ORLANDO, Fla. — While it continues to prepare for its upcoming matchup against No. 13 Alabama, few are more familiar with the Crimson Tide than Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis.
After all, this time last year he was still on Nick Saban's coaching staff.
“They’re different and we’re different,” Gattis said Sunday morning. “Obviously there’s a lot of similarities in what we do offensively. I think they’ve done a really good job adapting and adjusting the offense from previously being there and they’ve got good players and they’ve got good coaches.”
Gattis served as the wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide during the 2018 season. Although he later told reporters in Michigan that he left after a chewing out, Saban was complimentary of Gattis and his Wolverines offense on Friday.
“They present a lot of problems for you,” Saban said. “They’ve got great balance. They can run the ball. They’ve got a good offensive line, They’ve got a good, young back. The quarterback has played well for them.
“I think [Gattis] has done a really, really good job with their offensive team.”
After a slow start to the season that saw 13 turnovers in the first six games, No. 14 Michigan rebounded and ranked in the the top 10 in the country in turnover margin in the second half of the season. The Wolverines now sit at +2.
Over its last seven games, Michigan has also averaged 36.6 points per game, led by senior quarterback Shea Patterson.
Patterson ended his season with three-straight 300-yard games. On the year the quarterback has thrown for 2,828 yards and 22 touchdowns while throwing only six interceptions. Patterson also has some experience playing against Alabama, going back to the 2017 season when he was the starter at Ole Miss.
The Crimson Tide defeated the Rebels 66-3, handing Ole Miss its worst loss of the season and holding Patterson to just 165 yards and forcing him to throw two interceptions.
“It didn’t exactly go my way,” Patterson said when recalling the game. “I just remember going and playing in that game as a freshman. I was a completely different player back then. I was just happy to get the experience.”
Now at Michigan, both Patterson and Gattis have built a solid offense that hopes to provide some troubles for the young Alabama defensive interior.
Under Gattis, the Wolverines’ running game has improved, totaling 15 touchdowns and 1,203 yards between the teams two running backs in freshman Zach Charbonnet and sophomore Hassan Haskins.
In the receiving game, juniors Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones along with sophomore Ronnie Bell combine for 14 touchdowns and 1,779 receiving yards. If the Wolverines want to be effective offensively, a key part will be taking advantage of opportunities in the air against the Crimson Tide secondary.
Despite the slow start, Gattis is proud of the adversity that his offense has been able to overcome and the numbers that they have been able to post.
“I think, really, they thing that really inspired me and inspired our offense is I knew that I could look in the eyes of our young men each and every week and they never lost faith,” Gattis said. “They never lost confidence, and when your players play for you and they play for each other, good things are going to ultimate end up happening.”
Coming off of a 56-27 loss at the hands of bitter rival Ohio State, it would be understandable to think that Michigan would feel defeated in its preparation for the Citrus Bowl. However, Gattis is confident that his players are putting in the effort with the right approach to the New Years’ Day matchup.
According to the first-year offensive coordinator, it all comes down to culture.
“We’ve got a great culture within our team, within our offense, and we’re really proud of everything that we’ve accomplished,” Gattis said. “We’re proud of each other but we’re not done. We’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us to really end the season the way we want to.”