note. I mentioned this quote from Simpson in the Illinois section. It's worth reproducing since it's an insight into Simpson's mind:

Here's Simpson describing what he saw: "I was going downhill. I felt on the opposite side they were staying at home with the shooters. I saw a big guy in front of me and I knew my defender -- that Jon set a screen on -- was trailing. In the corner of my eye I saw the other guy going to his man. I knew Jon had to be open."

"I felt on the opposite side they were staying at home." Simpson's pattern recognition has reached the spooky "feel" stage. One hidden benefit of recruiting a guy with a broke jump shot: you get four years of him at point guard in an offense that chews young guys up.

Unless there's some unexpected attrition, Michigan is set up for a four or five year run of extremely experienced PG play. You've got Simpson's upperclass years followed by a senior/junior Brooks/DDJ combo and then (maybe) DDJ as a senior. That's a level of stability at Beilein's most difficult position that Michigan's never managed to have.

Etc.: Quinn Hughes is Corey Pronman's #1 prospect outside of the NHL. M Hockey uniforms over the years. Winovich and Bush make PFF's list of the top 101 players in CFB. Basketball's culture.


Bo Schemheckler

January 15th, 2019 at 11:43 AM ^

If JH has actually realized he needs an offensive change and can bring himself to give up offensive control by hiring top coaches then that shows he is capable of staying relevant for life and I hope he does it here. That would move next year from "prove it or lose it" to he will get this figured out with time.

Reggie Dunlop

January 15th, 2019 at 12:30 PM ^

I feel like he proved this last year when he put long time assistant Tim Drevno out to pasture in favor of Warinner and the entire run game took on a completely new look and feel. But yeah, he obviously recognized the same problems everyone else did and (once again) took measures to move the offense in a positive direction.

UofM Die Hard …

January 15th, 2019 at 2:43 PM ^

Offensive line is starting to become a deep group, with lots of talent.  Get them hogs cranked up yet another notch from last year (we know Ed will)....will be fun to see the offense with them boys building a solid wall for Shae and opening the flood gates for the stable of RBs  

Also, I know coaches like to hold back the playbook for lesser opponents, run base stuff and you just over power them which is fine, gets Ws.  What I would love to see (because I am so important...) open it up a little bit to start the season...maybe not against Middle Tennessee State....but Army and Wisconsin, open that bitch up and show the nation whats new and improved. Get some other coaches out there saying "uh oh now we have a problem"  let them think on that shit while they prep for us.


Reggie Dunlop

January 15th, 2019 at 4:31 PM ^

So Drevno voluntarily left his $1 Million/year job as Michigan Offensive Coordinator to become the Running Backs coach at USC and report to Tee Martin? And instead of paying his $150,000 buyout to U-M as his contract stipulates, Michigan waived it and instead paid him $250,000 upon his resignation?

Pretty kind of Warde Manuel to forfeit a $400,000 cash swing for a guy who just quit his job.

Also convenient is that Michigan had signed Ed Warinner as an "analyst" two weeks before Drevno's "resignation". Whoa! Who saw that coming? And then immediately promoted Warinner to the vacated Run Game Coordinator role. That's a lot of weird logic, poor career choices and convenient timing of hires.

And none of that changes the fact that, regardless of who the coaches were, Jim Harbaugh changed a relatively effective, fullback-heavy gap running scheme to a primarily shotgun, singleback zone attack that incorporated read option at the exact same time he signed a mobile transfer QB coming from a spread offense.

That's a shitload of coinkydinks, Alumnus93.

But no, we don't know for certain. Drevno was probably just cold.


January 16th, 2019 at 1:17 AM ^

I didn't think they ran much zone last year.  Down G (gap blocked) seemed to be the base play.  Ran plenty of power.  Pretty sure run plays tilted pretty heavily (pun intended!) to gap blocking.

Read option wasn't even taken out of the garage until the Northwestern game which almost certainly cost the team the ND game (which was a total disaster of a run game plan).

I think you're overstating the transformation of the run game.  But yeah, eventually it seemed Warriner had more influence which was a good thing.  The ship is turning...slowly.


January 16th, 2019 at 12:29 PM ^

Michigan rarely ran true gap-blocking plays this past season. The base run for most of the year was the pin-and-pull zone, and there was a great deal of split zone and inside zone as well. The Zone Read Bluff Arc play that ran for huge yards against Wisconsin was a bluff of split zone action; read plays like Shea's first down pull run in that clinching drive against Michigan State came off of pin-and-pull looks.

Down G is a hybrid gap/zone play but it plays well off of the existing zone looks, particularly pin and pull, where the player the guard blocks is expecting the action to go outside of him and instead gets sealed off.

