Is that this coaching staff seems honest and doesn't try to place any blame on the players (i.e. Brian Kelly). I'm hoping for a strong showing from the offense this Saturday against Illinois.
Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-8-11: Al Borges
We're splitting the coordinators now, so Greg Mattison's transcript will be up after I eat something.
On the last four plays, do you wish you would have been able to call a run or a roll-out? “Yeah, you were going to struggle rolling out. They were in full blitz. Guys coming outside. I mean, you could roll out but your odds were not very good. Your best -- in four straight full blitzes, your best case scenario was the single coverage matchups. We got our hands on three out of four balls, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out. But not a lot of reservation about that. Like I said, rolling out conceptually sounds good, but when the edge isn’t clean, it doesn’t look as good as it sounds.”
Any thoughts of running on first down? “No. Absolutely not. 16 seconds with no timeouts? What’re you going to do? If you run the football inside of 18 seconds, your odds, if you fail, of getting back lined up to run another play are very very slim, not to mention you eliminate probably two calls. So that would be bad playcalling. Bad strategy.”
What about the last play, with two seconds left? “That’s a possibility. That’s a possibility, and it was a couple different options we could have used there. We chose the one we chose and it didn’t work out. I wish it would have. But that’s viable, but at three yards, again, if you don’t make it, you’re going to look silly. When you have a seven-man pressure staring at you in the eyes, superman’s going to struggle running through that.”
Has Denard gotten tentative running the ball? He looks slower. “I don’t think so. I haven’t timed him, but he doesn’t look any slower to me. So my answer to that is I don’t think he has. No. Not really.”
MGoInterjection: I did notice that on the outside runs, he constantly looks for the cutback … “Well, what’s happening on those is he’s got to start cutting off his outside foot. We talked about that. That’s happened twice now, maybe three times when we’re cutting off our inside foot and he slipped. So we’re getting that corrected.”
(more after the jump)
The outside receivers weren’t blocking as well as they were in earlier games. Was it because Iowa had aggressive cornerbacks? “Well we lost some matchups outside and we won some matchups outside, but it wasn’t always the wide recievers because a couple of times we didn’t get the ball to the perimeter. It’s a combination of issues. It was a game where unusually enough, we played a lot of 10-man football in this game, where we had 10 executing and for some reason one guy, and it was usually someone different every play, wasn’t getting it done. It led to a lot of unsuccessful plays that had in the past had been successful plays. It’s all usually fundamental and technique and things like that. We just had a lot of 10-man football.”
In the first quarter, Toussaint had 39 yards on seven carries. What happened going forward? The power running game kind of disappeared. “We had 14 plus-four runs, I believe, during the course of the game. [At] the 10-minute something mark, we went to fast offense. We were down 24-9, so the balance of the playcalling is skewed based on that. You lost 10 minutes when we were throwing the ball a lot just to get back in. It worked nicely, too. It got us back in the game, but I think in a four-quarter game when you have a balance of playcalling, you would have seen -- he would have had 20-something carries like he did last week. He wouldn’t have had 170 yards, but he would have had decent numbers and everything would have worked out fine, but at one point in time, you have to change your strategy, and sometimes it means giving up what your original game plan was to do, and in that case was to run our spread, run our two-back, run our stuff.”
Hopkins was doing well as a lead blocker. “He had a good game. Played good, yeah.” What does he add to your run game? “Just that. He’s a good lead blocker. Has tailback type skills, so he has good feet, but he has some toughness, can catch the ball, have to get him more involved in that end of the game, too. He was one of the guys that played better than a lot of the other kids. As we develop more and more some of our two-back offense, he’s going to be more of a factor.”
How has he handled the transition from running back to fullback? “So much of it is a buy-in. You have to buy in. If you don’t buy in to the position, you’ll never be any good playing fullback. We’ve converted I don’t know how many kids from tailback to fullback, and the ones that did well generally became next-level players. But they had to be convinced that that’s what they were. If you’re still thinking in the back of your mind you’re still going to be a tailback, you can’t be a fullback. That doesn’t work in our offense. That has to start with the mindset.” So does he buy in to that? “Oh yeah.” How much bigger would you like to see him get next year? “He’s big enough right now to play the position. He’s moving people because he’s explosive and he’s strong. You can always put maybe a little bit of quality weight on -- muscle -- but I don’t know that he has to be a lot bigger. He’s big enough to play the position.”
