Analyzing Josh Gattis' Breakdown Of Michigan's Wide Receiver Position

Brandon Brown

Michigan offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis stopped by Jon Jansen's In The Trenches podcast to talk about U-M's offense and, unsurprisingly spent a lot of time talking about his own position group. Here are some noteworthy quotes from Gattis with a bit of analysis to follow.

Gattis on utilizing skill and speed more effectively...

“I would argue that we played two of the top four teams in the country the last two games. We played them competitively for 90 minutes out of 120 and you really need full games. The thing that stood out in those two games was the skill, and that’s an area we have to develop. Games are going to be won by our skill players and they understand that and they know the challenge. We were much better by the end of the year than we were at the beginning of the season, but you need skill to take over games and you need that from your quarterbacks, you need that from your running backs and you need that from your receivers. That was an area at the end of the year where we just didn’t capitalize and make the plays that we needed to be able to win those two games."


I personally love that Gattis pointed this out and recognizes that there is a gap that needs to be closed between Michigan and teams like Ohio State and Alabama. I get the sense that he feels that way about one position group more than others, but he still said what a lot of Michigan fans thought throughout different parts of the 2019 season. He didn't necessarily throw anyone under the bus but he called it like it is and I respect the hell out of that.

With that said, Michigan has some very talented, versatile and skilled wide receivers on the team including senior Nico Collins and junior Ronnie Bell. Those two are likely going to carry the water for Michigan, but smaller speedier guys like sophomores Giles Jackson and Mike Sainristil are expected to make a big leap in year two. Throw in sophomore Cornelius Johnson, who made a couple of nice plays last year and is the bigger-body type, with incoming freshmen AJ Henning and Roman Wilson and you've got some really intriguing pieces to work with.

Gattis on the importance of spring football...

“It’s going to be refreshing just to be able to get Nico Collins out there for a full spring. When you look at our skill players, everyone except for Ronnie Bell didn’t even participate in spring ball last year. Nico Collins was out all spring. Donovan Peoples-Jones was out. That’s exciting now to get those guys out here for all the valuable time that they were missing. And it’s not just affecting them, it affects the quarterbacks. The quarterbacks get rhythm and confidence in those guys. If they’re not out there in spring ball practicing, how are they going to be able to develop that confidence?”


Those early reps can be extremely important for a quarterback to form a bond with his receivers. Signal callers learn tendencies, timing and what their receivers like to do in certain situations. With guys like Collins and Peoples-Jones missing all of that time last spring, Michigan's offense was behind the 8-ball and it looked that way for several weeks. Obviously Shea Patterson's injury and everyone on offense learning a new system had their effects as well, but spring ball chemistry cannot be undervalued. Hopefully everyone is healthy and in the mix this spring because it'll be a new quarterback calling the shots.

Gattis on Jackson and Sainristil in year two...

“We’re really excited about those guys. You look at where we were at the beginning of the year and it was a little bit of a slower process for Giles learning the offense. And he was a guy — I won’t lie, earlier in the year, I didn’t know what kind of an impact he was going to make. I was actually a little disappointed in his development at that point. By the end of the year, I was sitting there saying, ‘How many ways can I create opportunities to get him the ball,' because he’s so dynamic. If I have one regret, it’s probably not getting those guys a little more involved earlier in the season — Mikey and Giles. They have a skill set to be able to create separation. They also have a skill set of being dynamic with the ball in their hands. Playing college football is hard. And you’re talking about two young men who are 18. Giles turned 18 during the season. They’re young. They’re exciting and they’re young and they’re only going to get better. They sky’s the limit for them both. They just have to continue to focus in on the details and that’s something they really take pride in.”


Gattis admits to being disappointed in himself for not getting the speedy freshmen involved, which is something that puzzled everyone throughout much of the year. We heard about "Speed in Space" and Sainristil's emergence all spring but then during the season, we didn't really see it. Apparently, Gattis was a bit puzzled too and that's to be expected for a first-time play caller. 

It's clear that Gattis figured it out down the stretch, and Patterson's three, 300-yard games in row proved it. Sainristil and Jackson, and potentially Henning and Wilson, have the potential to be lethal in 2020. All four of them are nightmares in the open field and have enough long speed to take it to the house on any given play. Throw in Collins and Johnson and you really have a great stable of receivers to play with. With that said, Jackson's and Sainristil's sophomore development will play a large role in how effective Michigan's offense is as a whole.

What do you expect out of Josh Gattis in year two? What kind of production do you see for Jackson and Sainristil in their sophomore years? Comment below!!!

Comments (1)
Steve Deace
Steve Deace


I absolutely think this year's receiver corps will be more productive than last year's.