Five takeaways from Harbaugh’s first presser since Peach Bowl

Football

While most were rubbing their eyes and trying to stay awake in the office following Sunday’s holiday, Jim Harbaugh made his first appearance since the Peach Bowl.

Due to my office job, I couldn’t make it to the presser myself but thanks to my hard-working peers of Michigan media, all of what Harbaugh said is out there to see.

Here I wrote about five takeaways from his presser ahead of a spring season loaded with anticipation, specifically rooted from an offense that, according to Harbaugh, really is changing. 

Harbaugh was more transparent than usual

Long-winded answers that often turn into stories — or sometimes Nick Baumgardner’s dog (see below) — is the norm for a Jim Harbaugh presser.

What’s not the norm is transparency into Michigan’s injuries, scheme, or anything else that might offer opponents a “competitive advantage,” as the U-M head coach would say.

That wasn’t the case Monday afternoon, as Harbaugh was as open as he’s ever been during his tenure in Ann Arbor.

Of course, this is spring ball and Michigan’s next opponent is … well … Michigan, as the (mostly) annual spring game is coming up. So whether his openness and transparency was something new, or rather a byproduct of the regular season being a ways away, it was a refreshing vibe from the fifth-year head coach.

The offense needing change no longer a narrative, now a reality

Whether you agreed with the mob or not, there was a host of Michigan fans the past two offseasons begging for a revamped offense.

Now, it’s actually happening, according to Harbaugh.

Here’s some quotes.

More Tempo. Less huddle.

More speed in space. Less dual tight ends and fullback sets.

The only question now is: more points?

Michigan fans are hoping so.

Josh Gattis has the keys

It was confirmed a few times in the winter, most notably on his podcast, but the in-person confirmation from Harbaugh came Monday: Josh Gattis will be the offensive coordinator and play-caller in 2019.

Gattis, a former Alabama assistant, was hired away from the Crimson Tide (and Maryland, where he was headed had Harbuagh not called) to run Michigan’s offense.

Despite being hired with the title of offensive coordinator, the masses asked: will Jim Harbaugh really let a first-time coordinator run his offense?

And Harbaugh answered by giving Gattis full control.

“The tempo, less huddle,” Harbaugh said when asked what the biggest difference is in Gattis’ offense compared to Harbaugh’s of the past. 

There’s not much else to say about the offense that isn’t speculation until we see it. However, if this is the future of Michigan’s offense, it’s rolling with the strategy numerous schools and NFL teams implemented during recent offseasons: high-powered, high-scoring offenses that don’t care a bit about time of possession, rather the points they put on the board.

With scheme changes come position changes

Harbaugh’s hand is being forced in lieu of the offensive changes to move players around to different positions.

Most notably, everyone’s favorite fullback, Ben Mason, is playing some defensive end and tight end, per Harbaugh. Don’t worry, he’s still a fullback for U-M, however, he won’t be called on much in the new offense outside of short-yardage packages. Having played linebacker in high school, it makes sense to get the most out of the human wrecking ball by letting him wreak some havoc on defense. Maybe it doesn’t work out in the end for him defensively, but this is one of the more intriguing experiments in the Harbaugh era.

There are some others moving, too:

Redshirt freshman Ben VanSumeren: Fullback –> Running Back

Redshirt freshman Hassan Haskins: Running back –> Linebacker –> Running back

Redshirt freshman Michael Barrett: Running back –> Viper

Some early first impressions 

Harbaugh added some names to the list of guys who are impressing him as spring ball heats up.

Redshirt freshman running back Christian Turner showed his upside is serious in the Peach Bowl, having a long touchdown run called back. According to Harbaugh, Turner “has surged” since the Peach Bowl. Count him as the starting running back until further notice, as U-M is without Chris Evans (academics, questionable to return to team) and Zach Charbonnet (non-serious meniscus injury, sidelined for spring). Junior Tru Wilson continues to be a great story and the team’s best pass blocker at the position, however, he likely won’t be a part of the competition for U-M’s three-down back.

Freshman defensive lineman David Ojabo is already getting some Harbaugh presser praise, noting that the early enrollee added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame.

Bonus: Injuries, other notes

And now time for injuries, which are already affecting a few of Michigan’s starters from last season.

Running back: Zach Charbonnet is sidelined due to a meniscus injury.

?Zach came in with a procedure that we knew needed to be done,? Harbaugh said. ?Everything was designed to what would be best for him long-term in his career, which is going ahead and getting that done here and not participating in spring ball.?

Wide receiver: Both starting wide receivers, Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, are sidelined for now. Collins had an undisclosed procedure during the offseason, per Harbaugh. The severity of Peoples-Jones’ injury is unknown.

Cornerback: Starting cornerback LaVert Hill is out following an undisclosed procedure during the offseason. Hill missed time last spring as well.

Defensive line: Starting defensive tackle Michael DwumFour is out with a foot injury he suffered leading up to the Peach Bowl and re-aggravated in the game that’s since lingered into spring according to Harbaugh.

Dylan McCaffrey is 100% following a broken collarbone during the regular season. He, along with redshirt freshman Joe Milton, are competing for the quarterback job led by Shea Patterson.

As for some position battles …

Harbaugh said Josh Ross is the first name he thinks of when asked who can replace Devin Bush.

Redshirt sophomore Andrew Steuber and redshirt freshman Jalen Mayfield are battling it out for right tackle.

And lastly, remember when Greg Mattison left Michigan for a job at Ohio State? Harbaugh finally got a chance to comment on that.

“We’re not going to send each other Christmas cards based on where he went,” Harbaugh said.

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