Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-16-12: Al Borges
MGo: Not much.
MGoActually: I have a technical question.
MGoAwComeOn: Would you rather me ask it now or later.
“You’re going to ask it one way or another, so ... shoot the moon.”
MGoQuestion: That play where the tight end blocks down and the two linemen pull and go outside of him. What’s that play called?
“… Oh. It’s just a horn scheme. Down and around type deal.”
MGoFollowup: Is there an advantage to doing that vs. running a zone stretch?
“Um, yeah, it’s just two different looks to give the defense based on how they’re playing, you know. They could be playing one style, and that’s a better way to block it. A lot of it is personnel, too. How well does your tight end handle the down blocks? If they’re playing another scheme you’re better off zoning. You really -- I’ve learned over the years you kind of have to have both. We have both. We have the ability ability to do both. In certain games one’s more prominent than the other.”
MGoThankYouThatWasAGreatAnswerBrianWillBePleasedButHereIsOneMore: Who would you say is your best blocker at tight end?
“I think they’re all pretty good at this point. I think Devin Funchess has improved the most. I don’t have any reservations about doing it with any of them. Now to be honest with you, that was a concern at the beginning, but I don’t know if I’d favor one over the other at this point.”
This is not technical, but is there any concern that Fitz isn’t doing a good enough job?
“No. Not really, but I think one thing I will say is that Thomas has earned a right to get in there a little bit more. I’ll say that. But no, I don’t really have any concerns. Fitz ran hard. Fitz did some good things in that game. We’re lucky. Thomas is starting to surface, which is giving us more depth, which is good news.”
“I think he’s kind of Vince Smith type, only a little bigger, but he did a nice job, too. He’s a good open field runner. He’s got some quickness and some speed. You know, the biggest thing is there’s only one ball, and our quarterback runs the ball, too, so it goes beyond just the normal distribution in the run game. It goes way beyond the normal distribution. But we’ll find spots, just like we do with Vince, at one point in time to get Justice more time, because he’s been doing a nice job. All our backs are a little more experienced now. It’s kind of cool, because last year they were all learning the system and all that, and you had to be careful who you put in there, but now our guys have played a little bit and are getting more and more solid, which is how you build a football team. It takes time at that position and others to where you’re comfortable and they’re comfortable with them.”
Do you feel Michigan State outphysicaled you on your side of the ball last year?
“Yes. Yes I do. I think we were outphysicaled everywhere.”
How do you change that?
“You go out there with an attitude that you’re going to exceed their intensity and you don’t let people do that to you. It’s that simple. There’s no more to it than that. We practice physical as it is. You have to have a mindset that’s ready to play in a figurative fist fight. And if you don’t think that way, don’t come to this game.”
Do you feel like you’ve narrowed your receiver rotation?
“Yeah. I think we’ve pretty much got who’s going to be in games. You’ve seen them. There’s no mystery to it. Yeah.”
They’ve done a good job of defending Denard over the last couple years. How do you address and counter what they’ve done?
“You study their schemes and work on how you attack their schemes. I don’t know how else to say it without giving anything away. You have to practice what you think they’re going to do, have hopefully some good, calculated playcalls that put you in some advantageous situations and hope the lesser playcalls aren’t disastrous. I’ve been coaching that way forever, and I’ll always coach that way, whether it’s Michigan State or whoever. You have to study, study, study, hope your players understand what you’re teaching them, and go get them. Don’t over-evaluate, and don’t under-evaluate. Let the kids play fast. That’s really kind of key.”
Is there a concern that being too run-heavy makes your offense too predictable?
“No. We’re going to do what we do best. Predictability is always -- it’s the coordinator’s job to make sure that there’s never a situation where the defense can literally say, ‘Here it comes.’ Whether it’s disguising your looks or disguising the action in your backfield, whatever, but the one thing you don’t want to do is get away from what you do best knowing that you’re going to have some counter-punches.”
How much does the matchup concern you between your run offense and their run defense, which is ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten right now?
