Change is Coming: Offense

Change is Coming: Offense


January 3, 2020
Ben Bredeson (image via 247 Sports)

Every year the new season brings changes big and small. It seems that the 2020 season will bring some pretty significant changes to what we see on the field at Michigan, from players to coaches. Here’s a look at the expected changes and what we might see in 2020.

The impact is rated as being positive (+), negative (-), or neutral (=).

Out: QB Shea Patterson
In: Dylan McCaffrey/Joe Milton
Patterson was just the third quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season, but many weren’t happy with his performance. Redshirt junior McCaffrey and redshirt sophomore Joe Milton will battle it out, and the belief (on my end) is that the loser of that battle will not finish out his career at Michigan. McCaffrey is the better overall player – both passing and running – but a concussion and a collarbone injury have ended his previous two seasons.
Impact: =

Hit the jump for more.

Out: LT Jon Runyan, Jr.
In: Jalen Mayfield
Runyan was a first team all-conference player the past two years. While he was not dominant, he also did not stand out as a weakness after some early-season struggles in 2018. He was a very solid player. I believe Mayfield will flip over from right tackle to play the left side in 2020.
Impact: =

Out: LG Ben Bredeson
In: Chuck Filiaga
Bredeson was an All-America-caliber left guard who, like Runyan, did not stand out as exceptional but did a very good job consistently. There weren’t many opportunities for backups to play because the interior linemen stayed healthy, but the guess is that redshirt junior Filiaga steps in at left guard. Filiaga was the #112 overall prospect in the 2017 class, but he needed some work with the S&C guys.
Impact:

Out: C Cesar Ruiz (maybe)
In: Andrew Vastardis/Zach Carpenter
Ruiz is reportedly weighing his options to move on to the NFL. Vastardis was his backup this season, and Carpenter was supposedly impressive for a true freshman in practice. Regardless, it will be a step back if Ruiz departs, since he’s athletic, powerful, smart, and experienced.
Impact:

Out: RG Michael Onwenu
In: Andrew Stueber
Onwenu graduates after a solid career at Michigan. Stueber is a bit of a forgotten man, but he was expected to start at right tackle in 2019 before an ACL injury ended his year in the pre-season. The rising redshirt junior is massive and looked pretty solid prior to getting hurt.
Impact: =

Out: RT Jalen Mayfield
In: Ryan Hayes
I have Mayfield projected as flipping to left tackle, meaning there will be an opening on the right side. Hayes rotated with Mayfield early in the year before it became clear that Mayfield was the superior player. Hayes did show promise, but the game still needs to slow down for him.
Impact: =

Out: TE Sean McKeon
In: Nick Eubanks
McKeon was often the in-line tight end (13 catches, 225 yards, 2 TD) and is a superior blocker to Eubanks, who lined up as an H-back type of player and has already announced he will return. If I were Michigan, I might be looking at the transfer portal to see if an in-line grad transfer type is available, which would allow Eubanks to keep his H-back role and not force players like Luke Schoonmaker and Erick All into blocking roles. All has potential there, but the question is more about whether he can bulk up enough by his second year.
Impact:

Out: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (maybe)
In: Cornelius Johnson
Peoples-Jones had underwhelming numbers in 2019 (34 catches, 438 yards, 6 TD) despite being a 5-star talent, and now he’s reportedly considering a leap to the NFL. If he does indeed depart, Johnson (4 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD) has been groomed to replace him. Peoples-Jones is more physically talented and is a good punt returner, a role that Johnson is unlikely to fill.
Impact:

Out: WR Nico Collins (maybe)
In: Mike Sainristil
Collins is considering a jump to the NFL after making 37 catches for 729 yards and 7 touchdowns, but reports have indicated that he’s leaning toward staying in Ann Arbor. He’s a matchup problem at 6’4″ and 222 pounds, and the potential replacements are not his size. Sainristil was considered a starter coming out of spring at the slot position, but his spot was usurped by Ronnie Bell. I would expect Bell to play more outside with Sainristil in the slot if Collins leaves.
Impact:

Related: I have also explored some transfer options for Michigan going into next season (LINK).

