Wolverines picking up pace under new OC Gattis

Michigan plans to spend its spring practice time picking up the pace on offense. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that the Wolverines' tempo will be the biggest difference between the 2018 and 2019 teams.

Harbaugh in January hired former Alabama and Penn State assistant John Gattis to be the team's new offensive coordinator. In a departure from the way Harbaugh has handled that role with past assistants, he said he "handed the keys" to the offense to Gattis when the newcomer arrived on campus.

"The tempo is a huge change," Harbaugh said, one day after Michigan held its first spring practice. "From huddling to not huddling, that's big. I like it. It's got more of an attacking feel to the offense in terms of tempo and in terms of going downfield in the passing game."

Gattis coached wide receivers for one season at Alabama after spending a good deal of his coaching career working under James Franklin at Vanderbilt and Penn State. His new boss said Gattis' track record of developing talent was "eye-catching."

Gattis has changed the terminology of Michigan's playbook since his arrival. Harbaugh said his new coordinator has done a "phenomenal job" thus far of evaluating what previous offenses have done well and blending those packages with some new looks.

Michigan's offense averaged 35.2 points per game last season, but the coaching staff expects the changes Gattiis is bringing to the playbook will be a good fit for personnel that includes a talented group of wide receivers and returning quarterback Shea Patterson.

Patterson's spot atop the depth chart is as secure as any quarterback that has played for Harbaugh during his first four seasons at Michigan. The returning senior is expected to hold on to his starting spot, but is splitting reps with junior Dylan McCaffrey -- now fully recovered from a broken collarbone suffered in the fall -- and sophomore Joe Milton.

"There's no possible way that Shea Patterson will be able to put his feet up, in my opinion," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh said he expects that some run-pass option plays will be built into the playbook Patterson. He said those new looks combined with the increased tempo will give his offense more of an attack-minded approach than in the past.