“Well, Notre Dame was a good run defense, and so was Alabama and all that. They do a good job. Michigan State does a good job as anyone does, but you can’t abandon what you do best just because of the other team. You have to do what you do and have the counterpunches that hopefully loosen them up enough that you can do what you do.”
Denard seems a lot more accurate the past couple weeks. Is that because the routes are shorter?
“No. I don’t think that’s it. I just think he’s more comfortable. And obviously if you throw shorter balls you have a higher completion percentage, but no, I think he’s just gotten more comfortable. He’s more grounded. His fundamentals have improved. The Notre Dame game had an effect on him, a great effect on him. For the most part we’ve kept him out of a lot of third and longs. We’ve had a few, but it hasn’t been terrible, and hence our third down completions have been pretty good, but he’s been a huge part of that and a lot of people will say, yeah, he runs for a lot of them, but he’s thrown for a lot of third down conversions, too. I think it’s just comfort level. I don’t really think the length of route is not -- obviously longer routes are lower percentage completions, but you can’t throw all short routes. There’s a point in time, the way a lot of people play us, when the ball has to go downfield. You have no choice. So you know, the mixture of throwing the ball downfield, getting them in the comfort zone, throwing some short balls, that was probably all part of it.”
Did the Notre Dame game have a big effect on you, too?
“It had a big effect on everybody, yeah. I mean, I’ve had games like that before, all the years I’ve coached, the cool thing about that game is you had some time to re-evaluate because of the bye. Evaluate and re-evaluate. Us and upcoming opponents. I think it helped. I don’t know. I think it might be a little overrated, but I think it helped.”
Are you getting closer to striking a balance in the running game between the Denard and the running backs?
“It wasn’t bad the last couple games. Just remember, and I said this before, don’t expect every week to be balanced yards. That’s not going to happen. That happens very seldom. If it does happen, good. It probably would be a great game. But as long as he’s not carrying it every time, where he’s got to carry the ball 50 times. Goodness gracious. So yeah, we’re getting it close to balanced. I’d like balanced yardage -- don’t get me wrong -- but as long as the pressure’s not on him every time, I think that’s good.”
When Bellomy came in, how much did it shrink or limit your playcalling?
“It didn’t shrink it at all. No. Didn’t really shrink it at all. It’s funny you ask that because that’s the first thing I asked him. I always have in the back of my mind -- not in the back of my mind -- but I actually have a plan for when the backup quarterback’s in. But when I talked to Russ when he came into the game, I said, ‘Now, are you ready to roll?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Everything’s up?’ He said, ‘Everything’s up. I’m ready.’ Do we approach it different? Maybe a little different, but the plan doesn’t take a complete shift. Russ can run. He’s not denard, but he can do some things. He’s smart. He manages things well. He just needs some experience. The more he plays, you know, and when that’s going to come I have no idea, but if he gets a little more experience I think you’ll see.”
Is it more difficult to deal with a sudden change of quarterbacks when you’re up in the booth vs. on the sidelines?
“No. Not any big deal. You know the only thing I have found -- I was on the field for 23 years. I didn’t know anything but the field, but the only thing I have found that’s a little different is the game management can be a little tougher. You know, you don’t have the hands-on, pull guys back -- you know what I mean? That aside, it hasn’t really made much of a difference.”
How much better has Denard gotten in the read option?
“Yeah. Yes. Yes. Yeah. And it’s showed up in his rushing numbers. Yeah. And we’ve changed a few little things about that. I won’t go into any of them, but we’ve done a few things. We tweaked that a little bit, and I think that’s helped.”
There were nine completed passes to nine different receivers. Have you ever had a game like that?
“Gosh I don’t remember, but I think I had a game when I had like 11 guys catch a ball. I don’t remember, and I didn’t even know that -- I probably should know that, but I didn’t know that, but that’s nice.”
Does it make an offense more dangerous?
