chance of bowl: 13.6%
Now that Mississippi State has been pointlessly scouted to death, Michigan fans have set to finding fans of every team Al Borges ever coordinated. Maize 'n' Brew put Cal up first despite the fact that Borges's tenure there consisted of a single star-crossed year; this is the view from the plains.
So, Al Borges. I won't bury the lede: after watching him for four years at Auburn, I don't think he's a particularly good fit for Michigan's current personnel, Denard Robinson most especially. He is as advertised: a veteran, pro-style, pass-first West Coast disciple. But there's a reason he's that veteran, namely that he's a whip-smart, clever, above-all solid offensive coordinator.
He might not be a Malzahn or Kelly-style miracle worker, but I can assure you he's not a Jeff Mullen or Steve Addazio or Patrick Nix, either. (No, I wouldn't expect the return of the Avalanche anytime soon.) Given the right tools to work with and a quality defense on the other side of the ball, there's no reason Borges couldn't be the coordinator for a championship-caliber Big Ten team.
Auburn fans would argue he proved that in 2004; it's a testament to how dominant that offense was (and how wretched it had been the year before*) that even after his final two teams finished 76th and 97th in total yardage, he remains universally respected and admired among the Tiger fanbase. Yeah, a well-trained sugar glider [ed: ?] could have turned Campbell, Williams, Brown, Marcus McNeill, etc. into a competent offense, but that 25th-place finish in total offense you mentioned doesn't come close to doing that unit justice. They finished fifth in yards-per-play, first in yards per-pass attempt (at 10.0 a pop), second in passing efficiency, all against an SEC schedule and all with Tuberville's Carr-like insistence on downshifting into clock-killing mode as soon as the lead hit two scores. (Which it did a lot that year.)
Before that year Campbell had been a head case who'd already gone through three coordinators in three seasons. Borges got his head on straight, deployed the two-headed monster of Williams and Brown to maximum efficiency, and even added in the occasional gimmick play to good effect. It really was a terrific coaching job, and a lot of Auburn fans will tell you his 2005 effort -- in which Auburn finished 24th in yards per-play and scored 27 or more points 9 times, despite replacing Campbell with Brandon Cox and and not discovering a running back until Kenny Irons emerged at midseason -- was even better. (They're exaggerating, but it was still awfully nice.)
So what happened after that? Certainly Tuberville's conservatism and the lack of help from the world's most mediocre set of position coaches (the same ones who eventually got Tony Franklin fired midseason) didn't help, but the principal problem IMHO was the collapse of the passing game. Cox's myasthenia gravis—a debilitating muscle disease—seriously reduced his effectiveness, a series of recruiting busts meant that there were no replacements for the two departed NFL receivers on the outside, and the loss of McNeill opened up huge problems in pass protection. For a coordinator who set up his running game with the threat of an efficient passing game (even in 2005, Cox threw 44 times against Ga. Tech, 40 times against LSU, 33 times vs. Wisconsin, huge numbers for a Tuberville team), this was DEATH.
So how much blame does Borges finally share for the downturn? Not that much; the lack of player development from the position coaches, Tubby's handcuffing, and plain old bad luck in Cox's downturn hurt more than anything Borges did. Nevertheless, he does share some blame for things getting as rocky as they got, there's some lessons for Michigan's expectations for Borges here:
- He needs the talent. Obviously, the array of tools at Borges' disposal in '06 and '07 wasn't nearly what it was in '04 and '05, but the cupboard wasn't as bare as to totally excuse the off-the-cliff plummet Auburn experienced. It may be fair to say that Borges is well-equipped to maximize a talent advantage over lesser opponents -- his success with a very talented SDSU offense by MWC standards this year would seem to be more evidence -- but isn't as effective "coaching up" lesser weapons. In the long term this is probably a good thing.
- He's not going to recruit that talent himself. Can't speak for what he's done at SDSU or his previous stops, but virtually any skill position player who truly shone at Auburn -- during his tenure or after -- was either recruited under his predecessors or after he'd departed.
