Embed from Getty Images After four years of the same old, same old, change has come to the Michigan Wolverines football program. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is going to facilitate and not call offensive plays. Josh Gattis is now the offensive play caller. Michigan is heavy favorites to win the Big Ten.
Offensively Josh Gattis has introduce spread concepts this past spring and, in his words, completely remove the huddle from the equation. This style of offense really suits returning quarterback Shea Patterson, who finished last season with 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air.
Michigan has young running backs and will rotate Christian Turner, Tru Wilson and highly touted freshman Zach Charbonnet. The talent is there, the experience is not.
The Wolverines offensive line will be a position of strength. The wide receivers are a very talented group. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Ronnie Bell and Tarik Black all return.
The Michigan defense was hit hard by the offseason. Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich and linebacker Devin Bush Jr. all left for the NFL. With that said, the cupboard is far from bare. Carlo Kemp, Michael Dwumfour and Aidan Hutchinson all return to the defensive line and bring plenty of potential and playing time. Talented freshman Donovan Jeter and Luiji Vilain will also rotate in. Giving Michigan a very athletic defensive line.
Returning linebacker Josh Ross will man middle linebacker. The linebacking corps as a whole are solid and have playmakers that is a real strength of the defense as a whole. The secondary is the only question mark for the Michigan football team.
Still the few questions Michigan has are much smaller than the nearly total rebuild Jim Harbaugh faced in 2017. Michigan has significantly fewer questions than the rest of the Big Ten schools making them preseason favorites.
This is the season Jim Harbaugh needs to deliver. Changes have been made to the coaching staff. Players at skilled positions have returned. This is the year Michigan should and needs to return to the top of the Big Ten. The question is will they take the next step?
Embed from Getty Images Picking a preseason champion in July is either daring or dumb, I freely admit that. Most seasons in July team to beat was Ohio State. Under Jim Harbaugh Michigan was never the logical pick to win the Big Ten title. Until this season. I believe this is the season Michigan gets over-the-hump and beats Ohio State.
The college football landscape changes often. Making a prediction on what a college football team has done over the past five to 10 years is not wise. What a team has right now is all that matters.
Heading into the 2019-20 college football season, Michigan has fewer question marks in key areas than the rest of the Big Ten teams. The Wolverines have a senior quarterback, Shea Patterson, who helped them go 10-3 a year ago they also have a trio of the best wide receivers in the country. Two of the wide outs have NFL written all over them, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins.
A painful fact from last season, Michigan was one of the slowest moving non option teams nationally and it showed in the Wolverines three losses. The defense was cripples by and offense that did all it could to play possession football.
Enter new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis who will be the lone offensive play caller. Jim Harbaugh will not step in. Now in Ann Arbor is a no huddle, spread based offense. Yet it will be set up by the run.
Michigan’s defense will not be as good as it was last season or the year before. Michigan does have eight players who have starting experience. Serious question abound on the secondary and middle linebacker.
The schedule isn’t easy, but Michigan gets both conference rivalry games at home. Army and Notre Dame will be serious challenging non-conference teams but the results do not count in the Big Ten standings.
So here in July, Harbaugh’s football team has what it needs to win the Big Ten this year. They look like they are in a good position to win the elusive Big Ten title. But, a word of caution, looks can be deceiving.
Embed from Getty Images When Jim Harbaugh took over the Michigan Wolverines coaching job, the offensive line was in shambles. Now entering his fifth season what was once a sore spot is now a position of strength for the Wolverines.
Michigan ran a running game, ball control offense that saw the team increase its win total to ten last season. This spring there’s a lot to still like about the offensive line,such as players who have been known quantities, as well as those who are emerging from the depth chart as they improved their game , It seems the unit on the whole has taken their game to the next level.
“Offensive line has been really good,” coach Harbaugh said. “Mike Onwenu is really standing out as is Cesar Ruiz and Ben Bredeson. That’s the real strength for our football team. Both left and right tackles Jon Runyan are having real good springs so far and then Andrew Stueber and Jalen Mayfield who are currently battling it out for starting right tackle.
The lines are getting blurry as far as starters, backups and third string. That is very good news for the Wolverines. The means that depth has become a strength. If a player is injured or needs a breather, it truly is next man in. Unlike the past Michigan should not miss a beat offensively.
Michigan and Jim Harbaugh are a long ways from the group he inherited four years ago. Now there is a building buzz and excitement about the depth that has been built. “I think this offensive line starting group has got a chance to be the best that we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh’s excitement about the offensive line, seems somewhat understated, given, not only the ability of the four returning starters. It goes without saying this is the most athletic group Michigan has had up front in some time.
Embed from Getty Images Fans and media had their doubts. Doubts about would Jim Harbaugh a hands on quarterbacks coach, hands on the offensive coach would really give up control. Shortly after being named Michigan Wolverines offensive coordinator, Josh Gattis hit the recruiting road with his new boss.
Entering his fifth season as Wolverines head coach, Jim Harbaugh made his most intriguing and bold move to date. Not only bringing in a new offensive coaching mind. But giving him absolute control. In a recent media, meet and greet Gattis said “Jim has been so open, he has given me the freedom to run the offense, he has given me input to help me.”
