Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-15-11: Al Borges Comment Count

Heiko November 15th, 2011 at 9:34 PM

Al Borges

New photo. 

In terms of Denard’s progress, what do you see on film that most people can’t see? “Well the issues with Denard, I think in the last game, were pretty much ball security deals. Other than that, he didn’t really throw the ball too bad. We didn’t throw the ball a lot with him, and he got hurt later in the game, so you didn’t see as much, but he’s managing the game pretty well. When he doesn’t get the yards, somebody else does. When nobody gets the yards, then we have issues, and that’s happened in a couple games -- those games we shouldn’t have lost. Denard’s growing in our offense. Nobody wants to hear that. I told them in the beginning, that I told him he’s not going to gain 1700 yards. We’re going to try and get somebody else involved. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that. There’s certain games he’s going to get more than he’s going to get in other games. As long as we’re getting productivity from our running game, if it isn’t him, that’s fine.”

How has his role changed since the emergence of Fitz? “It hasn’t changed much at all, it’s just a matter of who’s getting the opportunities. Sometimes they’re taking Denard away. By taking him away -- if you watch the second play of the game it’s probably the best example. We ran a little misdirect divide zone, and he carried out the fade fake and three guys went with him, which gave Fitz an opportunity to run through a big cavity where there was nothing left but a corner or a safety, or I don’t remember what. People don’t understand the residual effects of Denard. Sometimes it’s not always him running for 200 yards, but him getting someone else to run for big yards. He helps in that respect.”

Why has ball security been an issue? “Well a couple times we dangled it in the pocket. He was doing a good job with it for the most part. We dangled it in the pocket one time. We have to keep the ball inside the perimeter of your shoulders so that you naturally brace when you get hit. That’s one of them. And he got the ball away from his body one time when he was running. He’s been pretty good running the ball, taking good care of the ball. We got a couple close calls where I think the ground caused the fumble in a couple games, but that’s generally it. You usually fumble when you’re fundamentally bad. You don’t keep the ball with five points of pressure and it gets away from your body and somebody strips it.”

(more after the jump)

Does his hand/wrist injury have anything to do with it? “No. No. In this game he didn’t hurt his wrist until later on.”

Why do you say nobody wants to hear that he’s growing in the offense? “Well because the productivity numbers wise isn’t everything it was a year ago. First year in a completely different offense, I think sometimes -- that’s what we’ve prefaced before the season. To think that he’s going to rush for 1700 yards is absurd. Number one is they’re going to be too conscious of him, doesn’t matter what offense he’s in. And number two our goal here is to feature more players within our offense. We’ve been able to do that in some games and haven’t been as much in other games, but he’s accepted his role and is growing as we go. For the most part, in certain phases of the game have improved drastically, particularly some of his footwork issues. There’s less and less of that each game. His completion percentage will get better and better as he understands more of what we’re trying to do with our passing game.”

What is Denard not getting? “Well just the overall concept of every little bit and piece that goes into playing the position. This is a complicated position, and particularly with him, because we ask him to do more than most quarterbacks I’ve coached -- he’s featured as a runner in our offense and will continue to be featured as a runner. Plus what we’re asking him to learn what in essence somewhat of a pro style offense, although we’re not complete in that respect as you probably well know. Our concepts are still that way, and it doesn’t come over night if you’ve never done it before. He’s getting now where he understands. He can tell you when he makes a mistake he understands what that mistake is. He is growing in the offense whether everybody believes it or not. He definitely is.”

Is there a common theme to your recent red zone inefficiency? “Well, we’ve been back to 10-man football. We had several assignment errors down in the red zone, and we had a bad snap on the fourth down, which hurt. That was the theme and it was a consistent theme is that we’ve had a couple of busts where we did not block the right person. That’s generally what’s caused us some problems.”

Denard has a year and a half left … is that enough time for him to fully take in everything you want him to? “Oh yeah. Absolutely. Just like I told you, Cade McNown -- I’ve used him as an example. He was last in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency the first year I had him and first in the country the next year. Now how do you make that quantum leap? He just knew what to do and the people around him knew what to do better. It’s not uncommon what’s happening. I guess my question would be before last year what were Denard’s numbers? He had to grow in the other offense, right? Well he’s going through the same thing now. You just don’t hit the ground running in this style of play. Very few guys do unless you have fantastic company around you. Then you have the chance. Or the transition in the offense isn’t drastic.”

