Two Years In, "Speed In Space" Feels More Like "Bait And Switch"

As it turns out, the most dangerous thing about “Speed in Space” might be the inability to produce it.
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Under normal circumstances, it might seem unfair to put so much pressure on such an inexperienced offensive coordinator. After all, Josh Gattis had never held that title prior to his arrival in Ann Arbor. He served as co-offensive coordinator with Mike Locksley at Alabama, but admittedly never actually called any plays during the games. Even so, Gattis appeared eager for the opportunity to become a first-time signal caller at the University of Michigan.

Though his eagerness for the opportunity was understandable, it may have also gotten the best of him. Joining the Michigan Football coaching staff comes with enough pressure and scrutiny as is, but adding to that pressure by dangling shiny objects in front of a hungry fan base might not be the best idea. Unfortunately for Gattis, he made the decision to open Pandora's box by repeatedly uttering what is now an infamous phrase around Ann Arbor: Speed in Space.

Ask any Michigan fan what “speed in space” is supposed to be and you’ll likely get a blank stare with a shoulder shrug in return. While Gattis spent a portion of the summer after his hiring hyping up the concept via his twitter account, Michigan fans hung on every word in anticipation of an offense that would transition from ground-and-pound to speed-in-space. Most fans agreed that it was a necessary transition if Michigan had any shot at competing with the elite programs like Ohio State.

With fan excitement - and expectation - growing, Gattis didn’t attempt to pump the breaks. Instead, Gattis continued to feed the excitement at almost every opportunity.

Gattis continued:

Two years into his tenure at Michigan, it’s clear that Gattis made the all-too-common mistake of over-promising and under-delivering. He also drastically underestimated the hunger within the fan base to finally see a highly-productive offensive product on the field. Suggesting to Michigan fans that they would be treated to an offense that operated like Alabama was a mistake, even if the comparison was in philosophy only. Generally speaking, fans don’t have the desire to find the deeper meaning behind what you’re saying, they only care about what you say and, more importantly, what you do.

So, what has Gattis done in his first two years at Michigan? During his first year, Michigan finished ranked No. 68 nationally in total offense, No. 44 in points per game, No. 50 in passing yards per game, and No. 77 in rushing yards per game. In year two, Gattis’ offense finished ranked No. 78 nationally in total offense, No. 68 in points per game, No. 43 in passing yards per game, and No. 96 in rushing yards per game. What was supposed to be a transformational offensive philosophy has oftentimes looked sloppy and confusing, lacking any semblance of consistency or identity.

What Michigan fans have witnessed on the field offensively under Josh Gattis is worlds away from what they had been promised, and it certainly bears no resemblance to what is happening down in Tuscaloosa. Minor hiccups were to be expected, being ranked in the bottom half of college football in total offense over the last two years certainly wasn’t.