Seems like shotgun three-wide is Denard's most comfortable set, especially in the fourth quarter. “That’s a little different. You have to understand at the end of the game, when the defense wasn’t playing the same way as earlier in the game. You have a completely different scenario. One of the big misconceptions when watching the football game is two-minute offense. Some guys are trying to do that the whole game. Some are succeeding and some aren’t. Well the mindset of the defense changes when you’re at 24-9 and some completions might be there that weren’t there in drives. You just have to know that situationally football changes series to series. How you appraoch that is based on how you plan it and what you think the quarterback’s best at. But that time, we got in three wides and did what we did. Maybe the next time we try the same thing it’s not nearly as successful.”
How does Illinois’ defense differ from Iowa’s defense? “They’re schematically very different. Illinois is very much a movement team. Likes to pressure with at least one linebacker at one time or another, whether it’s the strong inside, the strong outside, the weak inside. They’ll corner blitz you. There’s more variation to the defense whereas Iowa is more line up one way and do it right, do it sound, and do it consistently. I think Illinois teaches the same things. They want to do it right, but they’re willing to do more things to that end, if that makes any sense. There’s more chalkboard to draw up. There’s more for the kids to digest. There’s more for us to look at. Two different approaches, both very good. It’s all in what your coordinator’s philosophy is and what we can get taught.”
Were you pleased with the offensive line? “Oh at times I was. At times I wasn’t. I think we’re not as complete as we’d like to be. We did some good things. Our biggest reason that we didn’t win this game is because from an offensive perspective we had no big plays. We had nothing -- if you look at the seven games that we’ve won, almost all of them there’s been huge chunks of yardage taken off in certain drives for whatever reason, whether they were runs or passes or whatever. In this game, we had some nice runs. We had 14 plus-four if I’m not mistaken, but we took no chunks. We failed to get big bites out of the defense. It took a toll on our point production. It took a toll on our yardage. It took a toll on everything. We had 20-something first downs, but that’s kind of meaningless when we can’t score. 16 points -- you have to score more points. You have to assume you have to score more points from an offensive perspective. And the way you do that is you move the ball incrementally and to turn around once in a while and take a big bite of the defense. We did not do that latter, and that, from an offensive perspective, is one of the reasons we didn’t win the game.”
Was that more your doing or Iowa’s doing? “I think a little of both. You have to give them credit now. They do a nice job and always have. There were some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on. It’s always a little bit of both. We didn’t get pushed around. They didn’t dominate us, I don’t think, but they played good. I think they played darn good, and the combination of them playing well and us not playing as well as we could -- you see the result.”
What does Denard need to do better to complete more deep passes? “We went back to basics on this Sunday. Earlier in the season, we were doing a really nice job of giving our receivers an opportunity to make plays down the field. Our philosophy is to make sure the receiver touches the ball. We have some good rangy receivers that can make jump balls, take balls away, and we just went back and said, ‘Okay, we can miss a little short, but give him that opportunity,’ because that’s what happened of late that wasn’t really happening that much earlier in the season, is we’ve been overthrowing guys. So we went back and worked on that, and I think you’re going to see some results there. Two things we talked about is that, number one, and number two is using his skills more on improv. Any play caller, whether they want to admit it or not, is probably going to call anywhere from five to seven plays during the course of the game where it’s going to be [covered]. There’s going to be somebody that’s not open. You call too many of those and you’ve called a bad game. It’s going to happen. Now what’s going to happen those five plays where there’s nobody open? In those instances your quarterback has to create. We emphasized that more is the ability to create and what we’re going to do when we create.”