Michigan rarely, rarely ran pure power, and the classic counter was even rarer. Michigan was running staple Ed Warinner zone plays almost all year long. 


January 15th, 2019 at 11:44 AM ^

I'm skeptical that we're really going to see a fundamental change in Michigan's offensive committee structure, but I'll be pleased if it happens. One of the challenges Michigan had in putting "speed in space" is that it was running some of the kinds of plays you talk about when you say that--jet sweeps, quick flare screens to WRs, etc. But they were awkwardly executed, never seeming to get the idea quite right. The lone exception was that dummy screen-and-go to DPJ against (Maryland, I think?) that they threw out there because they were basically giving up on bubble screens the rest of the year.

Gattis, we presume, knows how to coach the players to execute plays like that better. He also sat under Moorhead when Moorhead's philosophy was that if you leave a WR in man, his QB was going to throw and they were going to make the play. And they did. 

But Gattis was just co-OC at Bama, so there's no telling what he will do specifically. If the team takes time to gel, Gattis doesn't have a track record one can look to and say, "he'll get this together," the way we have with Warinner. It'll be hard for Harbaugh not to start taking some of the reins if the team doesn't start out explosive. 

Watching From Afar

January 15th, 2019 at 11:53 AM ^

Gattis, we presume, knows how to coach the players to execute plays like that better. He also sat under Moorhead when Moorhead's philosophy was that if you leave a WR in man, his QB was going to throw and they were going to make the play. And they did. 

Shit, if this is all Gattis brings to the table, sign me up. Collins was given 3 jump balls against OSU. Caught all of them and 2 went for TDs. Also had the big ND fly route and another 2 against Florida.

DPJ had 4 or 5 balls thrown his way in 1 on 1 situations and caught (I think) all but 2 of them (MSU and PSU underthrows that he didn't wall of the DB).

Gentry was a mismatch problem for defenses because LBs couldn't run with him and DBs were too short. Collins and DPJ cause their own mismatch problems that aren't as pronounced because they're 6'2 and 6'4 while CBs are ~6'0' so they only give up 2-3 inches instead of the 5-6 that Gentry had. Regardless, they're still match up problems and if given single man coverage, they're worth more than just a handful of shots.

Realistically, I'm concerned with something mentioned in the post, and that's if things go sideways, they revert to what was comfortable and run up the middle for 2 or 3 yards because the negatives are far less stark than throwing a bomb that might get picked off.


January 15th, 2019 at 12:15 PM ^

Gentry wasn't used well, in my opinion. Part of the problem is that he did not demonstrate the live ball skills one would think would correspond with his size. And since defenses played a lot of zone, his targets were often tight windows between the shallow and deep zone defenders that relied upon precision rather than his superior physical attributes. Getting Gentry in man going down the seam is a great idea that rarely or never happened. 

Watching From Afar

January 15th, 2019 at 12:25 PM ^

Absolutely and I generally agree.

Was just trying to make the point that Gentry was THE match up problem that the coaches talked about and tried to get into advantageous situations. Meanwhile, Collins and DPJ were on the outside with similar advantageous situations that the coaching staff didn't pursue nearly enough, IMO.

Like I said, Collins was just better than OSU's corners and DPJ was generally open that game too (Patterson short armed 2 throws his way that would have been completions with marginally better throws). They got Gentry on those mismatches (which he unfortunately dropped) and it was pretty obvious that the WRs/TEs Michigan had were the groups OSU couldn't stick with. Irregardless as to how bad the defense played, the offense had 3 clear advantages and they kept trying to run up the middle or on the edge with Wilson for god knows why.


January 15th, 2019 at 2:37 PM ^

I could be wrong, but sometimes I wondered if this was more of a "Shea" problem than an offensive system problem. Maybe the coaches weren't drilling on Shea to do that, but I noticed a change a bit when McCaffrey came in. Granted, I do realize that these are end of game or blowout situations, but I felt as if McCaffrey took way more "chances" with throwing the ball deep as a percentage of his overall throws this past season. And they seemed to work out great when it happened. 

I know that is a VERY small sample size, and while I don't actually agree with this assessment, I did sometimes wonder if Shea made more of those choices to not throw deep against one-on-one coverage himself rather than a flaw with the offensive scheme and/or coaching. And again, my only true reason for feeling that at times was because the offense seemed to change a bit with McCaffrey in control.


January 15th, 2019 at 3:06 PM ^

I disagree regarding bombs... as I think they are much more valuable plays than most... for even if it is picked off, its akin to a punt...and we punt anyway when we do these dink dunk passes.

And bombs often draw pass interference calls...  so two good things can happen, and when they do, the yards are gained in big chunks... added effect is the demoralization of the DBs, AND the tendency to keep the DBs back, which opens up the box....     the two things that can go wrong are an incomplete..   and a pick, but again, its like a punt...   so the odds favor deep balls, especially when you have the WRs we have.  

