Al Borges 2014 - What must we see?

Submitted by CLord on December 3rd, 2013 at 12:56 PM

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.

Offensive consistency.
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.

Go Blue.




December 3rd, 2013 at 4:31 PM ^

I have seen enough in 3 years to know Borges is a failure and must go. A dominant running game isnt enough to clean this up. He has had two QB's digress under his watch and had this offense collapse and digress horribly.


You can not bring this guy back, in fact, I dont think Funk or Borges should come back but I will settle for Borges getting dumped and hiring a guy who has more success than in just year 1 somewhere.  The longer Borges is around the worse it gets.


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:04 PM ^

not sure what kool-aid you were drinking, but it must have been from Borges himself...If you think the o-line is going to be better after losing a pair of NFL draft picks, then man, I wish I had 1/10th of your optimism


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:06 PM ^

What makes you think Schofield will be a draft pick?  He was a 4 year starter and only cracked Coaches All Big Ten Honorable Mention this year.  Undrafted Free Agent I can see. 


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

I'm not sure how consistent his play was this season.  I thought he had a pretty rough year in pass protection and was not much better in run blocking.  I think his future in the NFL, if he makes it, is at guard.



December 3rd, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

I agree he is built like an NFL OT but I don't think he plays at that level.  As a 5th year senior missing blitzes on a slide protection is unacceptable.  Plus if his play was consistently GOOD he would be more than a 1 time All B1G honorable mention.


I'm no Mel Kiper but I don't think he gets drafted.


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:31 PM ^

I think he has a decent chance at eventually being a decent contributor to some NFL team...but either way, replacing 2 fifth year seniors at the ends is going to be hard....and Borges being Borges will most likely go back to shitty play-calling and blame his players like he always my question is: what in the hell is going to be different about our o-line?


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:57 PM ^

what do you really think is going to improve??? I see an 8-4 record, at best 9-3, with the same issues on Offense and same excuses...So. Miss (nearly the worst rushing team in the FBS) rushed for positive yards against Nebraska, yet Michigan under Borges/Hoke (mainly Borges) nets negative please, explain to me why im wrong and why you think you are smart with a shitty condescending insult


December 3rd, 2013 at 2:07 PM ^

I agreed with you that the OL will have issues next year so why the hostility?  We see differently on the future of Schofield.  He was a good college player.  My personal opinion is that with Borges back at OC we go 7-5 next season.  I hope I am wrong.


I don't see how I insulted you?  My remark about the blog being the same was about people still posting great content team week to week.  UFRs will still be done, Brian's opponent watch will still be done, presser transcripts will still be posted, etc.


December 3rd, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

I thought you meant that "the blog will remain the same" as in terms of the posters will still post crap that is wrong/you dont agree with....and I also think we will have another bad year with Borges at the helm....You may very well be correct of Schofield, but I think time truly will tell...either way, im worried about another bad-to-mediocre o-line and even worse play-calling that will make it shittier...and im with you, I hope we are both completely wrong, I will gladly eat humble pie with a side of crow if we win 10 or 11 games next year!


December 3rd, 2013 at 2:21 PM ^

Apologies accepted. 


I thought the whole purpose of the blog was to provide a forum for sprited debate between passionate Michigan fans.  How boring would it be if we all agreed on everything.


That being said I will eat the humble pie with you should Borges prove me wrong.


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:11 PM ^

I agreed for much of the season, but I've tempered that point of view by two things:

1. It really cannot possibly get much worse than it was this year. 

2. Most people tend to focus on improving around the things in life that embarrass them the most. After this season, if Borges doesn't make the offensive line his #1 priority then again, fool Al twice, shame on Al.


December 3rd, 2013 at 4:51 PM ^

lol, exactly what i was thinking, we lose two nfl tackles and we will get better for the only reason we cant get any worse. i heard that before during RR year the D cant get any worse yet it did. i dont agree. i think we will hear the same thing next year, when we have yet another mediocre season. people will be next year, and every year will be next year


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

RB flare routes as a check-down instead of being used as an extra blocker.

Funchess fade routes at least once a game.

More than 1-3 possible plays per formation.

Constraint plays that make sense instead of the random grab-bag choices.

Less personnel substitutions that give away whether it's a run or pass.

No more obvious Gardner naked bootleg runs on 4th and short.


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:11 PM ^

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.

Why Al and not Funk, the guy who coaches them on a daily basis?  Generally speaking, the coordinator is not that involved (on a day-in, day-out basis) with position groups he doesn't personally coach.



