Borges to look at Washington and 49ers film for the 2013 offense (per Heiko)

Submitted by Erik_in_Dayton on February 7th, 2013 at 9:26 AM

This seems to have been lost yesterday amid the news about signing day and the win over OSU.  He's picked two pretty good offenses to look at, if nothing else.  What's interesting to me is that both teams (at least once Kaepernick became the starter in SF) employed the read option. 

For those who didn't see much of Washington, they were a typical Mike Shanahan team in that they ran a lot of zone runs.  What made this team special was the threat of RGIII keeping the ball and taking off to the other side of the field (though he didn't run as often as watching highlights might make you think).  Teams learned to be afraid of him quickly, and this gave Alfred Morris the space to rush for 100 ypg. Washington's rushing attack was the best I've seen in the NFL in years (though I don't follow the league very closely) when they got things going.  They ran for 186 yards v. the Ravens, for example, at 5.3 yards per attempt...EDIT:  Washington also ran a fake inside zone handoff that turned into a play action pass with good success.   

I didn't see many San Francisco games, but they seemd to follow the Jim Harbaugh mold of using multiple TEs and lots of pre-snap motion.  EDIT:  See Space Coyote's post below for more info on the Niners. 

I'm sure we're all looking forward to seeing what the offense will look like post-Denard, and it will be interesting to see how much of the 49ers or Washington we see in it.  Like I said, they are two good templates to start with at the very least. 

Finally, this photo should be posted more often:



February 7th, 2013 at 10:20 AM ^

I could not understand how those pro-style teams adjusted so well to the spread and we struggled so badly in incorporating concepts. The interesting thing I noticed is how they run pro-style and would switch to the zone read which just crushed the keys of the LBs. I saw games with Seattle vs Bears and Washington vs Dallas where the defense was clueless. They also actually read a defensive player instead of blocking them all like Al prefers.

Fuzzy Dunlop

February 7th, 2013 at 10:47 AM ^

Our problem wasn't so much incorporating the spread, as incorporating the pro-style aspects given [insert "Denard's limitations as a passer" or "Borges's inability to maximize Denard's strengths in the passing game" here, depending on your preference.  I have no desire to reopen this debate].

It's a lot easier, when you already have a quarterback capable of passing the ball in a traditional pro-style system, to then take advantage of that QBs legs using some spread elements (even if the QB is not quite the runner that Denard is).  It looks like this is what Borges is planning on doing with Gardner next year, which sounds great to me. 



February 7th, 2013 at 10:42 AM ^

My thoughts exactly. Chris Ault seems to be pretty willing to consult about it with NFL coaches but maybe he'd be hesitant with another college coach. The likelyhood of Nevada and Michigan playing each other this year is almost zero though.

If I am not mistaken he retired this year as well so he might be more willing to consult with another program.

Darker Blue

February 7th, 2013 at 9:44 AM ^

I have a strong feeling that our Offense will be MUCH improved next year. Gardner has the potential to be an NFL QB. Our offensive line should be improved even with all of the youth. Borges is pretty smart to take a look at SF / Wash's offense. There is a lot you can do when you have a QB with the skill set of DG. 


February 7th, 2013 at 11:13 AM ^

Ah, the offseason, when every aspect of the team is supposed to improve.

But seriously, I agree with what your wrote, with the caveat that I don't know how the pass offense will be next year with 3 new starters on the interior.  Run blocking should improve though, because that can't get any worse.

SC Wolverine

February 7th, 2013 at 11:49 AM ^

The issue will be the O-line performance and, hence, the running game.  If we can  knock the d-line back and unleash some combination of Fitz / Green / Smith with effectiveness, then Gardner will be hugely successful.  If not, he will have an up and down season.  The good news is that there is reason to be optimistic about the line.  


February 8th, 2013 at 2:20 AM ^

Hold horses sir.  Interior offensive line is going to be very young.  Even at Lewan's talent level a few yrs back there were a lot of mistakes at that age and these 3 are not going to be 3 Lewan's.  The tackles should be better (slightly) just by age and experience.