“Sure. You have more people to attack them with. Absolutely. And you’d like that. But by the same token, if you have a weapon and he’s only catching one pass, then you have to evaluate. I mean a real dude. Our receiver corps is fairly balanced in terms of their talents, so that doesn’t bother me as much. If you had a guy like Calvin Johnson or a guy like Jerry Rice or somebody like that, then they need to be catching more than one pass.”
Do you feel like you have any real dudes yet?
“Oh I think there’s some potential there. Yeah. You bet. I think there’s some potential there. And some young guys, too.”
You’re always challenging your offensive line, but is this one of those games where you need them to step up?
“You know what, it’s everybody this game. Yes. Yes. But it’s not just them. It goes way beyond the offensive line. The offensive line’s a nice starting point because so much of what you do, the success that you have or don’t have, is dictated by how they play, but this goes beyond that. This is a challenge to everyone on the perimeter, a challenge to the running backs, a challenge to the quarterback, and then Greg will probably give you a whole new dissertation on defense, but this is one of those games where we all have to step to the plate. Plate as hard as we can for as long as we can and understand the theme of the game is to win, and that’s it. Whatever it takes to do that.”
Are you concerned with offensive line depth at this point?
“I’m always concerned with depth … That’s been an issue from the beginning. We are not real deep on the offenisve line. We made that clear. As long as it’s time to play, the right guys are out there, we just go, and then whatever happens we have built-in guys to go in if somebody gets hurt, but I’m concerned about that at every position, because we’re still at every position not as deep as we need to be.”
When Lewan wasn’t warming up it looked like Barnum was at left tackle …
“We have about three different options. That might have been one of them, but we had about three different options, and it would affect every guy on the line.”
MGoQuestion: Going back to the running backs, Thomas Rawls likes to truck people. Would you use him as in short-yardage or goal-line situations?
“Yeah. He’ll do some of that. Or just playing out in the field. He’s a physical guy and always has been. I mean, we’ll use him in some short-yardage situations, but we’re going to use him all over the place. It’s not restricted to just that. I think the team likes that. The team, the line, everybody likes the physical nature of his running style.”
You’ve controlled the time of possession the last four games, but you also have big-play ability. How hard is it for defenses to deal with that?
“That’s the ultimate, you know, the ability to strike fast and the ability to grind it out. See, we’re not an up-tempo team, okay, although we can facilitate that. We’re not an up-tempo team. We’re never -- I won’t say never -- it’s not likely we’re going to average 500 yards a game. We don’t play that way. We want to make sure that there’s a balance in the game that keeps our defense off the field. Want to run the football, convert third downs, and do those kinds of things so we can play what Brady calls Michigan football. In that, with that thinking, now, you have to be able to do what you’re talking about. You have to be able to take the ball in increments and move it down the field and take care of it. When we’ve done that, we’ve been good at it. Every so often, bam, quick strike, touchdown. The balance of those two makes the offense good. Plus, keeps the defense off the field. That’s the theme here. That’s not real popular these days. A lot of people are not doing that. Michigan State’s a lot the same way, but our philosophy is that we want to possess the ball as much as we can, score as many points as we can, but not to the point where we’re so obsessed with running 80 football plays that we can have three-and-outs that we cost our defense time on the field. That’s the way we play, that’s the way we’re going to play, and hopefully we can keep doing it well.”
“You guys done with me?”
Oh, I have one more. Your introduction to this game last year --
“I mean, I don’t wanna stay …”
Your introduction to this game last year, and you’ve been in rivalry games before, but did it surprise you how physical it was? With Denard’s head getting twisted and the punch getting thrown?
“Oh I’m not going into that, now, but the physical nature of the game was so much like every rivalry I’ve been around. I’ve been to Auburn-Alabama, they’re trying to kill each other from the time the game starts to the time it’s over. UCLA-USC, they all live in the same town. There’s a lot of that going on. There’s Oregon-Oregon State, same type of deal. So no, the physical nature didn’t surprise me at all. No. I’ve been in too many of those.”