Were there points when you thought Denard was overwhelmed? “No. Not really. It is a lot to learn, but I’ve never seen him as overwhelmed. We have not given him every bell and whistle either. We’ve tried to spoonfeed this as best we can knowing that he does have other responsibilities for the offense. ”

The mechanical issues from earlier in the season. Are they getting better? “Yeah I think for the most part. You can see how many times -- we had one ball in this game. He fell back and the guy dropped the interception. It was a fundamentally flawed play obviously. But for the most part, he made some nice throws. He had some good stuff. Only made ten throws, I think he hit six of them, so that’s not bad. Because of the wind -- understand this too -- because of the wind, in the first quarter we were going to feature our run game until they were going to have to stop it. It was gusty much more than I had anticipated, and when I came in after warmups .. we had the ball first and we were against the wind, we were going to wait until we had a good opportunity to throw the ball so he could be successful throwing the ball. We had a couple nice high percentage throws in the beginning, and we were running the ball pretty good.”

Thoughts on Nebraska’s defense? “Good. Well coached. I had an opportunity to coach against Coach Pelini when I was at Auburn. They do a great job with their four match zone, where they take your guys away. They cover you. They’re one of those defenses like a couple we’ve played this year that really want to take it all away. They don’t want the ball checked down. They don’t want the ball thrown down field. They want to take away the run. There’s no bend but don’t break in their style. They know what they’re doing, and they know how to coach.”

Is there a reason behind Roy Roundtree’s huge drop in production? “No, he’s just splitting time with Jeremy Gallon, and Jeremy Gallon’s been productive. Again, we’re not in four wides all the time like they were before. When you’re splitting time, your numbers aren’t going to be as good. Roy’s done a good job with the things we’ve asked him to do.”

Is that a tough sell on a kid who had such a breakout season last year? “You’d probably have to ask him that. I don’t know. I just know where want our kids to fit within the role of our offense. That’s a better question for him.” But as a coach, how do you tell him you’re not going to feature him as much? “I didn’t tell him. I just told him he’s going to have to work within the role of the offense. I tell the kids, all of them, some games you’re going to catch a lot of passes, some games you’re not going to catch a lot of passes … What happens is, and I think guys in my position do this, is we get too enamoured with numbers and you get away from what’s really important, and that’s winning football games. There’s going to be games where you have to throw more to win the game. That happened against Notre Dame. There’s going to be games you have to run more to win the game. That happened last week. If you don’t get caught up with keeping these beautifully balanced numbers so this guy’s happy and this guy’s happy, the hell with that. We don’t coach that way. We coach to win the football games and however it falls, that’s how it falls.”

[ED-Seth: adding the comments about Gallon here...]

What do you like about Gallon? He's a great blocker. Very explosive kid. You can see it on the punt returns. He's got some talent. The thing about Jeremy is he plays bigger than he is. He's not very tall but he takes the ball, wins jump balls. That's not something we coach; that's something he had. Getting up on jump balls, is that an innate talent or learned skill? It's a skill, and it's timing. I've had tall guys who can't catch a jump ball, because they don't have a good feel for how to time the throw. And I've had little guys that were great at it. Some really good receivers are not jump-ball receivers, yet they can catch anything. I'm not sure what it is, but it's at least a little bit instinctive. /addition

Odoms had a pass float over him. Was that a bad throw? “You know what’s funny is I think there was a bust in the coverage. He had a comeback on it, and I told him, 'Doggone it, I don’t want you to abort the comeback. Stay on the comeback.' I didn’t anticipate that the guy was not going to cover him. He was just going to let him run by him. We have a deal where if you run by him you throw your hand out. But he kind of got caught in between. Denard [thought], ‘Oh my goodness, it’s open!’ They both were a little bit perplexed by what happened, so Denard threw it a little over his head. It’s so funny. I just talked to him about it. He says, ‘Coach, you told me not to abort the comeback and I wanted to do what you told me to do because I didn’t want you to get mad at me!’ That’s on me more than it’s on him, because if he was there it would have been a touchdown.”

Illinois has one of the best rush defenses in the B1G. Is that one of the best rushing performances you’ve seen this year? “It’s one of the better ones. It’s one of the better ones. I thought our offensive line did a nice job of providing some holes, giving Fitz particularly a chance to go. Fitz has got some speed and quickness. If you can get him started … he’s pretty good. He’s really kind of matured and grown up here and become a pretty good back.”

[ED-Seth: adding Sun Tsu Borges stuff here...]

Do you play differently when your defense is playing well? There was only one way to lose that game: screw it up, fumble the ball. We don't want to pull our horns in, but we don't need to come out guns blazing and put our defense in a bad situation just like the other team. As the game goes, just like in war, the battle changes. And as the battle changes your ability to adjust and make good battlefield decisions--that may be sacrificial in nature--will dictate whether you win football games ... Whatever it takes to win, that's what you gotta do. Most guys I've worked for think the same way; Brady preaches it from day one. /addition

Whose decision was it to not put Denard in? “Well, both of us talked. My biggest concern was fumbled snaps because of his wrist. I would have put him back in a minute. At one point I think he was good to go, but … that was really the biggest reason.”

