By the time Josh Gattis finished a news conference that stretched beyond 45 minutes Wednesday, his audience of reporters could have been seduced into thinking the Michigan footballoffense he coordinates is going to be spectacular.
Joe Milton can launch 70-yard bombs with pinpoint accuracy!
Erick All is going to become a special talent at tight end!
The reassembled offensive line, which will feature at least four new starters, has more experience than so many believe!
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Freshman wideouts A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson are showcasing game-breaking speed and performing at a level seldom seen from newcomers!
It’s hard to dispute Gattis’ impressions of the Wolverines, as exaggerated as they may have sounded. He is the one at practice, seeing the repetitions unfold.
Based on his firsthand account of what he has witnessed on the field, the takeaway is that Michigan may not suffer the growing pains expected during a transitional season for the program. The messenger was convincing, after all.
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Gattis had once again proved to be a worthy hype man, exhibiting the same eloquence and fervor as the best promoters.
Upon arriving last year as Jim Harbaugh’s new play-caller, Gattis immediately generated buzz. He attached a catchy slogan to his system, calling it “speed in space.” On social media, he touted what was to come with exclamation points and explosion emojis. The fans ate it up, believing the Wolverines were going to drop 50 points each Saturday.
But reality set in soon after the 2019 season launched.
There was the agonizing struggle against Army in Week 2 when the Wolverines were stonewalled in critical situations before a field goal in double-overtime allowed them to escape unscathed. Fourteen days later, disaster struck in Madison against Wisconsin. Michigan’s offense cratered, going scoreless in the first half as the Badgers dictated the terms of a game they’d win by three touchdowns.
Gattis, who had been up in the box conducting the unit, then moved down to the sideline. Now visible near the field, Gattis disappeared in other forums. He went dark on Twitter and stopped meeting with the media.
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As Gattis focused on recharging the Wolverines, the system he crowed about began to fulfill its promise. During one four-game stretch, Michigan averaged 41.5 points per contest – a figure that approached a benchmark Gattis established before the season. By the time the last down was played, he managed to develop an offense ranked 21st in the nation in efficiency, according to ESPN’s SP+ ratings.
The cynicism that surfaced following the Wisconsin catastrophe had given way to optimism about the future.
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But just as the Wolverines were about to segue into 2020, a global pandemic hit. Spring practice was wiped out, the season was placed in peril and many questions about the roster were left unanswered. Michigan would have to rely on a new starter at quarterback, replace its top offensive linemen and reconfigure the receiving corps. The uncertainty surrounding the status of star wideout Nico Collins and the potential eligibility of talented right tackle Jalen Mayfield only adds to the doubt. The reality that the team won’t practice in pads until Sept. 30 further enhances the mystery.
[ Gattis says he’s spoken with Nico Collins about NFL decision ]
That’s why it was rather surprising to hear Gattis speak with such conviction about the offense’s potential.
Presented Wednesday with an opportunity to rein in the hype about the Wolverines when asked about managing expectations, Gattis elected not to take it. Instead he continued to boast about individual players and the position groups – raising the bar for what the public should anticipate seeing Oct. 24 when the Wolverines open the season at Minnesota.
“We’ve got a number of dif…