CHICAGO — Josh Gattis was one of the rising stars in college football coaching when he accompanied James Franklin from Vanderbilt to Penn State in 2014, developing wide receivers Chris Godwin and DeSean Hamilton into NFL players during his four seasons in Happy Valley.
Now, Gattis. 35, also known as an excellent recruiter, has taken a huge leap forward as the new offensive coordinator at Michigan, introducing a more up-tempo attack to complement the Wolverines’ traditionally stingy defense.
Gattis has introduced a new run-pass option (RPO) scheme with more spread formations. Head coach Jim Harbaugh likes how his quarterbacks, projected starter Shea Patterson and Dillon McCaffrey, have adapted to it.
“It’s helped our football team,” Harbaugh said last week at Big Ten football media days. “Really felt watching Shea Patterson especially and Dillon McCaffrey also, their play-making ability, their ability to operate as a passer and as a runner, how explosive they both are, Shea with his ability to make quick decisions, really fits the shotgun, really fits the RPO world, really fits the up-tempo.”
Harbaugh said he has been watching Gattis since Gattis began his full-time coaching career in 2011 at Western Michigan. Gattis spent one season at Western before Franklin hired him to join his staff at Vanderbilt.
“He’s been excellent,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve been learning from him. He’s got a great system.
“We’ve got a young, enthusiastic team, which also has a lot of experience. You could describe Josh Gattis in that very same way. He’s a young, enthusiastic, high-energy coach that really fits our team.”
Franklin saw Gattis leave his Nittany Lions program after the 2017 season to become co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Alabama, and said he was “very driven" and "very competitive.”
“You hate to see people leave, but it was a great opportunity for him and his family,” Franklin said. “He’s done a great job every step of the way. I expect him to continue to do a great job, and I wish nothing but success for him and his family.”
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst likes knowing he gets to watch proficient running back Jonathan Taylor for a third season looking to smash more rushing records, but Taylor means more to him than just the numbers.
Chryst said Friday that Taylor, who starred at Salem (N.J.) High School, has been impressive “in who he is and how he handles it” from the time he joined the Badgers.
“I think as we get to be around him and you see him grow and develop, certainly the leadership part of it is growing and developing as well,” he said. “Certainly from freshman year to sophomore year, he was more of a leader. Like you’d expect and hope, he has taken that leadership to another level.
“What’s impressive about Jonathan to me is as great a running back as he is, and I do think he’s a great running back, he cares a ton about his team and his teammates. As he continues to keep pushing to new heights, new levels and performance, he is staying unbelievably grounded. There’s natural leadership qualities in J.T.”