Was the Fitz Toussaint touchdown pass a play where you would have liked to see Denard improv/just tuck it and run? “Exactly. Great example. That was covered. They did a nice job. We ran a little goal-line zone, beat them off a play-action pass, and the safety came out and took Hopkins, and the corner squeezed in the pop, and there was nobody open. But he bought enough time to let people move around. And all of a sudden you can’t cover them forever. I don’t care who you are. Somebody broke free. Fitz broke free and we completed a pass. There has to be a portion of your offense that there is some improv involved. I don’t like too much of it, because then it becomes street ball. You can’t win doing that. But the greatest quarterbacks ever -- and I’m not just talking about the scramblers, I’m talking about the guys that can buy the extra beat to get the ball off just by moving their feet a little bit -- make that third play I’m talking about. That third play where that guy’s covered and they create something. Denard’s capable of doing that as well as anybody I’ve ever coached. We just have to work on it more. We have to get good at it and be willing to do it in certain situations.”
Is Denard too hesitant to take off? “I don’t think so. Here’s the deal. There’s a delicate balance between turning down open receivers to run, okay, and running when nobody’s open. Just in all the research I did over the years, particularly in West Coast offense -- there’s that word again. Steve Young, for example, became a great, great player, but Steve became a great passer and great quarterback when he found where that balance was. I think even Steve would tell you earlier in his career he ran when he shouldn’t have been. But when he knew when to run -- nobody’s open, improv, do all that -- he became a better quarterback. Denard’s learning that. He possesses the same type of skills. He does. But that’s growth, man. That’s learning how to play the position. It takes a while. When you add to that, your pass offense, learning the new pass offense, and still going through the progressions and all that stuff, there’s a lot to learn that way. He’s not unlike so many quarterbacks I’ve had in the same situation.”
It seemed like Iowa defended the Deuce package really well. Was it lack of execution on your part or did they have a really good plan against it? “Well, breaking down the plays, we didn’t really use this much of it as we have in the past because we kind of started slow. We had two three-and-outs to start the game, which is just painful. That’s a horrible way to start the game. So we didn’t get into the flow of the package very much. You have to understand something about that package -- not every play’s going to work in that package. Plays build off other plays build off other plays, and they change week to week. Sometimes they’ll shut down a facet of that and won’t shut down another facet of it. The residuals will get you something. We never really got into the second part of the package. We just tapped it a little bit and never really got into it.”
What goes into calling a Deuce play? Some of them seemed to stall drives a little bit. “You call them as you feel it. I don’t know if they stalled drives or not, but we don’t use them on third down very often so I don’t know if that’s a big factor. So much of playcalling is feel. When you put them in, when you feel like it’s going to work the best. A week before we put them in there, we had some great pops. This week we didn’t have great pops so people are going to perceive it as stalling drives. You can’t give up on it. Certain things you can’t say, ‘Well it didn’t work this week, let’s not do it anymore.’ That’s panic and that’s bad and that’s getting away from what’s gotten you where you are.”
I do agree with you, but I think sometimes coaches take too much on themselves. There are times when they've coached exactly right and a kid just f's up anyway. And I don't think it's bad to just say that, as long as you don't single someone out in the press.
Actually, that is what the "10 man football" comment is all about. He does not call out specific players, but indicated that way too often, there was one guy blowing his assignment. That is on the players.
sounds dangerous. Looks like Borges hasn't done much wrong, mainly been on the players going and playing. I like what he's done so far.
Game to see what he's done wrong.
I did say not much, not nothing.
I thought he did a bad job in the State game, but what about Iowa? Anything specific? The last 4 plays?
Even in the State game, I know what he was trying to do, so although I still think he had a bad game, I'm not killing him for it. State was packing the box (particularly on early downs) and challenging us to beat them through the air. He had enough (misplaced?) confidence in Denard and the passing game to hit a few passes early in drives (which would have softened State's defense up a bit and could potentially have made them scrap their original plan altogether). And, on that one slant for a touchdown, we saw that it could have worked, had we gotten a few of those earlier. Again, I still think he blew it, but I haven't seen anyone stick up for him at all, and I think it helps if you know that his plan wasn't really ill-conceived, but ill-implemented.
As for Iowa, no complaints from me. We could have won the game. And let's not forget, even though we were in a big hole, his play calls got us to within three yards (one different officiating call) of getting out of it. He has to get credit for the good and the bad.