- He's not super-flexible. Borges' schemes didn't change a whole lot as Cox's effectiveness decreased and his receiving corps began sucking. It was still the same array of mostly off-tackle and iso runs, play-action passes (yes, waggles!), and occasional pro-style passing concepts. They just stopped working. Borges made some offseason comments to the effect that Auburn would do more to get the running backs and tight ends involved in the passing game (as they had been in 2004), but that never really seemed to develop.
To that same point, Borges did precious little work at Auburn with a "dual-threat" quarterback, but what little he did wouldn't be very encouraging where Denard is concerned. That work came with Kodi Burns, who came to Auburn as a true freshman in 2007. Cox began that season completely out of sorts and Burns was brought off the bench in Weeks 2-4 to stop the bleeding. It didn't seem like Borges had made much of an effort to teach Burns the offense or develop a functional package to put his running skills to use; Burns seemed to mostly just take the snap and run around. A true freshman Kodi Burns might not have been able to do much more than that, but it still just didn't seem like Borges had much of an idea about what to do with him at that stage. Obviously Robinson is miles and miles ahead of where Burns was (or ever got to) as a quarterback, but maybe it's something to keep in mind all the same.
Again, none of that is to say Borges can't succeed at Michigan ... but the current situation just isn't in his wheelhouse. Based on the last half of 2005 (when Cox, Irons, and the AU receivers were at the height of their powers) and what he's done at SDSU this season with the Lindley-Hillman-senior wideouts package, I'd say the prototypical Borges offense is one with an accurate (and not necessarily strong-armed) pocket passer, big NFL-type receivers on the outside to stretch the field, and a single stud running back as a home run threat out of the backfield. It seems like aside from Darryl Stonum, Michigan doesn't have any of those things.
What's ironic, says Alanis, is that Michigan used to have those things in bunches. Give Borges Henne, Hart, Long, and Manningham/Arrington, and you're going to have one of the best offenses in the country, hands-down. And maybe he can work some magic with Denard (or Gardner), and Hopkins, and Stonum/Miller/Jackson/whoever. But I can't shake the feeling that Borges is the right guy in the right place at the wrong time.
*[Since you asked, sort of, and because it shows how deeply, deeply flawed Tuberville's understanding of offense is, in 2003 Auburn used co-offensive coordinators: quarterbacks coach Steve Ensminger and offensive line coach Hugh Nall. Tuberville asked them to operate the identical scheme run by Bobby Petrino in 2002, but with a twist: he would ask them for either a running play or a passing play as the situation demanded, and then Nall would make the playcall if Tubby had requested a running play, and Ensminger the playcall in the event of a pass. (I don't think this has been officially confirmed, but it's a matter of general understanding amongst Auburn fans.) And that is how you take Campbell, Williams, Brown, and like four other NFL players and wind up with a lousy offense. Nall wound up as a trucking company executive when he left Auburn; Ensminger's next job was as an assistant coach with a local high school.]
Jerry walked back what pessimism existed in the above—there but under the "this guy is pretty good" bit—in a brief addendum:
So I read back over what I wrote yesterday and it's too far on the negative side, I think. I don't mean to imply Borges can't/won't succeed at Michigan, I'm just worried it's going to take a couple of seasons for
1. Hoke and Co. to recruit the missing pieces for the offense (especially a load-carrying RB)
2. Borges to coach up the pieces he's got, like (hopefully) Gardner.
Given the state of the defense, I wonder if he'd really be given the necessary slack to survive a Rodriguez-like transition period. But Mattison ought to help. If he's Hoke's Malzahn, there's no question Borges can be his Ted Roof.
I think Borges will be all but forced to adapt when there turn out to be things that work with Denard and things that don't. In the Cox case above criticisms about not adapting to the situation might overlook the fact that there's no adaptation that turns suck into not suck. See Michigan's 2008 offense—when you don't have anything you can adapt all you want and you're still going to be hilariously bad.
our coordinators have the exact same hair. no nonsense hair.
no one will ever say their hair is the best part of them.