I am all for setting up the run... by attacking deep until the D gets insecure....




January 15th, 2019 at 12:30 PM ^

"But Gattis was just co-OC at Bama, so there's no telling what he will do specifically. If the team takes time to gel, Gattis doesn't have a track record one can look to and say, "he'll get this together," the way we have with Warinner. It'll be hard for Harbaugh not to start taking some of the reins if the team doesn't start out explosive. "

Maybe we can all write this down for the first couple games if the offense isn't the thermonuclear point machine we all want. Transitions take time. There will be some cost to this. So let's let it grow and not start the 'WE NEED MODERNITY! WE STINK! I COULD TELL WHAT WAS BEING CALLED! FIRE EVERYONE! WHERE IS MY NATIONAL TITLE! AAAARRRRGGGGGHHH!!' calls. 

Watching From Afar

January 15th, 2019 at 12:59 PM ^

Opening with MTSU and Army is tricky for a postulation perspective. The offense shouldn't have to be wide open, throwing 35 times, and being Moorhead lite to win those games. But at the same time we all want to see something headed in that direction.

So garnering a bunch of info from those 2 will be difficult and I wouldn't be surprised to see Michigan come out and just bash MTSU into a pulp and then take out Army by being the anti-Oklahoma and score methodically rather than quickly and then have a terrible defense crumble.

Get a bye week and then to Madison where we should learn a lot.


January 15th, 2019 at 1:07 PM ^

Makes sense. But maybe they'd try out some of the concepts there? 

Army worries me a bit. 

It always seems like we go in assuming we'll nuke them, then the game is tougher than we think. 

As my wife said 'Why are we always surprised that kids who get into service academies and can cut it are smart and tough?'


January 15th, 2019 at 1:11 PM ^

Army is going to be a tough game. This past year we pointed and laughed at Oklahoma when Army took them to OT (we had to follow it on twitter, it was a pay-per-view and not available nationally). 

Army basically turned the game into a series of exceedingly long drives that ate up yardage and the clock. People attempted to use the game to criticize eventual Heisman winner Kyler Murray for getting caught in such a close game, but he barely had any time to do anything with the football; when they were on offense, Oklahoma was fine, but they had half-hour breaks between possessions.

Brown, assuming he is sticking around, will once again have to scheme against an option offense and shut it down. The good news is that even with weaker personnel, Michigan should be able to compete and defend a lot better than Oklahoma. The bad news is that we may only get 8 possessions and we'd better get a decent lead to hold on to. 


Watching From Afar

January 15th, 2019 at 1:19 PM ^

I don't expect Army to be a 20+ point victory.

But I would be disappointed to see a loss especially if the offense doesn't put up 30+ points with the athletes they have.

Murry went for 3 TDs on 11/15 passing and they also had a 100 yard rusher that game (Murry threw in another 70 on the ground himself). Army kept the ball away from them for long stretches (TOP was 44 minutes to 15!!!). They had two 16 play drives and another 17 play drive all end in TDs which limited Oklahoma to 7 total possessions of which they didn't score on 4 of (2 of them ended on downs inside the Army 20).

So if Michigan doesn't allow Army to go on those methodical 16 plays drives that chew up 9+ minutes, they should be capable of getting enough possessions to put up points.

As for MTSU and Army on the whole, we'd see some stuff, but think back to the games like Hawaii and UCF. Some passing plays and spreading it around a bit early just to get a groove. Nothing concrete that showed exactly what the offense would look like come 8 weeks later.


January 15th, 2019 at 1:37 PM ^

The skepticism against Harbaugh's desire to win is hilarious to me. I get it but it still makes me ROFL. People must be forgetting the account of him going all Predator on a 10-year old so he could get the most kills in a laser tag game. Dude doesn't have "casual competition" mode.  There's winning and there's losing... that's all there is. Win with character (dont cheat), win with cruelty. Those are the only requirements. Recognize that as butthurt as we all are over how the season ended that is the bare minimum for how Harbaugh feels about it.

He recognizes changes are needed in order to reach the goals he has for himself and his program. Rational changes are happening right in front of people's faces (ones they have clamored for) and yet those people presume to know Harbaugh better than he knows himself. Gimme a break.

The fear of disappointment is a strong phobia indeed. Take as much time as you need, fellas. The drinks will be flowing whenever you decide to join the party.


January 15th, 2019 at 2:22 PM ^

It is simply fallacious to assert that questions about how Harbaugh will break down gameplanning and playcalling are equivalent to questions about his desire to win. 