With three spring practices complete, players are still learning the new playbook. It is clear that changes have been made. Gattis and the Wolverines offensive coaching staff have stripped all of the old away and are starting from square one. “We are not patting ourselves on the back, we’re not ready yet.” This is the design of spring practice.
“We will find ways to get playmakers the ball,” Gattis said, “We will be a tempo, no-huddle team.” The new offensive play caller stopped short of saying his offense is a spread-style offense. It is not. At least not a true spread-style.
The big difference in Josh Gattis’s offense and a spread-style is while both offensive styles attack defenses. Gattis and the system he runs is much more physical. Also the days of the dink and dunk are gone. Michigan will now attack defenses. They will take more shots downfield.
“We want to dictate what the defenses do. How do we do that? Control the line of scrimmage, get the ball to players who can get in space and make plays.” Gattis is offering a new philosophy, at least at Michigan.
Josh, was blunt as he told the fans and media “We need more depth at wide receiver, we are good at tight end.” Until There is depth at receiver, expect Michigan running backs to catch passes out of the backfield.
Embed from Getty Images Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh has three quarterbacks on his roster who are all highly regarded. Last season starting quarterback Shea Patterson returned for his senior season after starting all 13 games and complete 64.6% of his passes for 2,600 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2018. Patterson is only penciled in as the starter.
Competition is what Jim Harbaugh has harped on during his time in Ann Arbor. Both Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton are said to be putting the heat on Shea Patterson this spring leading Harbaugh to say “There’s no possible way that Shea Patterson will be able to put his feet up, in my opinion.”
This is how far the quarterbacks at Michigan have evolved. From one good one, to three above average quarterbacks on the roster all battling for for roster positions on the depth chart. It has been a process, but it paying off.
Dylan McCaffrey, was a 4-star recruit who will be a redshirt sophomore in 2019, Dylan saw plenty of time as Patterson’s backup last fall. He threw his first career touchdown pass the next week against Western Michigan. Dylan also showed he can use his legs to make plays a 44-yard touchdown run on a zone read against Wisconsin was promising.
While Joe Milton who also was also a 4-star recruit showed he may have the strongest arm of the Michigan quarterbacks. Milton played in three of the Wolverines final four games of the season and was able to preserve his redshirt status.
Harbaugh said that offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is giving the three players equal reps this spring. All three players are looking good so far. It is fair to say the Wolverines starter will be the player who steps up into a leadership role. Who can command the huddle as well as not get rattled when things are not going well during the course of a game. Shea Patterson was that player last season.
This season appears to be different at least in the now. All eyes will be on the three quarterbacks to see if anyone separates from the rest.
Embed from Getty Images It seems like forever since the Michigan Wolverines bullied teams the way they are this season. Jim Harbaugh’s team is not only dominating teams they are flat out suffocating them on both sides of the ball.
Jim Harbaugh is not an elite coach they said. Jim Harbaugh can not beat rivals they said. After beating Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State by a combine score of 101-20 that can be tossed out the window.
Penn State is the latest big name team to get hammered by the Wolverines. Last season Penn State had the ball in the waning seconds of the game. They chose not to take a knee and scored a touchdown to run the score up. Fatale mistake.
In this seasons tilt Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson said he was not here last season. But, if Michigan had the chance to run the score up they would do it. Check that. Michigan dropped the hammer. 42-7.
Jim Harbaugh’s team did not want to just beat Penn State, they wanted to embarrass them. Sacking Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley 6 times and intercepting 2 passes Michigan’s top ranked defense was relentless.
As the “Revenge Tour” rolls on. It is a safe bet the Michigan Wolverines have their sights set directly on Ohio State. The game is in Columbus. Michigan would have it no other way.
Like Penn State, Harbaugh’s boys will want to embarrass the Buckeyes on their home field. Given the glaring talent gap. Michigan will be favored. This will be the game that changes the guard in the Big Ten. It is the game that will show Michigan is back and ready to stand on the national stage again.
With a very talented team and Harbaugh not being afraid to agitate fellow coaches. Michigan is set to both irritate opposing fan bases while enduring themselves to Michigan loyalists.
Embed from Getty Images He was questioned. All good coaches are. He was booed from a fan base that demanded more. Yet through it all, Jim Harbaugh was building the Michigan Wolverines to win. Not just for one season. To over-take the conference elite. The time is at hand.
Ohio State has owned it’s fair share of Big Ten titles for 17-18 years. Michigan State had a nice little run in there as well. Jim Harbaugh was brought to be the savior of a university he played quarterback for in the 1980’s.
While the aforementioned Ohio State continued to win and as Michigan State continued to beat the Wolverines. Harbaugh did not flinch. Like a mad chemist he kept adding. a three star recruit here. A four star there. While releasing troubled players from the school.
Other teams kept winning. But history was on Jim Harbaugh’s side. History of building championship programs. He did it in college at Stanford. He did it in the NFL with San Francisco. Interesting both places fell on hard time when Harbaugh left them.
