While most of the optimism for Michigan fans this time of year surrounds their surging basketball team, that glimmer of hope is starting to shine brighter in regards to the football team with some of the news and happenings already this offseason.
Starting quarterback Shea Patterson will return for his senior season. The Wolverines signed 25 incoming prospects to during the early signing period to land a top-10 class in the country. And despite the loss of two position coaches to rival Ohio State, the Wolverines landed the bigger fish in new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, who will hopefully bring both creativity and explosiveness that is sorely lacking in this Michigan offense.
While last season ended in disappointment, there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about the Wolverines heading into the 2019 offseason.
1. New offensive coordinator Josh Gattis
The offensive woes are well-documented for the Wolverines. Shea Patterson brought stability to the quarterback position, but that still was not enough to get Michigan over the hump as the offense crumbled against top-shelf opponents. That is where Gattis comes in as he arrives in Ann Arbor after a one-year stint as the co-offensive coordinator at Alabama where the Crimson Tide averaged a little more than 45 points per game in 2018. Jim Harbaugh has already stated that Gattis will be given full control of the offense and play-calling — music to the ears of Michigan fans as there was no full-time offensive coordinator last season for the Wolverines. Those that will benefit most from Gattis’ arrival? That would be the trio of wide receivers featuring Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black who compose perhaps the most talented position group on the roster. If Gattis can find a way to diversify the offensive play-calling, and get Michigan’s collection of playmakers the ball in space, this could be the type of offense fans have been clamoring for.
2. Incoming recruiting class
Michigan’s incoming recruiting class last season made a minimal impact on the field in 2018. Three-star wide receiver Ronnie Bell and kicker Jake Moody played the biggest roles for the Wolverines last year and they were the two lowest rated recruits in the class according to 247Sports. That should not be the case this upcoming season as the Wolverines have the top incoming class in the conference and rank in the top 10 nationally. Of the 25 players currently signed, the two that stand out as immediate contributors include running back Zach Charbonnet and 5-star safety Daxton Hill, who recommitted to the Wolverines two weeks after committing to Alabama. Michigan lost 1,000-yard rusher Karan Higdon to graduation and will likely lean on a running back-by-committee in 2019 which should allow for Charbonnet to gain some meaningful reps in the offseason. As for Hill, the Wolverines are desperately lacking speed and athleticism on the back end of the defense and the incoming safety brings exactly that. This is looking like one of the best recruiting classes for Harbaugh during his time in Ann Arbor.
3. Shea Patterson back under center
Patterson flirted with the NFL draft but announced that he would return for his senior season with the Wolverines after throwing for 2,600 yards, 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 2018. The former Ole Miss transfer does have his detractors, mostly to do with how his game translates to the next level, but there is no doubt that he brought stability to a position that had major issues the year prior. And Patterson’s return could not come at a better time with the questions at running back with the loss of Higdon. The hope is that another year of progression and a new offensive system that better utilizes Patterson’s talent will allow for this offense to reach new heights in 2019.
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.