RBs should be better just because last year was horrid.  QB we shall see - I think better but I dont know.  Gardner showed relatively poor accuracy in last few games but hopefully a step up.

WRs a wash, hopefully some young buck adds an X factor.

So I think think having new RB blood will help but the interior line is going to test your patience, especially the first 6-8 games.  

On the plus side far easier schedule.

Space Coyote

February 7th, 2013 at 10:02 AM ^

Both the Redskins and SF ran quite a bit of zone blocking schemes, which would be a significant change for Michigan the last couple years. Now, especially SF, ran a lot of of power and trap plays (they have effectively run their wham play the past few years, which is a variation of a trap play with the pulling guard being a H-back coming across the formation instead). So it's a mix of zone and man blocking, but would be much more zone oriented than anything Michigan has run the last two years.

I think with Houma and Kerridge and the TEs that will be on Michigan's roster you have a great chance to run the pistol diamond set that both of these teams ran last year. Houma gives you a bit more of an athletic FB that can slip out into the flat or run the wheel route, while Kerridge is much more of a blocking FB, but the options leave a lot of room for big plays with 1-2 TEs and 2-3 backs in the game.


February 7th, 2013 at 10:20 AM ^

which was our base running play with Denard, so there is something to build on there. More importantly, what Chris Brown from Smart Football points out with respect to SF, is that

The read option is actually just something the 49ers have grafted onto their existing running plays. It’s a concept that can be incorporated into almost any existing blocking scheme. Harbaugh and Roman have chosen to blend old-school ideas with the new-school read option, and it’s come with tremendous success.

Brown points out in the same article that SF's fullback also makes a read -- if the DE crashes, he lets him go and blocks the scraping linebacker. If the DE stays home, then the fullback blocks him. If the DE goes for the QB, then the fullback blocks the nearest linebacker.

Space Coyote

February 7th, 2013 at 11:00 AM ^

I didn't watch SF too much this year, but I thought in the Super Bowl I saw them run a couple zone based blocking schemes. I know Washington is primarily zone based (as most know, Shanahan is in love with zone blocking). All that being said, as I previously said, it will be interesting how Michigan utilizes some of these concepts. Borges, much like you're claiming 49ers have done (which I have no reason to not believe) also fit a lot of the spread-option running attack into his traditional man blocking concepts, so it's not out of the realm of possibility. It'll just be interesting to see if they try to incorporate a bit of zone blocking as well.


February 7th, 2013 at 11:25 AM ^

A lot of NFL teams use both man and zone blocking schemes.  In an ideal world you would utilize both concepts depending on situation, goal, defense, ect.  Unfortunately, in college it is difficult because you only have players for a limited time and OL is a very complex position to learn.


February 7th, 2013 at 10:06 AM ^

For those that love smartfootball's writing, Chris did a stupendous write-up on the Pistol Offense for SBNation.…

He goes into lengths about the offenses run by RGIII, Kaepernick, as well as Russell Wilson. 

Probably the most encouraging aspect of the offense, as conceived by Ault, is that the most basic play is North-South power running. Perfect for Derrick Green.

Perkis-Size Me

February 7th, 2013 at 10:10 AM ^

Hope they don't plan on running Gardner much. Worst-case scenario and Gardner gets hurt, I'd hate to burn Morris' redshirt, and we're not sure how much improved Bellomy will be.


February 7th, 2013 at 11:01 AM ^

The fear is legitimate and obviously you don't want to kill the guy, but you have to do what puts you in the position to win games. Players get hurt in football and I understand the desire to avoid that, but at what cost? If running Gardner a certain number of times a game to open the offense can win us games we otherwise wouldn't, it is worth the risk of injury. Utilize your assets, run the best gameplan you have and plan for the worst in case something happens. We have the players to do that.