He accepted the Michigan coaching job. Upon his arrival in Ann Arbor he gave a warning. “It takes time to build a sustainable program. That is what I am going to do.”
He has done it. Never listening to the media, fans and critics. Sticking to his guns. Allowing other schools the false sense of security. When you have a coach who has accomplished as much as Jim Harbaugh it is a bad idea to fall for such thoughts.
Now the Michigan Wolverines football team is loaded. Not just for this season. But this is a return to glory. Michigan is here to stay. They will continue to grow and beat the teams that once “owned” them. Jim Harbaugh has done it under the radar.
Teams that were winning, he was building. Now Michigan is winning the recruiting battles. Players are not jumping at Ohio and Michigan State they way they once did. Those programs if they have not already soon will begin to feel the sting of Harbaugh’s work.
The kicker is Jim Harbaugh wears glasses that are a direct tip-of-the-hat to Woody Hayes. The former Ohio State coach. Sort of a shot at the school he beat 3 times in his playing days.
The Big Ten should brace for it. Michigan Wolverines football is back. With a coach that built the program the only way he knew how. His way.
Embed from Getty Images The team that began the season in South Bend against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is not the same team that just beat the Wisconsin Badgers. Jim Harbaugh has molded this team into a power again.
The Michigan Wolverines offensive line that was a sore spot last season has grown into a huge area of strength. Pass and run blocking has taken a huge step forward.
The defense is ranked #1 in the country. It was never going to be an issue. It is the linebackers that have shined the brightest. They swarm to the ball. This group is flat out nasty.
However, what has been missing from a Jim Harbaugh lead Wolverines team have been two key factors. Quarterback. Running back. They have had ok players at those positions. This year they have game- changers .
Quarterback Shea Patterson has been as good as advertised. Dangerous in the pocket, Patterson unleashed a new side to his game vs the Badgers. Shea Patterson, can run. He had an 81 yard TD that now puts fear in the rest of the teams on the Michigan football schedule.
Running back Karan Higdon has become a go-to player. Chris Evans was supposed to be “the guy.” However Evans has missed games due to injury. Giving Higdon, an opportunity to take control of the job.
This years Michigan football team has become a well rounded group. They have a big game Saturday vs Michigan State. It will tell us how far the team has come. Michigan opened up as a 7 1/2 point favorite.
Should the Wolverines beat Sparty. They will become the team to beat. Even over Ohio State who this year has a flawed defense.
This is what Michigan fans have waited for. A return to the limelight. The time is at hand
Embed from Getty Images After a week one meltdown in South Bend to Notre Dame. The Michigan Wolverines have bounced back. Only it has been against sub par teams yet again. That said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has made adjustments.
Playing his college football at the University of Michigan under Bo Shembechler, Harbaugh understands the slam the ball mentality that he carries with him today.
The problem is when the defense crowds the box. Harbaugh still calls for the run. That all changed Saturday when Michigan hosted the SMU Mustangs. When the defense lined up eight in the box. Michigan passed.
It worked so well that Michigan running backs had a big day rushing the football. It seems the Wolverines coaching staff is coming to an understanding the fans have come to a while ago. The passing game and the running game need to compliment each other.
Even though it was against a lesser foe. The progress was much needed. Michigan still gets flagged for way too many penalties. And most are bone headed that can and need to be cleaned up.
With Big 10 play starting this Saturday it will be a better test as Michigan sees Nebraska invade Ann Arbor and the Big House. Adjustments are part of any sports. In game adjustments are critical to the outcome of games.
For the first time since taking over as head coach Jim Harbaugh has begun to make those all important adjustments. The offensive line still needs to be upgraded the tackles both right and left are still a sore spot on the roster.
It is now more interesting to watch Michigan football knowing the coach is going to make some micro moves to help his team. The days of running a play just because that is the one that was called appear to be over.
Michigan fans and media should know more after this weeks Big 10 opener.
Embed from Getty Images 1-6 in rivalry games. Including the 2018 game one loss to Notre Dame. No matter how you slice it that is unacceptable. Perhaps the expectations need to be lowered.
Jim Harbaugh should be on a burning hot seat. He was brought to Michigan to win big games and has not done it. No matter his “this is the beginning” comment he made after yet another loss to a ranked team.
Shea Patterson, looks the part of a solid quarterback. However, Michigan still can not run the ball. The offensive line looks the same it has for 4 years now. Bad. Horrible.
Jim Harbaugh wants to win his way. That is good and all. But his way clearly does not net the results. All the talk this offseason was centered around how improved the offensive line was and how good the defense was.
That is simply not true. Notre Dame sliced through the Wolverines defense. The team was flagged time and time again for all sorts of penalties. The offensive line was aweful.
Big mistakes have over-shadowed the Michigan football team for 4 years now. The fan base is uneasy. For Harbaugh to keep his job the team building needs to amp up.
The losses are mounting. 4 years in they should be easing up and the bleeding coming to an end. They are not. The bottom line is Michigan football is nowhere close to being a contender for anything.
That should not be the focus. The focus should be improving. All over the board. Jim Harbaugh, may find the heat turned up as the season goes on.