Overall, that’s not a great situation for Michigan going into 2020. Michigan loses five starters for sure (Patterson, McKeon, Runyan, Bredeson, Onwenu) with the potential for three others (Collins, Peoples-Jones, Ruiz). When it comes to individual positions, I expect Michigan to remain pretty much the same if all those players depart. If Ruiz, Collins, and/or Peoples-Jones return and Michigan stays injury-free, we could potentially see some improvement in the offense. One would also expect fewer early-season struggles now that offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has a year of experience under his belt.

Check back tomorrow for a look at the defense.

24 comments

  1. GrandLake
    Comments: 89
    Joined: 8/22/2019
    GrandLake
    Jan 03, 2020 at 8:45 AM

    Nothing on RBs? I know most everyone returns but think the addition of Corum and return of Evans makes them even better. Also – if Ruiz returns and Mayfield moves to LT then 4 of 5 spots have new starters and only one is a minus. Think that speaks well for Ed Warinner in both recruiting and development. Its very positive that OL can show that type of continuity.
    Hopefully DMac and Milton don’t spend the summer golfing and can build on the Gattis offense.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5716
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 03, 2020 at 11:52 AM

      My 2 cents on 2020 RB.

      By season end ZC, HH, and Jackson got almost all the snaps. Wilson, Turner, and BVS finished the year as non-factors. The newcomers will have to be better than the returners to earn a meaningful role and it’s not all that likely given the backs were pretty dang good.

      Michigan is in a good place here. The performance should be better mostly because the transition took a while to figure out the depth chart and health was an issue too. Aside from that HH, ZC, and GJ were all young and should be improved.

      Still – it’s mostly going to be the same people. There is no Saquan Barkley hiding in the shadows. The incremental change at RB is barely relevant compared to QB and OL turnover.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1721
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jan 03, 2020 at 10:01 AM

    I think Ruiz leaves. As a center/guard, his draft stock is limited. Depending on his grade, which should be 3d round, it’d make sense to go. I hope Nico stays, and doubt DPJ returns. I don’t think either has done enough to go before the 3d round

    My biggest concern with new players is reps. Our backups get do little PT, they’re all bound to have blunders similar to what we saw in 2017 (though hopefully not at the cost of five games)

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3479
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 03, 2020 at 12:42 PM

      I agree. I’m expecting Ruiz to leave, Collins to stay, and…I really don’t know about Peoples-Jones.

      • GrandLake
        Comments: 89
        Joined: 8/22/2019
        GrandLake
        Jan 03, 2020 at 1:35 PM

        Collins can prob benefit from returning just by avoiding the depth of this years WR class. All he has to do is show some incremental progress next year and he likely moves up vs this year – DPJ would likely benefit also but I still think he can show at the combine to help his profile. Also think some of Tarik leaving is do to knowing one or both are leaning to return which leaves UM with a lot of WRs – not a bad problem to have. Even if both leave there is still a lot talent with Bell CJ GJ Sainristil and Henning coming in. Watching Hennings tape he looks like he will be very comfortable in the Gattis offense.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5716
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jan 03, 2020 at 5:13 PM

          I don’t know that incremental progress is helpful when balanced against aging. Being more ‘proven’ cuts both ways – ceiling and floor.

          Meanwhile you’ve sacrificed a year of earnings.

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 108
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    AC1997
    Jan 03, 2020 at 10:02 AM

    I think the early departures will determine the ceiling for next season. I love that we have a three deep on OL that wont force us to play true freshmen, but if Ruiz leaves there will be so many new faces that continuity will take time.

    I also wonder how much Gattis being a first time OC and revamping everything affected his ability to work with the WR this season. We all expected more and some of that is Shea, some of that is scheme, and some is situations….but maybe coaching too.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5716
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 03, 2020 at 11:39 AM

      Excellent points all around.

      I wonder if getting more time with Gattis this offseason and into next year will factor into DPJ and Collins decisions.

      I also hope they are seeing that the WR class is pretty loaded with players who are better than them.

      Both have the raw characteristics that could see them land in the top 2-3 rounds but neither has demonstrated production that would substantiate that. The NFL probably doesn’t care much about that, but it could bump them up. DPJ in particular seems upwardly mobile but the goal isn’t necessarily just about getting the highest draft slot.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 5716
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jan 03, 2020 at 11:34 AM

    Another good post. Offseason Thunder >>>

    I think if you are right that QB performance will be on par with this year, then the offense will be significantly better overall. One simple reason – the transition will be behind us. That’s important when the toughest part of your schedule hits in late September.

