After a season of ambiguity, the Michigan football team has an offensive coordinator, and a designated play-caller.
The Wolverines have hired Josh Gattis — Alabama’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach — to fill the job, the team announced in a statement. Bruce Feldman and Chris Vannini of The Athletic first reported the news. Gattis is expected to call plays, according to Feldman. A spokesperson for the team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The offense and passing games under Josh’s direction have achieved at a very high level throughout his coaching career,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said in a statement. “Josh will provide leadership to our offense while being a great mentor to our student-athletes and an outstanding addition to our coaching staff. Michigan football looks forward to having Josh, Tesa, and their children, Jace and Reece, join our University family.”
The news comes as a shock, not just because it means Harbaugh cedes control of the offense, but because Harbaugh said after the Wolverines lost in the Peach Bowl that he didn’t anticipate any changes to his coaching staff.
There had already been two — Greg Mattison and Al Washington leaving for Ohio State — but those departures seemed out of Harbaugh’s control. Moreover, both were defensive coaches. An offensive hire, at a time when Harbaugh is under fire for the way his offense performed in big games against Ohio State and Florida, could represent a deliberate shift.
Designating a play-caller certainly does just that. Harbaugh had previously refused to say who was calling plays when asked, though it seemed to be a mix of himself and passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton.
Gattis, who had a one-year NFL playing career, played college football at Wake Forest and has been a coach since 2010. Most notably, he coached wide receivers at Penn State before going to Tuscaloosa.
“Josh is a very good coach,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Gattis in October, per AL.com. “He’s a very bright guy. He’s been in some good systems. He has a good understanding of the big picture offensively. He’s very technical in terms of how he coaches and teaches his players and they have a good understanding.
“He has a really good personality. But he’s also demanding. He can confront and demand guys when they’re not doing things the way they’re supposed to do them and I think that’s created a lot of consistency in our receivers and it’s also improved their toughness and their mental toughness to sustain.”
In Gattis’ lone year with the Crimson Tide, Alabama led the nation in passing S&P+, thanks in large part to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Gattis also helped receiver Jerry Jeudy to a 1,315-yard season in which he won the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best wideout.
After a week in which things seemed to be falling apart for the Wolverines, this hire seems like an attempt to start righting the ship.
“I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to serve as your offensive coordinator,” Gattis said in a statement. “This is the leadership challenge I’ve coveted. The football tradition at the University of Michigan is among the very best in college athletics. My family and I couldn’t be more excited to arrive in Ann Arbor.”