Spring Practice Presser Transcript 3-19-12: Al Borges Comment Count

Heiko March 20th, 2012 at 10:11 AM

Al Borges

"I got you guys broken in."

How does Rocko Khoury’s departure affect the center battle?

“Well we do, yeah. We have enough guys to compete. You always would like more numbers, offensive line wise particularly because we’re not deep at the position. We have a couple kids, Ricky Barnum, Jack Miller -- I think will be good centers. Ricky has a good profile for the position, probably even more so than when he played guard.”

Are you experimenting with Devin Gardner at other positions?

“We’re doing what we did a year ago, pretty much. We’re giong to play the best 11 guys. Devin’s the backup quarterback right now. He’s number two, and we’re going to do what we have to do to get the best 11 on the field. Nothing’s changed in that perspective, so we pretty much have the same mentality that we had.”

Are you looking at him at wide receiver?

“Yeah … the practices are closed for a reason.”

Are you able to work on more experimental things now that you’ve had a year with this team?

“Later on, yeah. Not right now. First thing [is] we’re not going to get real fancy the first couple days of practice. We’re going to go through a little refresher course on the offense, take them about four or five days of practices to do that. Once we get to where we’ve pretty much got it back -- kids learn the stuff much faster now for obvious reasons -- then we’ll start dabbling more in some of the offseason research we’ve done on some stuff, whether it be deuce package or moving folks around. So we’re always evolving constantly, and we’re always trying to figure out how to get our best 11 on the field to do what they do best. That may not be not consistently be the same 11 guys all the time. You may change the the 11 so that you can get a guy out there that may be able to do something that may not be able to do it on some other plays. Devin’s part of that. We’ve got about five guys that are involved in that.”

Is it more difficult for an offensive lineman to switch to center than anywhere else on the line?

“Well, center, because the ball’s involved, you have the issues there in terms of snaps. But once a kid’s played center for a while, they usually prefer it. They know exactly when the ball’s coming up. They can control the line play a little better. But center’s a little different animal than tackle or guard. Mike [Schofield] had played tackle, so it wasn’t a huge transition for him.”

How do you balance being physical in practice with your lack of depth on the offensive line?

“Boy, that’s tough. That is hard. You have to be smart with it, but if you don’t get accomplished what you’re trying to get accomplished, then spring football’s a waste of time. We’re always going to err on the side of getting after it a little bit, and if you have to pull off, we’ll pull off. We just believe that the game’s played with a physical demeanor and we’re not ever going to stop that regardless of guys getting hurt. We’re going to be smart, but we’re never going to stop thinking that way.”

Where do you think Denard stands in terms of throwing downfield?

“I think the first two days of practice, he’s made a marked improvement in that because he basically understands the offense better. It’s always a work in progress. There’s still errors here and there, but there are less. I think as he goes and understands better and better you’re going to get a better product. There’s two issues with Denard, and that’s one: the overall understanding of the offense, which I know is going to be better, there’s no doubt in my mind about that, and the footwork issues, which generally cause a lot of the interceptions. We’re working on it everyday, and he’s so keenly aware of it. When he makes a mistake, he’s getting to a point now where he can almost coach himself. He’ll come out and say, ‘Oh I screwed up.’ He’ll tell me before I tell him. I’ll never assume it. I’ll still tell him. He’s tired of me telling him the same things, but he knows how I think as a coordinator and how I think as a position coach. One thing about the kid is he’s a very good football guy. He understands the game really well. He has great instincts. Now that he’s got a year in the system, I think some of those instincts will show up more than that, and that’s scary.”

What do you know about Denard now that might change the way you coordinate the offense?

“Well, not much than what I knew at the end of the season. He’s a great runner. He’s taken on a leadership role which is exciting to me. It’s exctiing to all of us. Those types of things. And we can probably do a little bit more now because he understands without doing it too much, where you get paralysis by analysis.”

Did he get enough time with Ricky in the offseason to get comfortable?

“Yes. Yeah, he did. He and Ricky have been working it out for a while and Jack too. All of them. They’re always on their own just go out and snap balls and working the skelly drills and all that. This isn’t the first time they took a snap. It wasn’t yesterday or the day before yesterday.”