    I think getting DPJ or Collins back is a big deal but I do agree with those that say WR performance overall was disappointing. I do like Bell but I think Patterson may have looked for him too much. There were a lot of good to excellent plays from him but also a lot of just-misses and of course the massive drop at PSU. Still – with Bell, Sainristil, Jackson and a very promising recruiting class coming in I think WR will continue to be an plus position for Michigan. It can be great if DPJ or Collins return and play up to their potential as true #1 WRs.

    Beyond QB my big worry is OL. I always worry when we have to replace veterans even not so good ones. We lose very good ones. Getting Ruiz back along with Mayfield would be HUGE. Mayfield is on an NFL track. I’m less convinced that Hayes is ready to start at RT. This might be Steuber still IMO – remember he was right there with Mayfield in the preseason – well ahead of Hayes. I think OG is an easier hole to plug. The sophomores are getting raves, Filiaga, Honigford, etc. Think we’ll be alright here but I’d like to do better than alright.

    RB is in great shape. We’ve got a couple big boys we can trust and speedier options to mix in. I am hopeful that Gattis can play with Evans and Jackson and make the RB a bigger part of the passing attack.

    I am more confident that Eubanks will develop on the blocking side (step 1 is acknowledging the problem) than Thunder. I think with All having such a promising freshman season and Eubanks returning the TE position will be better than it was in 2019.

    Overall, I’m feeling VERY optimistic about Gattis’ offense and a lot of returning talent. McCaffrey can add a dangerous element to the offense with his legs. That could open things up downfield. I hope they work on developing a more effective red zone offense and McCaffrey should really thrive there.

  5. Avatar
    Comments: 1721
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jan 03, 2020 at 12:26 PM

    Were our Receivers a plus? I don’t think so

    Also disagree on eubanks as a blocker. When he isn’t missing, he looks disinterested. Just not his thing

    OL can turn this team from 11-win to another 9-3 season

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3479
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 03, 2020 at 12:41 PM

      From my Nick Eubanks commitment post:

      “The reason he was #5 on my list has to do mostly with the stuff that he can control (effort, body language, discipline, etc.), not the stuff he can’t (size, speed, etc.). Looking at highlights – which are supposed to show you at your best – he gets involved in extracurricular stuff during and after the play. He stands over players who end up on the ground. At one point approximately 2:50 into the video below, he gives a so-so effort at blocking, holds a little bit, and lets his man go; while the guy he’s supposed to be blocking slips off to make the tackle, Eubanks struts toward the sideline while his teammate fights for extra yardage. Eubanks is a body-catcher, so he doesn’t get his hands away from his body. When he settles down into a hitch route (apparently one of the very few routes his team knows), he drifts rather than coming back to the ball. There are at least two plays in which he blocks defenders in the back and deserves a penalty. On several plays he blocks without bending, lowering his hips, and moving his feet well. He does not appear to fight very hard for extra yardage after the catch.”

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5716
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jan 03, 2020 at 1:11 PM

        This is the kind of thing that can change with age and maturity. Or not. We’ll see. I think it’s encouraging that he recognizes he needs to improve as a blocker. The urgency of a final college season can be a motivator.

        Eubanks is a good downfield receiver but not the kind of difference-maker that will stay on the field every down if he doesn’t improve as a blocker (like some TEs past). He needs to improved or it’ll be one of the younger guys passing him by.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5716
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 03, 2020 at 12:47 PM

      I agree that the OL is a big difference maker. There is reason for optimism if Ruiz and Warriner come back, despite the turnover in starters. Without Ruiz shoring up the middle then things become a lot more uncertain.

      If things go to plan than you have an all conference caliber OC in his 4th year and an NFL caliber LT in his 3rd year. Those are the two most important spots IMO. Around them you’ll either have veterans or younger options who have earned passing them by merit.

      There are no glaring points of worry at this time. The floor of the OL is pretty high if Ruiz is back. If he isn’t things should still be OK but the ceiling is much lower.

      Obviously premature given so many unknowns but I would say, tentatively, this:

      The OL can turn a potential 9 win year into an 11 win year if everything goes according to plan.

      This is especially true if M is a more ground-oriented attack with a deep RB corps and running QB.

  6. Avatar
    Comments: 1310
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Jan 03, 2020 at 1:32 PM

    Faces will change, but this year’s offense will look very much like last year’s in the end. We’ll have our share of good to very good players, but no great ones. There is no one dominant, no one you can build a championship offense around.