MGoQuestion: Coach, I have a schematic question. “Bubble screens?” No … read option, actually. Several times during the game, Denard handed off when the DE was crashing down into the line and Koger appeared to be coming across to block the scraping linebacker. What was the read there, and was that executed the right way? “For the most part. That first long run was that play.” Who was he reading? “The end. Or the edge ... There’s a lot of nuances now I could go into and you don’t have the time and inclination to do it, but simply spoken, if the edge is clean he can pull the ball out. If the edge is not clean, he gives the ball.” Would you have liked to see him pull the ball more on a couple of those plays? “He did actually a couple times, but with the results of most of those plays, I think he made pretty good decisions, because he popped through there several times on variations of that play the whole game.”



November 15th, 2011 at 9:51 PM ^

"We got a couple close calls where I think the ground caused the fumble in a couple games, but that’s generally it."


Did Borges just say ground caused the fumble?


November 15th, 2011 at 10:04 PM ^

by Heiko.  I watched the game again and it looked like Koger could have just laid out the DE on a couple of plays coming across from the H-back position, and he just let him go.  I think he did what he was told to do, but the good question was, why was he just letting this guy go?  I think a couple of plays would have been better off, with Koger blocking the DE.


November 16th, 2011 at 11:11 AM ^

I think it was a great question and I was more than a little annoyed that he kind of brushed it off saying that we don't have the time or interest in hearing the real answer.  What does that even mean?  You asked the question so you obviously wanted to hear the answer!  These are the kinds of things that fans want to know and learn about but he brushes them off.  Bummer.


November 15th, 2011 at 10:15 PM ^

MGoQuestion: Coach, I have a schematic question. “Bubble screens?”

also, I love the order of the tags on this post: al borges. al borges hates bubble screens. al borges hates me. it sounds like a sad transitive property realization


November 15th, 2011 at 10:18 PM ^

What is Denard not getting?Well just the overall concept of every little bit and piece that goes into playing the position. This is a complicated position, and particularly with him, because we ask him to do more than most quarterbacks I’ve coached -- he’s featured as a runner in our offense and will continued to be featured as a runner.

This bit sort of scares me. There seems to be problems on both from Denard and Borges. Yikes.


November 16th, 2011 at 3:26 AM ^

Borges definitely worries about the offense more than I do, but the sunny picture he's continually painting about our production just makes me worry more instead of less. Al Borges plays to win, but it looks like the drop in efficiency, and the further rise in turnovers is a byproduct of Drob getting a little overwhelmed by how complicated a Borges offense is. Even though I feel confident that Denard will get the offense and have a bit of a second brakeout year again next year, it feels like a portion of this years production is being written off to set up next season (when the system will be fully implemented) by asking him to do now more than most quarterbacks he's coached before. Al does lay it out that total offensive production is more important than individual production but the qb pretty much IS the offense and the TOs affect everybody. Al may be right about how well things are progressing in ways we can't see, but I'm not comfortable with many of the things that every layman can see, like near 50% completions, and all of the turnovers fergoshsakes. 


November 16th, 2011 at 3:54 AM ^

No matter who our qb was, just like Mcnown, he'd have to take this year and learn the offense. Also, Denard would have had ANY transition be harder for him, just because he's such a big part of both running and passing the ball.

And I'd rather have him go through the transition this year, so he can light up his senior season.

Watch out next year!


November 16th, 2011 at 10:58 AM ^

Should he embarass Denard in public about his poor play? That won't fix anything.

Should he break down every mistake that is made by the QB in a presser? That's not happening.

He's just being truthful. Denard is going through a transition. He will have the eureka moment (probably in the offseason, so we won't get to see it) and be better. He may never be a great passer, but I am sure you will see him make consistently better decisions next year, starting day 1. And ball security will come along with that. Comfort leads to confidence and better play.

I don't see where Broges has written off potential production this year and counted on next year. That is you projecting your hopes onto Borges. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he believes next year will be better, but he hasn't said it aloud. I don't recall Borges mentioning next year once. He's too smart for that one, particularly after seeing Rodriguez beg for our patience with that same promise for a few years.  He has mentioned some QB's of his progressing in theit second year, but he has never said "don't worry about this year". He's trying to win games. He's fighting for the Big Ten championship. (I know it ain't happening, but never give up.)

This season is going well, despite the doom and gloom that some see. The reason for that is - as he said - they've been able to throw a lot to win games or run a lot to win games. And that is all that matters. They're winning.

Just as you are surprised about Denard's drop in production, many of us are surprised that Michigan has a chance to win 10 games, play for the Big Ten championship, and  go to the Rose Bowl. I'd rather have concerns about Denard and a 10 (possibly more) win season than record-setting offensive production and 7 wins.


November 15th, 2011 at 11:24 PM ^


Illinois has one of the best rush defenses in the B1G. Is that one of the best rushing performances you’ve seen this year?