It's real easy to criticize something that didn't work. Come on man, the 4th and 1 call wasn't executed properly, and in the Iowa game at least 3 out of the 4 chances should have made it in the endzone, but didn't for various reasons. Give it a fucking rest. Things can't always work out our way, and I know you're pissed they didn't, but Borges laid out some good reasons for what he did here.
That Borges 4th and 1 call is equivalant to the random defended 3-pointers Manny Harris used to hoist up. Is that the right play to make? A vast majority of the time it is not. Does it somehow magically work out? Yes, around 30% of the time. It doesn't make it any less stupid.
As for the Iowa game, I don't think people are pissed about the 1st and goal series nearly as much as the point where for 3 quarters we ran one type of offense, then in the 4th quarter we ran a seemingly more efficient, different offense.
Borges' call was well thought out. It had been saved all year for precisely that situation. We'd run that 3-deep I formation iso about 5 times during the season, and nothing else from that look. This was the counter to that, and it was designed to create a touchdown on an obvious running down. It didn't work. It wasn't blocked well, and the defense had a really good call on.
It's failure does not make it stupid.
How do you not get that? You can disagree about strategy without the other guy being stupid. That's why other strategies exist. And some of those "stupid" guys get paid millions of bucks to call those stupid plays, while you complain on a blog (the comments section, anyway, you don't even have a blog of your own).
Manny Harris' 3-pointers were stupid because they weren't thought out.
Remember, this is from a guy who didn't like the call. But it's also from a reasonable guy who knows some football and can see what the coaches were trying to do.
to allow Denard to take off and run when receivers are not open. Yeah, eventually someone will get open, but eventually the qb can get sacked, too.
It seemed to me he was saying that it's a process to learn when to throw and when to run.
I've said this before but I would like to see or offense resemble that of Ohio State's offense during the Troy Smith years. A lot of short easy throws and QB runs when needed. Michigan could not stop it.
I still believe in Al along with the rest of our staff. Bring on the Illini.
So if i'm hearing him right all Denard's got to do is learn how to be Steve Young and the offense is going to TAKE OFF!
That shouldn't be a problem.......
He just has to become a mormon.
Also, it seemed to me we got those big chunks last year off of short plays. Last year our playmakers turned short runs and short passes into big plays after contact or after the catch. If we scheme a 40 yard gain play it proly wont work out as well as a 10+ yard play getting blown open after Hemmingway or Roundtree or Robinson makes a guy miss like they're so good at doing.
Well, you can't really scheme for long runs. Coaches always tell you that every run is designed to score, all you have to do is block every guy as they show you on the chalkboard and have the RB beat one man at the third level and it's six. The problem is that it is almost never blocked that way. Blocking is hard.
Borges alluded to it when he said we had a lot of plays where 10 guys did the right thing, and one guy f'ed up. That will stop big plays.
But back to scheming. You can scheme for long passes, but I don't think we did a lot of that. And Rich Rod never did, although we did have some long passes. Most of his route concepts were elementary (5 hitches; 5 slants), but they often worked because of the threat of Denard running. What is the famous QB Oh No if not an extremely simple route combination (slot go's) that fly open when the QB fakes a run? Not a complicated scheme, but an effective one (so long as you have Denard).
Long story short, I don't think scheming has been the major culprit,execution has. We've gotta coach them up better. Pert of this is from the change in offense, but the defense has responded better to their drastic change, so Borges has to take some blame.
And, although scheme isn't the major culprit, it has been huge in some instances [State], and I still have a general feeling of we should be running Denard more to set up other things, not doing other things to set up Denard running.
Still, I love Gorgeous Borges.
As frustrated as I have been at times, it is not like there are not plays to be made. If Denard throws jump balls instead of overthrows then maybe he has one more pick per game (equivalent to a short punt), but we also probably complete two or three more 30-40 yard passes per game. I will take that all day, especially since the threat of a passing game will open up more runs. Borges' calls are getting guys open, and if Denard can settle down a bit and give the receivers a chance, we will be alright. He doesn't need to be pinpoint, but he does need to give receivers a chance. Denard also has the rest of this year and the entire offseason to get comfortable in the offense and punish teams for stacking the box next year. I still have faith.