February 7th, 2013 at 11:08 AM ^

don't necessarily run the QB all that often. Play choice where the QB can run (so long as he does it every now and again) can be enough to have the desired schematic effect. If the QB is a potential running threat, that threat has to be accounted for by the defense.

However, like the NFL offenses in question, i assume that Gardner's legs will be the check down. He's shown good ability to both throw on the run and make that choice correctly. If the defense is going to give you 10-15 yards, take them and fall down.


February 7th, 2013 at 10:32 AM ^

last year Borges was still trying to learn how to run a spread offense, and how to utilize Denard effectively.  It would be a bit much to incorporate even more new offensive strategies/formations/plays.  There is only so much that you can implement as a coordinator and teach to the players in a given time.  I imagine the focus of the offense will be shifting towards something Borges is more comfortable running and that allows him to add some different things to his playbook this year. 

It would have been a lot to ask of him to learn two new systems in a year.  It is not going to be suddenly finding the light but I think Borges will gradually incorporate new things. 


February 7th, 2013 at 11:13 AM ^

The thing you might notice about these newfangled NFL offenses (two of three are referenced here, but i'll include Seattle) is that the QBs running them can pass effectively. All the scheming in the world doesn't help if the offense is effectively one dimensional and you don't have an overpowering O-line.

Also, these kids have limited time to learn things and are still developing their skills. If Denard had a hard time incorporating new concepts into the offense and running them, then it's really not possible.


February 7th, 2013 at 10:25 AM ^

It would be interesting to see some pistol formations mixed into the offense.  I know how much Borges loves to mix up formations.  I am thinking some pistol double stacks.


February 7th, 2013 at 11:11 AM ^

Didn't know Borges used the pistol at SDSU, but then again I don't really know much about any of what Borges used before here other than what I have heard second hand. 

I know you don't need a running QB to utilize the pistol offense the benifit is really in the balance between the pass and the run.  The RB is able to start moving downhill a little before getting the ball in the power game and doesn't tip strength to one side.  At the same time the QB gains some of the benifits of the shotgun in that drops are less and they have improved vision of the feild compared to under center.  I think it's this combination that intrigues me, hopefully we can effectively use that balance to greatly improve our play action passing game.



February 7th, 2013 at 2:21 PM ^

We already debuted the pistol against OSU and used it against South Carolina.  Granted, in true Borges style we only ran one play out of the look but the fake inverted veer sweep to Denard was from full house pistol. 


Gruden even pointed it out during the bowl game although he laughably attributed the formation to the Redskins rather than Utah...


February 7th, 2013 at 10:32 AM ^

Along with every NFL DC and position coach. On the NFL XM channel "Moving the Chains" they were saying the DC's are going to study and bring in college D coaches to bounce around ideas to stop this. It was already in motion for the Cam Newton Panther team. I'm all for some "Pistol" concepts at UM but I don’t think it going to be a staple in the NFL.  


February 7th, 2013 at 10:35 AM ^

I suspect Devin Gardner will continue to run about as much as he has or mildly more. We'll definitely continue to see him on the run/pass option roll-outs because he's been scoring touchdowns with those left and right. He's had a couple great QB sneaks as well. We also want him to keep up his scrambling instincts. He's been exceellent at escaping pressure and keeping drives alive.

I could see us sprinkling more of a standard read-option, or a "belly" play where DG can keep the ball (keeping the defense honest), but it's designed to go with Green (or Smith, or Toussaint) most of the time.

I also agree with those who've pointed out that Gardner has NFL potential at QB. If he gets his medical redshirt then I see him almost certainly developing into an early-round NFL QB prospect. If not I still think he'll make his case this year but he might be more of a mid-round sleeper or late-round steal rather than a top-ranked prospect on most draft boards.

The main area of concern (as I see it) is probably on the blocking schemes. The interior offensive line is going to be a very young, but very talanted group, so you don't want to throw too many new (this year) schemes at them at once. Against most of the D-lines we'll encounter this year we'd be better off relying on the line's talent rather than doing anything that could result in missed assignments.