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!”
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.