It sounds suspiciously intellectually vapid feelingsball "they just didn't want it enough" radio takes that completely ignore the things actually going on the field (that the take-supplier doesn't understand) for a simple but inaccurate solution. 

Harbaugh's desire to win is not in question. His perspective on what it will take to win and lose is not fully known. If he believes that having Gattis run a gun-spread offense in the mold of Jim Moorhead is the only way to win, he'll do that. But if he believes that running the football two thirds of the time is the best way to win, that's what he'll do. 

Harbaugh quite clearly believed that running the football frequently was the key to winning last year, because that's what he did. So the question is not whether or not he wants to win, but what he believes is most likely to result in wins in 2019. 

And we simply cannot answer that question yet. 


January 15th, 2019 at 3:19 PM ^

Stephen, Harbaugh  is telling us with his own mouth that Gattis is the OC for 2019 and the prevailing response is "I'll believe it when I see it." That's Fine. But, what reason is there to doubt that he's speaking the truth here? In 2018 Harbaugh would not speak a name when he was asked who the OC was (LINK, correct me if I'm wrong). The fact that Gattis has been named as such is already a change in behavior.

Whatever, man, I'm not trying to go 'round and round here. Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior, but people change their behavior all the time. Harbaugh's offensive tendencies have developed over time because they have previously led to success. He has also shown the behavior of adaptability many times before but he doesn't seem to get credit for that, only manball. A main constant in Harbaugh's behavioral history is an unwavering commitment to doing whatever he can do to win which includes adding to the repertoire of "what works".

Manball *still* wins a lot of football games (10 aint 0), but we needed more than that to beat Ohio State last year. Going to get Gattis is as clear an indication that Harbaugh recognizes that fact as we can possibly get... yet look at how many people doubt that he recognizes and accepts that reality.

Its all good Stephen, I don't think you and I are that far apart. Like I said, I'll have a drank waiting for you on the "ITS HAPPENING" bus.



January 15th, 2019 at 11:52 AM ^

Potential stops being enough at some point. He was a good player who I can't recall ever really screwing up his assignment, but he didn't look like one of the 100 best players in all of college football. 

Bush, on the other hand, looked like he could start on almost any team in the country. 


January 15th, 2019 at 11:53 AM ^

I love that interaction with Beilein and Poole. He's not swearing and blowing his's almost Ned Flanders like. I half expect Beilein to bust out with some non-sense gibberish that takes the place of the standard f-bombs and whatnot.

Beilein is a gem.

Harbaugh's Lef…

January 15th, 2019 at 11:56 AM ^

Any chance we can get a UFR on Bama's 2018 offense so we can get a detailed look on what they were running... you know, so we all can potentially see what we might be looking at and be even more excited?


January 15th, 2019 at 12:06 PM ^

One thing that might be available is the all 22 from the playoff game against Oklahoma and the final against Clemson. That offers far, far more data on the passing game than the tv angles we get for most Michigan games.

Stay tuned, I might have some playcalling analysis on Bama from the season at some point, though it's of a more limited utility. 


January 15th, 2019 at 11:57 AM ^

Great insight about Simpson's four yearnessness, anticipated continuity. 

With Harbaugh I feel that fans' biggest demand (or one of the big two)--for more dynamism on offense--is likely being met; it's hard not to be optimistic. I don't read the Gattis comment on running quite so cynically as Brian--I think Gattis is referencing what 'Bama had, the ability to run through people this year as well as throw the ball.

We've got some nice backs in the pipeline, so eventually the offense should be able to have its cake and eat it. But the fact that the backs will need to develop (like the young guys on defense) may secretly help Gattis: Harbs will have no choice but let him orchestrate that passing game early on.

Now we're waiting for some hints that Don Brown is going to develop a few zone concepts. Brilliant guy who no doubt sees the handwriting and (surprise!) wants to succeed--I am not losing sleep. 

EDIT: Gattis steps into a situation that is likely to yield success, too, especially since Shane has so much of the playbook under him, familiarity with his receivers. Tailor-made for a big step forward.


January 15th, 2019 at 12:15 PM ^

To me, I think Harbaugh's offenses are perfectly dynamic in their own right; they are creative in their deployment, take advantage of formation imbalances, all of that.  There are absolutely better offenses out there and it's good to see Michigan try to embrace some additional concepts, but "dynamic" so often seems to be a synonym with "passing", and I don't believe that's necessarily true.  Michigan's offense had an S&P+ rating of 34.1, which was 24th in the country.  Texas Tech, a team everyone seems to believe has this amazing offense, was 34.8, two spots higher.  Purdue was 36.1, Oregon 33.1.  Michigan State's offense lacked anything approximating creativity, and it's telling they didn't really change anything.  But UM last year, for long stretches, ran a pretty robust offense in my opinion.  Gattis should just add to it.