Heiko, you do a supreme job with these transcriptions! Every week I am impressed with how readable in text you make the coaches' spoken words. I know firsthand that transcribing isn't as easy as people assume and isn't fun either.
This week I noticed a minor error that tripped me up for a second:
"You can’t win doing that. But the greatest quarterbacks ever, and I’m not just talking about the scramblers. I’m talking about the guys that can buy the extra beat to get the ball off just by moving their feet a little bit. Make that third play I’m talking about."
This I think should be just two sentences to make it more readable:
"You can’t win doing that. But the greatest quarterbacks ever—and I’m not just talking about the scramblers, I’m talking about the guys that can buy the extra beat to get the ball off just by moving their feet a little bit—make that third play I’m talking about.
Yeah that reads a lot better. Fixed.
I do appreciate the correction. Sometimes I don't think when I transcribe.
only on mgoblog do you get a discussion on the finer points in transcription!
more seriously, thanks for doing these - they are awesome.
What can they do to convince Denard that he is a superior athlete to pretty much every single person he will come up against, so if the pass isn't there, he should just tuck and run?
I understand what Borges is saying about finding the right balance, but at this point, it's becoming almost a running joke to see Denard with all sorts of space in front of him, fling an inaccurate pass downfield that results in a wasted play.
I too scream at the TV for Denard to run, but I understand at times why he doesn't. First, as he said, he's focused on making his reads down the field and isn't really looking for running lanes (but he probably should more after making his first 2 reads). Second, I would think he doesn't "practice" looking for scrambling lanes because in practice, I would imagine he's coached to go through all of his reads and try to find the open receiver. Having said that, I would love to see Borges coach him to take off after seeing that X number of reads aren't open, like commentators talked about the coaches at Auburn doing with Newton.
you want to eat? what a load of crap.
Not till he's done eating.
Al Borges should spend some time volunteering at a suicide hotline. Throughout the season, whenever I've been frustrated by the offense and his play calling, he comes through in the next week with his presser and talks me off the ledge. He's not perfect, but he takes responsiblity and usually backs up his somewhat questionable decisions with good, unique explanations. People need to remember that this is the team's first season in his offense and his best attempt to adapt his style to the personnel.
Russell Bellomy and Shane Morris under Borges system>John Kitna under Mike Martz system.
From Hoke talking about Manball and bringing in an O coordinator who runs the West Coast, a finesse offense, to the junk that flows out of Borges' mouth in these pressers. The only week I was confident our O would look good was against Minnesota and with the way they are playing I'm not sure we can score enough points to win another game.
Borges has had one succesful year since he left UCLA and that was his first year at Auburn when he was loaded with first and second round NFL talent. His production went down each year until he was let go (resigned). He was such a hot property that despite leaving in early December before Auburn's bowl game that no one wanted him. Hoke picked him up over a year later and he had a good year last year, but benefitted from playing 6 defenses worse than ours last year and a 4-7 FCS school.
That "resignation" signaled the beginning of the end for tuberville(sp?). So, Auburn was better off without him? Also, I think his system makes his players look better than they are. At SDSU, he had 2 receivers, who were unknown before he got there, get drafted in the same year. A QB that was pretty good and a running back go for 1000 yards. I'd take that any day.
The offense is averaging 425 YPG and that is without the WMU stats.
That's a lot of yards.
As an aside, I would debate that they were actually 6 defenses worse than Michigans last season but regardless I would be interested in the stat you're using to say SDSU played 6 defenses worse than Michigan last season. Going by FO stats, I see New Mexico and New Mexico State as being ranked worse than Michigan.
"I'm still butthurt that Rich isn't here anymore but rather than seeking therapy I'm going to cry about it on these boards and hate anything that comes after it until Rich is rehired*" stats.
NCAA football there is a heading called stats. It has offensive and defensive stats and you can get them by all FBS or conference. I don't know if you can still pull up last years or not.