Looking at our performance, I wonder if now and then a coach gets this question, and just wants to say "You know, ____ might be a little overrated, I really thought they would be more of a challenge for us, but no, No they weren't"

...it would be bad karma and extra motivation the next time you had to play them, but admit it, You would also Laugh


November 16th, 2011 at 12:45 AM ^

From these pressers I get the feeling that Al Borges resents this blog big time. I'm sure he's aware of the site and has superficially looked at it. Whenever Heiko asks a question, I bet Borges is thinking: "Oh boy, here comes a question from another one of those bloggers that thinks he knows more about football Xs and Os than me even though he's never played or coached a down of college footballl in his life." 

(Sorry Heiko if I'm wrong there about your football background)



November 16th, 2011 at 9:33 AM ^

I mentioned this story before so cool story bro (again): but this summer when my son was at the youth technique school -- the very day TomVH told us to strap in -- I walked by Borges in the Glick. He was sitting looking at his iPhone during a break. So I jokingly asked him what they were saying about recruiting on mgoblog, and he came back smart and smug and said "I hear it is going really well".

Someone responded to my post that the athletic department is very aware of mgoblog and what we are saying. Anyway, I'd bet the attitude with Heiko is exactly as you described: frustration with the critics - especially the ones who have a loyal following.

My take it is a combination of bluster and frustration, and as I said above, the only way to earn respect is to be the tough, confident beat reporter in response. Armadillo skin is called for.


November 16th, 2011 at 10:33 AM ^

There's a fair amount of frustration on this side of the blog too, Since it doesn't "appear" that Borges gave us the best chance to win in our most difficult game, that being versus MSU. Of course, in his mind he did, and that's what is most important. That being said, some of the calls in that game were head-scratchers.


November 16th, 2011 at 9:16 AM ^

In my experience, experts appreciate it when someone shows they know what's going on by asking true in-depth questions.  It gives them a chance to explain what they're doing while showing the armchair QBs they're in over their heads.  Hell, they can actually talk for real for a change.  What annoys them more than anything is when they're asked a question that's supposed to sound smart but reveals fundamental ignorance.  Then they're stuck with a choice between explaining the flaw in the question THEN answering it which looks smug, or answering a misleading question directly which leads to other problems.  I won't mention examples because there are about a half a dozen every damn press conference.  But Heiko isn't pretending.

It would be remarkably insecure of Borges to take offense. Just reading the transcripts it seems like Mattison and Hoke relish the in-depth questions. I hope Heiko chimes in later, but I interpret bothering to remember "bubble screen" and even mention it is a sign of respect.  "I remember you, you're the PITA that asks real questions."


November 16th, 2011 at 12:16 PM ^

Well, if I was Mattison and my unit was performing well above expectations as compared to last year, I'd love to answer questions about X's and O's, too. Clearly, Mattison's coaching and scheme have made a huge difference for the D. 

For Borges, it might be tougher/more annoying to answer those questions, especially since his unit returns all kinds of starters from last year, a former Heisman candidate and has struggled somewhat. Probably comes off as second guessing his expertise.

I don't think that's what it is, by the way. Keep those questions coming, Heiko. "Once more unto the breech, dear friend, once more..." 


November 16th, 2011 at 9:23 AM ^


"There’s a lot of nuances now I could go into and you don’t have the time and inclination to do it, but simply spoken, "

I've heard this somewhere before....

Colonal Jessep, USMC Guantanamo Bay Windward

"I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!"



November 16th, 2011 at 10:30 AM ^

There is so much win here, so much to like. Reading this, I see that Borges is doing a great job, and I'm thrilled with what he has done.

  1. Play to win, not for stats. Who cares about how many catches and how many yards carried, etc.
  2. Borges has Denard's back, and is clear that Denard is improving and doing what he's asked to do.
  3. They are protecting Denard to keep him healthy, but also using him as a decoy. I need to look closely at the 65 yard Fitz run, but if Denard pulled 3 defenders, well, that really opens things up for Fitz, protects Denard, all kinds of things. If this play causes Nebraska or Ohio not to send so many defenders to Denard, well, it opens things up for him to run.
  4. The players are listening and doing what the coaches are asking for. That whole section on Odoms and the comeback play is absolutely fascinating. Odoms did what the coach asked, even though it meant the loss of a touchdown. Borges took the blame, and can now tweak his coaching to give players and Denard the freedom to do what needs to happen on a broken play like that, especially when it counts.


November 16th, 2011 at 11:18 AM ^

Keep at it, keep putting in the hard work and asking the questions that people really want answered, the ones whose answers will actually teach people things.  That is the whole point of blogs-turned-"real" news sources, isn't it?  Breaking from the norm of asking generic and plain vanilla questions.  Its definitely not like you're being offensive or standoffish.  These are good questions that should be answered.  We're behind you 100%!