Who: Josh Gattis, Miami
Title: Offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach
Previous stop: Michigan offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach (2019-21)
Why he's important: Say this for Josh Gattis -- the man is not afraid to bet on himself.
The 38-year-old jumped into coaching as a GA on Butch Davis's North Carolina staff in 2010. For those who don't recall, that was the year UNC was supposed to contend for a BCS game but ended up getting caught up in an NCAA violation scandal and the whole staff was blown out the following year. Probably not the on-the-job education Gattis thought he signed up for, but quite an education nonetheless.
Nevertheless, Gattis landed a full-time job as Western Michigan's wide receivers coach in 2011, and within a year joined James Franklin's Vanderbilt staff. He remained with Franklin through 2017 until joining Nick Saban's Alabama staff, his first opportunity to co-coordinate an offense, working alongside Mike Locksley.
One year in Tuscaloosa was all Gattis needed before he was ready to run his own offense. In 2019, he went to Michigan to bring the Wolverine attack into the 21st century. It worked. After some fits and starts, Michigan won the Big Ten outright for the for the first time since 2003, and Gattis won the Broyles Award.
Rather than cash in, Gattis cashed out. He's now a foundational member of Mario Cristobal's Miami Makeover, where the Canes are attempting a hard reset after 18 seasons without a conference title.
The reboot starts at a good place in returning quarterback Tyler Van Dyke. As a freshman, Van Dyke came on like a storm -- pun intended -- in mid-season; by his third real game, Van Dyke sliced No. 20 NC State up for 325 yards and four touchdowns (no interceptions) on 33 attempts. Van Dyke was at or near the 10-yard per attempt mark five times in ACC competition, and finished the year with 25 touchdowns against six interceptions.
"It doesn't matter if he's working out on the field, in the weight room or in class, he approaches everything with a business-like mindset. He's very mature. He's a great football player but he's a smart football player. He's a guy you don't have to tell things twice," Gattis said of Van Dyke this month. "There's still so much more room to grow."
Another area where Miami has plenty of room to grow: up front. A year ago, Miami ranked 96th in the nation in average line yards, according to Football Outsiders, meaning the O-line generated 2.47 yards per rush. The traditional numbers backed that number; Miami averaged 3.96 yards per carry, 98th nationally.
Help has arrived, in the form of Cristobal and offensive line coach Alex Mirabal. From an O-line standpoint, there's not a head coach/position coach combination better than those two. In four years at Oregon, Mirabal coached four All-Americans. Four linemen from Oregon's Pac-12, Rose Bowl championship team were drafted. In 2021, FO ranked Oregon third in line yards. Help is not just on the way. Help has arrived.
A decent offensive line will allow Miami to do what it couldn't in 2021: maximize its skill talent.
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS: No. 15 Tim DeRutyer (Texas Tech); No. 14 Rob Sale (Florida); No. 13 Joe Gillespie (TCU); No. 12: Brennan Marion (Texas); No. 11: Derek Mason (Oklahoma State); No. 10: Eric Kiesau (Auburn); No. 9: Mike Denbrock (LSU); Jesse Minter (Michigan); No. 7: Mark Whipple (Nebraska); No. 6: Josh Henson (USC); No. 5: Jeff Lebby (Oklahoma).
"This is something I firmly believe in: Offensive identity creates team identity. You've got to be able to establish the line of scrimmage, that's offensively and defensively. We're really excited because we believe we can be really, really good up front with the talent and the bodies that we have," Gattis said.
Miami will throw as many formations at opposing defenses as its offensive players can handle: two backs, two tight ends, four receivers, six linemen. Imagine a Miami coach a year ago willingly put an extra linemen on the field!
"It's a personnel driven offense," he said. "We do what our players do best."
Van Dyke must replace his top two wide receivers, but running back Jaylan Knighton should average more than 3.87 a carry, and fifth-year senior Will Mallory is a breakout candidate at tight end.
Even despite that anemic offense line, Miami averaged 35.6 points a game over their final seven games, all against ACC competition and all with Van Dyke under center.
Playing in the wide-open ACC Coastal, it's not hard at all to envision Gattis helping Miami to just its second ACC title game in 19 seasons in the league. At that point, Gattis will be a 38-year-old with a Broyles Award, two successful coordinator stints and apprentices under Nick Saban and James Franklin under his belt. In other words, he'll be the most qualified first-time head coach on the market.