This seemed like a far-fetched rumor when it started buzzing but lo, it is true:
Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is expected to go the University of Michigan as their new defensive coordinator, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.
No deal has been formally reached, though.
He would likely be replaced in Baltimore by secondary coach Chuck Pagano.
UPDATE: Mattison has taken the job and Pagano has replaced him.
I“We’re excited for our defense and for Chuck, and we’re happy for Greg Mattison,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I will talk more about it tomorrow when we formally announced Chuck as our new coordinator in a press conference.”
Mattison is the best possible hire of all rumored names, a veteran with a history of excellent defenses in both college and the NFL. He coordinated Michigan's stout '95 and '96 defenses and can probably take some credit for the national championship-winning '97 edition. After leaving Michigan, Mattison was Notre Dame's DC for a few seasons, then moved on to be co-DC at Florida with Charlie Strong. He's been with the Ravens the last three years.
This isn't exactly hiring Gus Malzahn—Chizik was a great DC himself before becoming a head coach—but it's the closest possible thing, an indication that Michigan is no longer skimping on assistant salaries. When the above-linked article finishes "Mattison has been successful with the Ravens, so this is a bit of a surprise," you know you're dropping some coin.
Hope meter: incremented.
Also, there's an official release on much of the rest of the staff:
Hoke Announces Seven Staff Appointments
ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke announced today (Tuesday, Jan. 18) the hiring of seven staff members to his Wolverine coaching and support staff. Hoke named six of the nine assistant coaching positions and the appointment of his strength and conditioning coach.
Six members of the San Diego State staff joined Hoke in Ann Arbor. Al Borges will coordinate the offense and work with the quarterbacks, Dan Ferrigno will coordinate the special teams and coach the tight ends, Darrell Funk will coach the offensive line, Jeff Hecklinski mentors the wide receivers and Mark Smith has been appointed linebackers coach. Aaron Wellman also joined the Wolverines’ staff as the strength and conditioning coach.
Hoke rehired long time Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson to the same position on the staff. Jackson will begin his 20th season as a member of the Wolverine coaching staff in 2011.
All but Ferrigno were already known, and Ferrigno was suspected. Borges is listed as QB/OC so that probably means Loeffler won't return—and that's how Michigan can afford an esoteric TE/ST coach.
Michigan still has two open assistant slots and holes at DB, DL, and QB. Since Hoke and Mattison both have extensive experience as DL coaches it's not 100% that QB is the spot that goes unfilled but it's probable. Bringing in another offensive coach would mean the staff had five offensive assistants and just two on D.
BONUS: Michigan's also hiring Hoke's director of operations, so this will probably be the first and last time you think about this name: Bob Lopez. May he be a thousand times more obscure than Draper and Labadie.
All in favor of having him actually grow those sideburns say aye. That's everyone.
"Tate wants to stay (at U-M)," Mike Forcier told TheWolverine. "I didn't come with a moving van. Our intent is to do whatever is necessary for him to rejoin the team and become a student-athlete again. We haven't talked to any other schools and we won't until we've exhausted every resource here. But Tate wants to stay and we want him to stay."
This is the greatest hire in the history of college football. This reminds me of when Vince Lombardi hired Jimmy Johnson, except faster:
Fred Jackson will return for his 20th season at Michigan and will coach running backs under Hoke, a source said Thursday night.
This is flantabulous. It reminds me of when you take some sugar and some eggs and some caramel and combine them in a delicious combination that's like custard except faster. It's Hokediculous. It's like that except faster. This is amazing. This coach is like the Heisman in a body, except it's like the Heisman in a body in one of those movies with a virus—he infects everyone with the Heisman. Word. Flan. Flan is the word, except faster.