How do you replace Junior?

“Boy that’s the best question that’s been asked so far. That’s not been easy to do. One way we are doing it is with Roy Roundtree. Roy is moving to flanker. Roy was a split end last year. He played flanker in some spots. Because we split time with him and Jeremy Gallon, Roy took some hits with his numbers, but going to Junior’s position, a healthy Roy Roundtree is really running well right now. Best I’ve ever seen him run. But a healthy Roy Roundtree could really have a good season. I’m thinking great things about Roy. Roy’s had such a great attitude. He did take a hit with numbers, and it would be natural to second guess a lot of things, but he didn’t, and because he didn’t, he’s improving daily.”

Was Roundtree unhealthy at all at any point last season?

“Not really. I think he stayed in one piece pretty good. But out of flanker now you get a lot more balls thrown your way. You saw Junior -- a lot of time you catch that thing and there’s some folks around you. But I have no doubt that Roy Roundtree’s going to have a heck of a year.”

Can he be your vertical deep threat?

“Yes he can. Yes he can. You bet he can. He’s got excellent speed. He goes and gets the ball. He can definitely be that without question, and so can Jeremy Gallon for that matter.”

Who besides Roundtree are you looking for at that position?

“Jerald Robinson. Jerald Robinson, in two days, has been very impressive. Big, physical receiver. Very much like Junior. Not quite as big as Junior, but still big. Has excellent hands. Ran on the scout team quite a bit. Not because he wasn’t good enough to play -- he was good enough to play, but we were pretty good at wide receiver and we never got a chance to use him. But this year Jerald’s going to get a great look. So far what we’ve seen, he’s going to make a contribution, and he is that big physical guy much like Junior was. If you’re aksing how to replace [Junior], he’s definitely at least one answer. ”

You saw Fitz Toussaint’s vision improve over last season. What’s the biggest thing you want to see take a jump up this spring for him?

“Well that to continue, number one, and improve his pass receiving skills. He’s got good hands, but we used Vince so much in that capacity that I’d like for Fitz to be equal to what Vince did so we don’t have to take him out all the time. Pass protection still can improve. We ask our backs to block. That can always get better. Those types of things. Refining more of the little things about his game, where a year ago there were some huge factors, the vision being at the top of the list. The more we learn with Fitz, the more he plays, the faster he learns and the issues go away with him. Some backs they never go away. They never gain good vision because they simply don’t have very good vision. He does. He just needed the time and I think that’s going to be the case with the other things we’re talking about.”

How do you envision using a player like Justice Hayes?

“He’s another one. We’re going to take a good look. Knowing that Fitz has been productive, we don’t have to overuse Fitz in the spring, yet still try to improve him. I’m not talking sit him on the sideline and let him watch, he’s still playing now. But that being said, it isn’t like last spring where we have to run him and run him and find out what he can do. We kind of know what he can do. That’s where we can use Justice now is give Justice a chance to carry that ball, tote it a few times, get him in some pass protection situations. He’s got some great receiving skills, see if he can do that, but this is a big spring for him.”

Switching between shotgun and under center puts a lot of stress on the center. How does Ricky’s transition to the position affect how you run your offense?

“Well, because we are under center some and because our center basically quarterbacks the offensive line -- he puts them all on the same page with regard to targeting fronts where it be in pass protection or running. That position is absolutely critical that we get productivity out fo the position. You need a smart guy that’s athletic and knows how to use his help. We don’t ask our center to consistently single block a nose guard, but he’s got to know how to make the call to allow for some help for him. I could go into all the nuances, but it’s endless what that kid's got to do. It’s not an easy position to play. ”

Do you anticipate being under center more this season?

“I don’t think it’s going to be much different. We’re still basically a shotgun team. I mean, we have a quarterback that can run, and the best way to exploit that is for him to be in the shotgun. Yet we still want to downhill run. You look the last two or three games of the season, that’s really what we want to be. We don’t want to be a total shotgun team. But knowing that the shotgun is going to be very very prominent simply because of the skillset of our quarterback. So in answer to your question, we’re basically going to be what we were a year ago.”

