It’s been an interesting season so far for the Michigan offense. They have struggled to find their offensive identity through five games and just can’t find consistency on offense drive to drive, let alone game to game. On Saturday, Michigan beat a top fifteen opponent, yet it still left much to be desired. As the defense held Iowa to just 261 yards of offense, the offense put together only one solid drive to win the game 10-3.
The Michigan Offense Doesn’t Feel Right
In 2018, Shea Patterson put together the most efficient season by a Michigan QB since Drew Henson. He hasn’t quite been the same this year. Though he has completed 58 percent of his passes for 1052 yards, he struggles to throw consistently. Patterson appears to have trouble either reading defenses or knowing his receiver’s routes. The latter feels more likely, as this is the third offense he has learned in as many years. Against Iowa, he was one for five in Michigan’s first two drives. He completed two passes for 59 yards on the Wolverines lone touchdown drive of the game. He would complete 11 of 18 passes for just 86 yards after that, as the Wolverines gained just 174 from then on.
The Root Cause?
So far, speed in space has lacked both space and speed. Josh Gattis’ new offense shows lots of confusion and little flash. Sure, it works well against teams like MTSU, and Rutgers, but it hasn’t materialized in an important game. It seems as though the new offensive coordinator is still learning what plays to call in certain situations. That’s the type of knowledge a year five Harbaugh team can’t operate without. The time for that was years ago, the Wolverines need confidence and results now.
The most frustrating part of the Josh Gattis Offense is the underutilization of talent. It was promised that receivers and big-time playmakers would get the ball more under this regime. Nico Collins, Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and even Ronnie Bell have been able to make impressive plays so far this season. When targeted, they move the ball well and the offense operates smoothly. The issue seems to be that Gattis is unwilling to stick with what works for prolonged periods. When the passing game works, he’ll switch to run. When running is effective, he starts to throw. Perhaps this is the result of an inexperienced offensive coordinator trying to remain unpredictable.
What needs to happen
It ultimately boils down to two things. The players won’t make this offense click until Gattis can make the play-calling click. Simply, he needs to just stick with what’s working, and remain simple. The confusion of players can be limited by repetition, and limited play calling. They need to slow down, establish a base for the offense, with simplicity. Once the players can handle that, is time for Gattis to expand the playbook. It lies as much on him to simplify as it does the players to execute. With Illinois up next, it offers Michigan one more chance to put things together before two huge tests against Penn State, and Notre Dame.
Top Photo: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press