But seriously folks. The inability of nuclear war to eradicate Fred Jackson probably pushes that Heckulinsiksinaski guy to WR coach and kills the idea that Eric "Obvious Nickname" Campbell would depart from the hard-partying Iowa WRs. Either that or it kills the idea that Scot Loeffler would enter at QB coach. Not like any of this matters, anyway. If you're not an OL or QB coach offensive assistants don't really matter.
Defensive coordinator search now even more bleedingly obvious. Jon Hoke, brother of Brady Hoke and a key aspect of Michigan's strategy to make their coaching staff literally as much of a family as possible, says he hasn't talked to Brady about the Michigan DC job and is "unlikely" to end up in Ann Arbor. That's fine by me since he's spent the last decade as a position coach in the NFL and would be something of a wildcard if he returned to college.
So. Michigan has a lot of money left over since they're paying Hoke twenty dollars and some donuts and is competing with San Diego State for the bulk of its staff. There is a guy out there with crazy recent college credentials that also comes with a reputation as a fierce recruiter. He runs the Big Ten default defense, a basic 4-3 cover two. He turned Miami—Miami!—into an APR-obliterating, arrest-avoiding team. That's Randy Shannon, kids, and we know two things:
- If David Brandon was serious about getting assistant pay up into the area of Michigan's peer group he's the guy who Michigan should be going after with an oversized novelty check.
- The chance Randy Shannon comes to Michigan is extraordinarily slim.
File on the ominous side of the ledger. So… uh… you know how Brady Hoke is a tough defensive-minded coach whose teams will run the ball and stop the run, boy won't they? Um… so… the thing is.
In eight seasons as a head coach Hoke oversaw one defense—this year's—that ranked above 84th nationally. Even during the miracle year at Ball State his team was sixth in the MAC. In fact, if you click that link and squint your eyes you might think the table of Hoke's defenses is the table of Greg Robinson's defenses. So… yeah. Um. Not to be a downer or anything. Also please don't bring up that the Graham/Malzahn combo obliterated Hoke's best team 45-13 and now Graham is at Pitt and has hired a couple Rodriguez assistants and I just feel kind of ominous about this whole section.
File on the happy side of the ledger. After nuking Navy the Aztecs rose to #12 nationally in the offensive FEI rankings. Michigan is still #2 even after the grim output against Mississippi State.
NOT ME. Probably. Look, so I might have had a bit to drink the past couple days but I can state with at least 60% confidence that this was not me:
I can recite pi to 54 digits, bitch. I'm Rick James.
The Process, conference edition. After consideration the Big Ten has declared that Legends and Leaders are awesome division names, thank you very much. This is emblematic of why the conference imploded on NYD: it is a league of ninnies. This space is going to stick to calling the divisions East and West even though North and South make more sense so Michigan can be Champions of the West.
Not so good. Tristin Llewellyn and Jacob Fallon are gone for the year for "violating team expectations." That ends Llewellyn's Michigan career; Fallon has an opportunity to return next year.
As far as impact goes, Fallon was only playing about half the time anyway and didn't stand out when he did. Llewellyn's loss will be more prominent. While it's impossible for anyone to replace his penalty acquisition skills with quite so much gusto, alternatives on the back line are Moffie and Clare. Moffie's been pretty bad this year—a turnover machine—and Clare has been on the back burner most of the season as Michigan tries to juggle eight defensemen. He'll probably benefit from the increased availability of playing time more than Moffie.
Etc.: Pat Fitzgerald's agent would like you to know that Michigan was probably going to offer Fitzgerald three million a year as part of their sham effort to make it look like other people were being considered. Brady Hoke buyout blah blah.
Mike Martin returns. Here's one punch in the solar plexus avoided:
"Yup, I'm staying," said Martin, a junior defensive tackle from Detroit Catholic Central who reportedly considered leaving U-M early for the NFL draft.
I'm pretty sure this was happening in any case, especially after his effectiveness plummeted thanks to his ankle injuries, but w00t nonetheless.