How quickly is Ricky learning how to make all the pre-snap decisions?

“He’s doing a great job. He’s still got a few deals. Now Greg’ll throw you some defenses that will test your center’s ability to adjust. It’s still a work in progress … and the more he sees it the better he’s going to get at it, the better he’s going to understand it and the better he’s going to get the other guys to understand it, because that’s part of his job, too. I’m not concerned about Ricky. He keeps progressing like I think he will. He’ll be a good center.”

Has anyone caught your eye at tight end yet?

“Not yet, but they’re not doing bad. No one has jumped out and said, ‘Oh my god, look at that guy.’ But they’re not doing bad. Brandon Moore’s been consistent. Ricardo Miller, who really is more of a move guy, but he’s played with his hand on the ground a little bit. He understands our offense. Very athletic. Very athletic. Athletic as any tight end we got. Used to be a wide receiver so he has speed and he has receiving skills. He’s another one that’s going to get a great look. Who knows, we have some freshmen coming in. If they show up, they’ll have an opportunity to contribute there, too. So we’ll see how that goes. It’s still too early. We haven’t put pads on yet. I want to save judgement on that position until we’ve been through a few practices with pads on and guys blocking at the line of scrimmage because that’s so critical to what we want to do.”

What have you learned about Devin, and how can that help you prepare for the season?

“Well he’s an incredible athlete. He has so many dimensions to him. He’s smart, so he picks stuff up fast. He doesn’t have any problem that way. That being said, every time you put together a plan, you have to find out how to factor him into it somewhere. Again, if it doesn’t sacrifice any other phases of your game. As you guys saw last year, we’re always looking for opportunities to get him in the game in some way shape or form without breaking the rhythm of the quarterback, which I don’t think we did. And seeing to it that we use him getting the ball, use him throwing the ball, and use him decoying. With that in mind, doing the same thing with Denard.”

Do you feel like you’ll use him more this season?

“I don’t know. I want to see. Maybe. I don’t know yet. We’ll see. It’s a matter of how. That’s the key. What are you going to do? We’ve done a lot with him, but there’s still a lot more that he can do, so we’ll see.”

Is his athleticism such that it’s better than your other skill position players?

“No. It’s very much like that -- he’s an athletic quarterback. I wasn’t here -- but Devin was recruited as the number one dual threat quarterback in the country, was he not? Generally those guys can do a lot of stuff. He was not a prototypical drop back passer type, although he was recruited by prostyle teams and spread guys, so he can do that stuff. He’s certainly one of our better athletes on the team, and we have to find a way to exploit that.”

Is he open to all of this?

“Oh yeah. Yeah. He wants to play.”

Are you concerned that giving him looks at other positions will disrupt his growth as a quarterback?

“Nope. Nope. Not at all. Smart kid, he’ll be fine.”

What do you like about Russell Bellomy?

“Russ is very athletic -- another athlete. Very good athelte. Can run the ball. He was recruited too by spread teams and pro-style guys. Accurate passer. His arm is improving strength-wise all the time. If you tell him once, he’s got it. He’s one fo those guys. You don’t have to re-tell him ten times. He’s got it down. He’s got composure. He can get himself out of a lot of messes when things break down, and he can run. He can run designed quarterback runs, although I don’t know you’re going to run as many as you would with Denard. But if you turn him loose he will hurt you. He has that kind of ability. We’re looking more at him because it’s spring time and we’re trying to give him some time. Like we’re talking about Fitz, where we’re giving Justice Hayes time and it may cost Fitz a few reps, we’re going to look at Russ more and cost Denard a couple reps or even Devin a couple. But we have to see them all now. This is our chance. Once we get into the season and we’re game planning all the time, it’s tough to give everybody enough chances.”

Do you start game planning at all for Alabama this early?