    As far as Gattis, was not impressed. Didn’t even see him trying to do any of the things people hoped he would. Mediocre running game, underused receivers, no speed in space, no up-tempo to speak of, limited use of RPO, far too few quick-hitting pass plays. No significant difference in run-pass ratio from 2018. Nothing that even had a chance of giving a quality defense worries. If he were TRYING any of this and struggling to get it working, then the whole “transition” argument might have some merit, but he wasn’t. We weren’t running any more up-tempo against Alabama than we were against MTSU.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5716
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 03, 2020 at 3:00 PM

      The certainty that nothing will change seems unwarranted. Because things have changed.

      The 2019 offense looked nothing like the 2015 offense. The offense is back to trying to score touchdowns instead of just stringing together first downs to control the clock and win a rock fight. The fullback is gone. The quarterback can run (if he’s willing).

      The run pass split shifted majorly from last year – from 40% pass attempts in 2018 to 47% in 2019. From 105th in the country to 70th.

      That’s on the season. Anyone who watched this team all year knows the offense that finished the year looked nothing like the offense that opened it. The last 3 games it was 55% pass which would have been top 25 nationally.

      Did Mike Leach become the head coach? No, but we’re in the same range as Oregon, Clemson, and Notre Dame now.

      Some of what you say is true. Tempo is still a non-factor. The backs can be better utilized. End of half strategy needs work. We’d all like to see more downfield aggression. Explosive long-gaining plays from backs were nearly non-existent. etc.

      But most of this is covering your ears, closing your eyes and complaining loudly.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5716
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 03, 2020 at 3:02 PM

      ” Nothing that even had a chance of giving a quality defense worries”

      M scored 27 points against the #2 defense in the country, 45 against #8 and 44 against #17. Left some points on the field against Alabama but that seemed more about execution.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1310
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jan 03, 2020 at 4:44 PM

        We played 6 of the top 15 scoring defenses in the country, and were ineffective when it mattered against 5 of them.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5716
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jan 03, 2020 at 5:03 PM

          Oh I get it. MSU doesn’t count and neither does PSU.

          At least you acknowledge that Michigan played 6 games against elite defenses.

          By advanced stats it was 7.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5716
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jan 03, 2020 at 5:05 PM

          Michigan scored the second most points against OSU this year. (Clemson managed 2 more).

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5716
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 03, 2020 at 4:51 PM

      WCB makes a valid point here that we don’t have a true difference-maker on offense. Talking all-conference OPOY or all american. A player who is consistently demanding the attention of multiple defenders. Haven’t had that at skill positions since Denard and before that probably Braylon Edwards. It’s hard to be a top 10 offense if you don’t have a player like that, though you also need to have supporting cast (just ask Devin Gardner). Without one Michigan will probably stick to the 15-30 rank ceiling they’ve seen over the last decade.

      Obviously there are no sure things but I would argue there are multiple candidates who could rise to this level in the next couple seasons.

      -Giles Jackson; the late season breakout and extreme youth speak to sophomore promise

      -DPJ and Collins; the tools are there if they develop their receiving skills and get a QB who puts it on target consistently

      -Henning and Wilson haven’t even hit campus yet but little fast guys who we might hope could impact the season like KJ Hamler or Rondale Moore

      Some would nominate a RB here but I think difference-makers at that position are exceptionally rare. IMO you’re going back to Wheatley Biakabatuka era at least, in a Michigan uniform. I’d nominate a TE like All before I went with any RB on campus though I like ZC, Haskins, and Evans just fine.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5716
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jan 03, 2020 at 5:40 PM

        I forgot McCaffrey. His brother is pretty good.

        Would put Milton in here but that’s way speculative. Arm is best since Ryan Mallet but it may be a ways off still.

  7. Avatar
    Comments: 1721
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jan 03, 2020 at 4:11 PM

    If Mayfield stays at RT, I think Hayes inserts on the Left. If Mayfield moves, Steuber probably has an advantage over Hayes, and then the best Guard fills in

    Whatever is our best5 needs to play, obviously, but MAN – losing Ruiz & his experience will hurt really bad

  8. Lanknows
    Comments: 5716
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jan 05, 2020 at 11:15 AM

    Ruiz gone probably increases the chances that Stueber bumps inside.

    I’ll feel better about Carpenter starting at OC if he is flanked by vets

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