This presser is the first one ive not felt reassured after reading. Borges didnt take much responsibility at all here, he attributed the problems to the players playing 10 man football. His rationale for not rolling out DR on the goaline was not much more than speculating that it wouldnt have worked, which may or may not be true, and the Steve Young comparison was surreal. I know Borges was not saying DR is as good as Young but its just entertaining to hear the name of the most accurate QB in history with DR in the same sentence.
by assessment that in that situation where they were heavily blitzing and had outside contain spies that a run wouldn't work as well as passing on single coverage.
so there were 3-4 dropped passes by Mich receivers last week, right?
His miss of a wide open Roundtree when he had the defender by three+ yards was about as bad as it gets. Especially when you consider Roundtree had his man beat from the time he won the battle at the line of scrimmage.
The blogs are full of advice for the OC and DC. However, the questions posed are too mild. Ask harder questions and don't give them the answer in the question.
I was going into meltdown during/right after the game because he didn't call a Roll-out or a Run-Pass option down on the goalline, but I'm a lot more understanding of it now with his explanation and thinking back to how Binns was playing on the edge
all it takes is a pump fake to get him up in the air. Basically, the same principle as a pump fake in bball.
The sky might collapse and the Wolverines might end the season at 7-5 or the same magic could strike them like early in the season and they could close out at 10-2.
Regardless, these two coordinators show a lot of skill in how they handle their press conferences. Their video should be shown as examples to younger coaches on how to relate with the press and fans. Have to address obvious questions and concerns (e.g. rollout at the goal line) and not duck questions. No dumping on the kids. No blaming all on bad referring.
Wish some of the more technical questions from the Mattison presser could have been asked of Borges. Would love to hear him explain his fascination with I-form when it gains so many fewer yards per play.
I'm surprised Borges did not go with more screens and short slants. I remember seeing open receivers 10 to 20 yards down the field. I'm not sure if it is a timing problem or DROB just not seeing these receivers?
Oh well, we will have to open up the passing game because teams from now on will be trying to close down the running game.
If Borges has Denard going back to basics, I hope that means that Tacopants isn't going to be happy with his touches and transfers immediately to Illinois.
I find it hard to blame Borges for not being able to run a system that he has never run before with players he didn't recruit. You can say he should adapt or just use the same plays we used last year, but that's not really fair.
That said, if power-I runs and predictable passes (and insane 4th and 1 passes) turn out to be our base offense a few years down the road, I will move to Ann Arbor and open a torch and pitchfork store.
I like how Borges admits Denard needs to go back to basics, and is encouraging him to improv more. That was what I was seeing as the biggest detriment to our offense, was restraining Denard too much. It looked to me like he was a little uncomfortable and was forcing himself to stay in the pocket too long. He wasn't even looking for scrambling in when no one was open on a few plays in the last drive vs. Iowa. That being said, Denard was checking down his recievers like a pro, but his accuracy was sub-par. He is incredibly aware of whats going on, and I think that could be so benificial if he took off slightly more when recievers aren't open.
This presser should end the debate regarding if Denard was throwing the earlier 'jump balls' short on purpose. Borges stated pretty clearly that is the way he wants them thrown and that is the way he has Denard practice it.
I thought he did a good job explaining why he did and didn't do certain things. There seem to be perfectly rational reasons for doing things a certain way, not just rigid ideology. I like the part where he talks about Denard cutting on the wrong foot, seems like they are on top of the little details and will have these guys progressing.
Folks, let's get this straight: Borges is smarter than you. He has a reason for what he does - no rollouts with 16 seconds left, not using much Fitz in NASCAR, and so on. Not every play works, put he's not just drawing play cards from a deck.
I am very optimistic about the future of the offense. Borges is not DeBord, which was my biggest fear. He does not go into a shell under duress. He is not afaid of the pass on any down.
No, he and Denard are not a match made in heaven. They would have never "recruited" each other. That may never fully resolve itself. We will have another year to see if it can, at least enough to be successful.
So let's calm down a little and not stomp our feet and demand a new OC the next time the QB misses an open reciever 30 yards down the field covered by only a safety (I'm looking at you Liveblog).