Exeunt Barwis. Devin Gardner has tweeted his goodbyes to Mike Barwis, so that's official then. I will miss the circle of death. I feel like posting a kitten but that seems wrong so via EDSBS here's Neko Case with a sword:
Is the saddest part of all of this having to retire the "eeee I'm a little girl for Mike Barwis" tag? Probably. We'll always have the wolf-ridden Yukon tundra.
Staff filling out. According to the local paper Al Borges won't be the only assistant moving with Hoke from San Diego State:
Offensive coordinator Al Borges and running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski have already confirmed they are gone. Offensive line coach Darrell Funk and linebackers coach Mark Smith are expected to follow, which makes sense because both came with Hoke from Ball State.
Two guys are definitely staying and two others—QB coach Brian Sipe and TE/ST coach Dan Ferrigno—aren't definite at SDSU but seem likely to stay. That leaves holes at DC, QB, WR, DL, and DB. Borges was profiled yesterday when his hire was announced; the other guys are just position coaches with no other track record. San Diego State's website is fancy, though, and breaks them down in detail.
Hecklinski is in his mid-30s and came up at some truly obscure schools (including Fort Scott CC, the community college Demar Dorsey signed/set off a bomb at) before landing at Arizona to be the QB coach and passing game coordinator in 2003. Almost as soon as he arrived the Wildcats rose up in insurrection against John Mackovic; the next year he landed at Ball State as the WR coach and recruiting coordinator. He moved to RB coach when the staff went to SDSU. He was a quarterback in college.
Funk is mid-40s and has followed the same route as Hecklinski, working his way up from Muskingum College to Mesa State to Rhode Island and eventually NIU and Colorado State. He played at CSU and got his first student assistant gig there. In his two decades as a coach he's mostly done OL with some moonlighting as a TE or DL coach, and he split four weird years at Rhode Island between offensive line and… defensive coordinator.
Smith is in his 50s. He spent one billion years (22, precisely) as an Indiana State position coach before moving up to be the DC for two years. Hoke hired him when he showed up at BSU and made him his DC, whereupon Cardinal fans were not impressed. When Hoke moved to SDSU he took the opportunity to demote him to LB coach, allowing Rocky Long to come in and install his 3-3-5.
So… yeah. Pretty generic. Hard to have an opinion one way or the other given their nonexistent profiles. Official MGoBlog policy is that RB coaches don't exist except to recruit, anyway.
Not an option. One name not in the running: Florida assistant and Michigan alum Chuck Heater, who will be Steve Addazio's DC at Temple. Does anyone else double-take when they're reminded Steve Addazio is a head coach somewhere? I bet Orson bursts out in seemingly unprompted laughter several times a day. This differs from two months ago because now people around him understand why.
One of Michigan's open assistant slots is already filled, as Brady Hoke will bring offensive coordinator Al Borges along with him. Borges has been a college offensive coordinator for just under a billion years and in that time he's coached everywhere from Portland State to Auburn and UCLA, with varying levels of success. He's now 55 and looks like the dad from Arrested Development:
So that will be terribly exciting for the subset of the population that will not shut up about Arrested Development no matter how many times you ask them to.
His last decade by the numbers follows. Lines in italics are stats from the season before Borges arrived.
For the record, Borges's 2000 season with UCLA saw the Bruins finish 100th in rushing offense at a miserable 2.5 YPC, 23rd in passing offense and 19th in efficiency. Borges's tailback was a junior DeShaun Foster; his quarterbacks anonymous journeymen.
Notes on the numbers:
- Antwaan Randle-El was a senior in 2001 and in the NFL in 2002, explaining the Indiana collapse. Borges split the offense between two horrible pocket passers; it's unclear if he had anyone else. The Indiana offense got even worse in year two and then Borges somehow got the Auburn OC job.
- At Auburn he was installed once the Tigers fell to a moribund 8-5—the numbers that year are propped up by monster games against ULM (73 points), WKU(48), Vandy(45), and Mississippi State(45). Auburn didn't put up 30 on any real opponent and failed to score ten four separate times. This was with a junior Jason Campbell and both Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. Whoever Auburn's OC was in 2003 was an idiot.