“Oh yeah. Yeah. We do. Kids are watching Alabama now. They come in on their own and they’ll look at Alabama. Right now it’s about developing our football team. We don’t have an opponent in front of us other than ourselves right now. We’re trying to develop our football team, try to get every guy a little better every single day and build up to that. Build up to that, get through spring fotoball, and as you get closer to the game, you get more focused on the task at hand, but right now we have a heavy emphasis this spring on becoming a fundamentally better offense. We talked about it. We’re allotting the time in practice for it. Whereas last year we were trying to be fundamental and installing our offense. That was a headache. Now second year, we have it installed, we’re just trying to get better with our footwork at every position -- offensive line, running back, you name it. Just doing the little things better.”

How confident are you in Schofield’s ability to transition back to right tackle?

“I think he’ll do fine because it’s really a more natural position for him. He has a tackle profile He’s 6-foot-6 plus. He was a hurdler in high school, somebody told me, and it’s obvious because he can move. He’s really more of a tackle body type than he is a guard body type, although he did a nice job at guard. This is where we need him now, he’s very receptive to it, and so far he’s done a nice job.”



March 20th, 2012 at 10:28 AM ^

I'm expecting at some point to see Bellamy at QB and DR and DG on the field as well. Maybe in the ALA game? Then watch the board freak out about putting all our QBs on the field at the same time worrying about injuries.


March 20th, 2012 at 10:38 AM ^

worried about injuries at QB, but it looks like it's happening and DG's on board.  He's still the second QB

That said, he's big, an incredible athlete, and a real leader on the team.  It will be fantasic to see Devin getting on the field as a playmaker.


March 20th, 2012 at 10:40 AM ^

Despite my tendancy to favor Manball, I have to say that I'm intrigued by the notion that the coaches are looking for new ways to have both DR and DG on the field at the same time.  "Practices are closed for a reason." 

Blue in Yarmouth

March 20th, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

which was admittedly a long time ago, was that it wouldn't be decided until after his senior season. I know it sounds crazy, but apparently he has to wait until his senior season is done for the NCAA to decide if he gets it or not. That was what I last heard anyway.

Oh...and just ignore the smart arses. There are plenty on this board who think it is "cool" to be the sarcastic jackasses  but there are also many who will answer questions. I know being 37 I am probably one of the older people on here, but the sarcastic ones on this site remind me a lot of what I was like at age 14-17. If they are any older than that and still acting that way they should really try to get a life.


March 20th, 2012 at 11:06 AM ^

Thanks for info fellas.

Gotta love the attitude of a kid who is willing to help the team even if he doesn’t get to play the position many predicated he would greatly excel at.  I know the offense ran that jet sweep most of the time last year when Denard and Devin where on the field together, but you gotta think they will ramp it up this year and take full advantage of those two players abilities.  

The FannMan

March 20th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

From the NCAA's perspective, it does make sense to wait.  I am sure there any number of kids who are in Devin's position who may, or may not, stay for a fifth year.  It makes some sense for the NCAA to decide the issue once the kid's fourth year is over to see if he actually wants a fifth year.

Of course, this is from the position of the corporate entity which the NCAA really is, rather than the altruistic, "put the kids first" entity which the NCAA pretends to be.  It would have to be very helpful to Devin if he knew if he had two or three more years in the system.


March 20th, 2012 at 10:57 AM ^


I think this is the most recent of numerous Gardner Medical Redshirt threads. 

Edit PS: I know the feeling... being new around here and coming to the board with a lot of questions in my mind.  It took me getting "hammered" a couple of times to realize that pretty much every question you could think of about Michigan football has been asked, and if not answered, at least analyzed to death somewhere on this board.  That's when I figured out that the search thingie on the upper right is my friend.  It can be your friend too.

Mr. Yost

March 20th, 2012 at 1:43 PM ^

Give me your %'s on the following...

Devin Funchess will have passed Rico Miller on the depth chart by the start of the B1G Season

AJ Williams will have passed Brandon Moore on the depth chart by the start of the B1G Season

Both Devin and AJ will have passed Rico and Brandon on the depth chart by the start of the B1G Season

Jordan Paskorz will end the year with more catches than both Miller and Moore (not combined, but more than both individually)


March 20th, 2012 at 11:30 AM ^

well, not literally seeing as how ricardo is 3 inces taller and not sure how much hernandez weighed in college but it can't be much more, but im hoping ricardos athleticism will allow him to create mismatches over the middle just like hernandez does, its more of wishful thinking than reality right now


March 20th, 2012 at 12:23 PM ^

That would be my guess as well, but I'm not incredibly well versed in the subject either.  Considering our current TE depth (puddle) I imagine we'll be sticking with 3-wides anytime we're not in I-form, and even then we'll probably have two out there.  Glad to here we'll be in shotgun a lot of the time this season, and based on his "athlete" comments, we might be staying there for Gardner's run and possibly beyond (Shane isn't a slow kid either).

