So my lovely avatar returns. Fair enough. Hoke's going to ride that horse and hope that consistency and experience will sprinkle faerie dust over the offense in 2014 and beyond.
But no matter how you slice it, Al Borges was outcoached in several games this year. So here is a list of the areas Al needs to focus on improving in 2014. Question is, which do you think he will actually improve? Here's my take, but I post because I'd love everyone else's thoughts on this.
Offensive line execution and coaching.
Verdict: Significant improvement because can it really get any worse? Al loses Lewan and Schofield but he returns a large stable of young 4 stars and more importantly, a year's worth of ineptitude to light a fire under him to make sure this area is improved next year and beyond. Any OL product remotely as inept as this year will be unforgivable. Fool Al once turrible offensive line, shame on you. Fool Al twice, shame on Al.
Verdict: Improvement because again, could it get any worse? This year, where our offense could be characterized as two brilliant showings (ND/Ohio) bookending a whole lot of execution/turnover doodoo (Brian Cook Indiana caveat in effect, and maybe toss Minnesota in there), Al established himself as the Tracy McGrady of OC's - flashing brilliance, but just as frequently vanishing. He showed signs of this last year with his brilliant vanishing acts in the second half of Nebraska (Bellomy's brutal lack of preparation) and Ohio. I bet we see glimpses next year, but can it really get worse than this year? So I expect improvement.
Verdict: Push. For all Al and Brady's talk of execution and inexperience, when a talented D knows what you're bringing, light the play on fire 80% of the time. This to me is the most concerning of Al's limitations because while we might get our team back to elite, this fatal flaw will be what might cost us as it did for example in the second half against USC in 2006-7 when their players noted "Same old Michigan" and claimed after the game that they knew exactly what we were going to run. We heard similar rumblings this year vs Nebraska and MSU, but most damning of course was the 2 pt conversion vs Ohio where he stacked receivers, Ohio called time out to adjust, then Al stuck with the play, and presto. Add to this that Michigan just doesn't seem on the same level with other teams at checking down at the line of scrimmage, and I'm not holding my breath for 2014 on this one.
Verdict: Improvement again because it can't get much worse. As my signature attests, the most troubling aspect of this season to me was the cavernous gap in competence between Al Borges and Pat Narduzzi, and how completely owned Al was not just by the Narduzzi blitz happy attack, but the subsequently mimicked renditions of PSU and Nebraska (but not so much by Ohio or ND). Borges simply had no answer for defenses selling out and blitzing Gardner. See check downs, see predictability, see offensive line, see all other deficiencies. Al was embarrassed by Narduzzi and other D coordinators. He is the third highest paid OC in the country, we hope he will lick those wounds and adjust, working rigorously this off season on better check downs, slants, screens, etc. Will Narduzzi/Dantonio still own Al? I expect that to continue next year because the scheme/execution gap evidenced this year was just too big to expect a 180 degree change with the same coordinators. Auburn beat Alabama after getting crushed last year, but Auburn had a new coach doing entirely new things. We'll still have Al.
Stare into my avatar and allow him to mesmerize you. Al will improve next year, even in the face of a brutal road schedule, but as to Al's ceiling, I imagine we all remain dubious.