- So Borges took this and went vertical wih great success for the only single-digit performance of his aughts.
- The popular conception of what went down with Tommy Tuberville is he let his neanderthal offensive assistants undermine his offensive coordinator whenever he threatened to deviate from extreme MANBALL, and I believe it. Until the bottom fell out in 2007 Auburn was a pretty efficient passing team that ran all the time despite not really getting anywhere.
- The FEI rank for Borges's last year is so wacky and out of sync with how the world perceived it—Borges was shoved out the door and Auburn was desperate enough to import spread guru Tony Franklin—that is probably exposes a flaw in the methodology more than anything else, no offense to Mr. Fremeau.
- As far as running quarterbacks go, current SDSU starter Ryan Lindley had –162 yards in two years under Borges, and his other guys were Brandon Cox, Kyle Boller, Horrible Indiana QB Du Jour, and Jason Campbell. None of these guys would win a foot race with John Navarre save Campbell, and he would only tie. Campbell had 30 yards rushing as a senior.
The NCAA's online stats don't go back far enough to capture the most successful period of Borges's career, the five year run at UCLA during which he convinced the NFL that Cade McNown was a viable quarterback and was twice a finalist for the Broyles award.
As you can probably surmise from he numbers above, Borges is a traditional pro-style guy. Rodriguez has DVDs about the spread offense; Borges's is titled "Coaching the West Coast Quarterback." Smart Football on what Michigan should expect:
The rumor is he’s bringing Al Borges with him to be offensive coordinator; I’m already getting lots of questions about his so-called “Gulf Coast Offense.” I don’t know where that name came from, but as far as I can tell he’s a pro-style guy: nothing too exotic. But he’s been an offensive coordinator for a long time (close to two decades), in two major conferences (the Pac-10 at UCLA and Oregon and the SEC at Auburn), and when he’s had first-round NFL talent (Cade McNown at UCLA and Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown, and Cadillac Williams at Auburn in 2004) he’s had elite offenses.
I think that sounds about right. Michigan’s coaching search was explicitly about someone who wanted to build the program, not hiring the next offensive genius. And I can’t really argue with that — the Rodriguez thing ended badly. That puts on the onus on Hoke, however, as he must recruit and build the program from the ground up; there won’t be any reliance on a decided schematic advantage to win. But is that a bad thing?
He also links three minutes of a hypothetical scrimmage between Borges and the Michigan secondary:
Generic pro-style against a bad defense.
As for the "Gulf Coast" thing, it appears to be some jibber-jabber from when he was freshly hired at Auburn and people were like "lol Auburn's not on he west coast." Apparently it consists of…
west coast principles (short passes, backs, YAC)
post-snap route reads by the receivers
lots of formations
…ie, it's a generic pro-style offense that has a more advanced concept of routes than either Rodriguez's or Carr's offense did. It does appear that Borges leans towards throwing over passing when given the option but most of his rush offenses were mediocre. It's hard to tell what would happen if he actually had a good running game.
Michigan's new offensive coordinator has no experience working with a running quarterback and has pretty mediocre results over the past decade. The "elite" offense cited by Smart Football was 25th in total offense, though I'm sure FEI would look kindly on it because of SOS. The rest of it is bleah aside from the encouraging two-year development by SDSU. In Borges's defense he's been saddled with horrible quarterbacks for most of a decade and made good use of the one competent guy he did have. (Note: Kyle Boller may have been a first round pick but even the year after Borges was broomed with the rest of the staff he did not put up efficiency numbers any better than above.)
Borges looks like just a guy by the numbers, and he's just a guy who seems like the worst possible fit with Denard. Jason Campbell ran more when he got to the NFL. Hopefully there's some more flexibility in this offense than it appears at first glance, otherwise it's a fourth straight year with a new, underclass starting quarterback.