Hearing Borges speak highly of Roundtree, Gallon, and J-Robinson really helps quell my fears about 'replacing' Jr. Megatron.  Roundtree made some killer plays last year (as did Gallon) but it seems like most of the big memorable bombs went to either Junior or Tay Odoms.  I might also be a moron, but I had no idea that J-Rob was a bigger reciever; so that's good news as well.


March 20th, 2012 at 1:00 PM ^

My guess is that we will see a lot of shotgun, 3-wide formations and shotgun, split-back formations.  The tight ends are so underwhelming that putting 2 or 3 of them on the field would cost us athleticism and playmaking ability.  Toussaint, Roundtree, and Gallon need to be on the field as much as possible, and I think Jerald Robinson will be a bit of a pleasant surprise.

Mr. Yost

March 20th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

IMO we're going to see a lot of split back...

Shotgun, 3WR, 2RB...

Even some shotgun 2WR, 2RB, 1TE


I also agree regarding Jerald Robinson, I wouldn't be shocked to see Jeremy Jackson starting the year, but I think Robinson will be the starter come years end. I also wouldn't be shocked to see Jackson improve greatly, to say a Greg Mathews during his sophomore or junior year type level.


March 20th, 2012 at 4:09 PM ^

but this coaching staff is not.  Borges has made it clear that he feels he wants (or needs) to put TEs out there to run his version of the spread (i.e. bubble-screen-free).

Last year, when he had a deep WR group, he still used multi-TE sets with Steve Watson very frequently even though it "cost us athleticism and playmaking ability".

I think they'll keep using sets with H-back types.  Sometimes it'll be a receiver (Miller or Funchess) and other times a blocker (walk-on TE or Paskorz or Williams?) but I'm positive you'll see a lot of 2-TE sets.  I don't think it's a position where they're looking for much play-making (Koger who had plenty of that didn't see the ball real often). Just have to keep defenses honest with rudimentary pass-catching skill.  More important is reliable blocking.  As with FB, this role can frequently be filled with willing walk-on/grunt/role-player types.

While the long-term ideal may be more Gronkowski/Hernandez, the short-term reality may be Webb/Massey.


March 20th, 2012 at 7:53 PM ^

I'm not anti-TE.  I just don't know that THESE tight ends are ready.  The three tight ends Michigan used last year were senior Koger, fifth year senior Watson, and fourth year junior Brandon Moore.  They don't have nearly that kind of experience/development this year.  After Moore, it's a couple redshirt sophomores and then a couple true freshmen (plus a few walk-ons of various ages).


March 20th, 2012 at 11:49 AM ^

just out of curiosity, are they really that different in your opinion?  i know the height difference is substantial but is there a huge difference in their athleticism, or maybe ricardo doesn't have as good of hands?  im just curious since i have been a fan of hernandez for years and would love to see U of M have an athletic TE for passing situations like him.


March 20th, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

"...at that position", thinking they were asking if Devin was going to get time at center, and I thought the boards were about to explode.

Anyone else excited by the prospect of "Scary Denard"?


March 20th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

Our overall offensive statistics were down last year while INT's were up. Although Al doesn't have all the personnel and depth he needs for a pure pro style attack, our numbers should significantly improve in all categories this year despite the tougher schedule.


March 20th, 2012 at 2:19 PM ^

I definitely think we'll beat Air Force, but this is UMass's first year in the FBS.  I don't think there's really a comparison.  They scored a bunch of points on Michigan a couple years ago, but we had a crappy coach then.  I wouldn't call Air Force a gimme, but the odds are very slim that they pull the upset.