The only constant has been change with the Miami Hurricanes since coach Mario Cristobal took over. And with spring football approaching in Coral Gables, there’s more of it in store for the offensive staff.
Josh Gattis was relieved of his duties as the Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator late last month, and as Cristobal has continued to recruit players in his second year at the helm, he’s still a few spots shy in the coaching department.
But the Hurricanes took a big step forward this week, when the program agreed to a contract with Shannon Dawson to replace Gattis, according to multiple reports. Dawson comes to Miami after leading the Houston Cougars offense, a team that averaged 35.9 points per game last season.
Dawson has a formidable task ahead. What fans thought was going to be an incredible season with Cristobal, a former FIU coach, and Gattis on the sidelines turned out to be a nightmare in 2022. This came as a shock to many as the expectations and hype around Miami’s offense were very high, given Gattis’ resume.
“We’re going to build our offense around what our players do best. It’s our job as coaches to play to their strengths and so we’ve got some key unique pieces that I’m really excited about,” Gattis said back during his introductory press conference last year.
Even with his big plans, the offense turned flat, and the chemistry between the players faded as the season wore on. Now, Cristobal is left with the 97th-best scoring offense in college football, and still needs a new leader for it.
When looking back at Gattis’ time with the Michigan Wolverines, no one with a crystal ball could have even predicted such a collapse of the Hurricanes’ offense.
During the 2021 season, Gattis’ last one with the Wolverines, his offense flourished. Their average yards per game was 443.1 and average points per game was 35.8. In comparison, this past season, the Hurricanes had averages of 367.1 and 23.6, respectively.
Miami’s total passing yards last season finished at 2,868 and their total rushing yards closed at 1,537. Michigan, en route to the College Football Playoff with Gattis there, checked in at 3,202 and 3,001, respectively. Michigan finished 12-2 with a Big Ten title in his final season there. Miami, in his only season, finished 5-7 and out of bowl contention.
The statistics clearly show the dropoff in Gattis’ performance, which begs the question: What changed to cause such a downward spiral in his performance?
Walking away from Michigan, Gattis came to Miami as the recipient of the 2021 Broyles Award, which recognizes the top assistant coach in the nation. He also had just made a playoff game with the 16th best scoring offense in college football.
Last season started off strong for Miami, with the team scoring a combined 100 points in their first two games. Midway through the year, however, fans became concerned about Gattis’ abilities due to the drop in offensive production, and lack of adjustments at halftime of losses.
“We have done a really good job of hiring coaches that have had tremendous success in every place they have been at,” Cristobal said in a press conference. “We have had offensive struggles, but we put that on all of us.”
Given Cristobal’s recruiting prowess – and heightened expectations for Year 2 of his tenure – the pressure will be on Dawson to right the offensive ship. Especially after what was one of the worst seasons in Hurricanes history.