December 3rd, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

I toss Funk into the Borges blender because Funk directly reports to Borges.  When talking about the changes Al must make to improve OL play, coaching and consistency, one such change might be replacing Funk.  I just didn't specify what those options on the table for change might be.


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

That's not really how it works.  The coordinator is the driving force behind the gameplan and makes the gameday calls, but it's Hoke's call to hire or fire position coaches.  The coordinator's involvement with position groups he doesn't coach is generally not that large. Borges isn't really Funk's "supervisor" - Hoke is.




December 3rd, 2013 at 2:47 PM ^

I'm all for protecting Hoke and giving him as much leash as possible for the sake of the program, so it is my hope that Borges is a more direct buffer between Funk/O line incompetence and Hoke.  You state otherwise, and I weep silently, alone, and cold.

Indiana Blue

December 3rd, 2013 at 2:49 PM ^

 Thank you for trying to help educate people.

The coordinator's job is to evaluate what your strengths are and stratagize plays that uses these to your advantage.  Did Borges know are strengths and call plays to use these to our advantage ?  Simple answer - NO.    

Go Blue!




December 3rd, 2013 at 1:25 PM ^

Not to be nitpicky, but I think the better phrasing for this is "What do we wish to see?" because the decisions are not ours in the end and any standard set by this blog is arbitrary by default. If we are aware of this, of course, then that's excellent. 

That being said, I would merely be curious to see how the experiences of this year - good and not good - crystallize and get carried into next season. Because this really is the first year we went "full Borges" (2011 and 2012, though under Borges, represented a hybrid philosophy and serve as a shaky basis for comparison to this year), I would actually expect the oft-discussed "second-year jump" to happen next year. Quite a few things mentioned by the OP should improve naturally - theoretically, of course. 

I don't know if I attribute predictability strictly to Borges' "limitations", as the OP says. If indeed you do not have confidence that certain sections of the playbook will not be well-executed with the players and experience out there, you probably won't use them much if at all. If it makes a limited number of base plays that much more frequent and therefore predictable, it's still a problem but a dynamic one that I think is simplified if we just hang it on Borges and assume his vision is limited. We don't really know this. 

As for blitzes, I think this ties into execution and coaching. If they can read defenses better next year and we start to see the ability to check in and out of plays based on formation a little more frequently, they might be able to mitigate the problem somewhat. 


December 3rd, 2013 at 2:59 PM ^

Concur except I don't have much hope re reading defenses and check downs.  Gardner was no freshman starter this year.  He had a ton of experience and he still looked really bad when it came to checking into a positive RPS.  Even worse were his early interceptions, which eventually morphed into sacks as he turned into a deer in headlights staring at secondaries probably seeing future picks where none existed.  All of this is a massive indictment of Borges' lack of QB coach, and Borges himself.  This is one area I don't expect much improvement on next year even with a 5th year Gardner, and actually expect a big regression the following year with the new starter (Speight/Morris) assuming Borges makes it that long.


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

I must see Al working somewhere else.

I can't handle the variance.  I think I actually enjoyed watching one game the whole season, ND.  We're 3 plays away from being 4-8 while simultaneously being 4 plays away from being 11-1. 

Narduzzi drinking Al's milkshake with the world's largest twisty straw for three straight years drives me nuts. 

OSU in the national title game 2 years removed from scandal, and still on probation drives me nuts.

Penn State being better than us with a skeleton team drives me nuts.

Seeing Malzahn completely turn around Auburn twice in 5 years just shows the kind of impact that a smart offensive coach can have.  A school like Michigan should have the will and resources to go get a similarly smart coach.


December 3rd, 2013 at 2:51 PM ^

Hard to argue with much of what you wrote, but it's also hard to argue with Brandon's decision to give stability a try for at least one more year, especially given the brief flashes of brilliance we saw this year.


December 3rd, 2013 at 3:34 PM ^

Yeah I understand the counterpoint of staying the course.  There have been flashes of pretty fun looking things.

It just feels like being in a relationship with somebody who makes you feel like crap 6 days out of the week, but then goes out of their way to make you feel like the most appreciated/loved person ever on day 7.


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

Do we even know for certain that Borges will be back?  I feel like we're taking a lot of stock in a press conference question from right after a heartbreaking loss in the biggest game of the year, before any evaluation has been done.  And Hoke was pretty guarded in his language.  I don't think staff shakeups are likely, but I don't think this one quote forecloses their possibility

Gustavo Fring

December 3rd, 2013 at 1:38 PM ^

You mention that Michigan is not great at checking out of plays at the line: this is because it's tough to do that when you have only five seconds left to snap the ball.

I do think Gardner has the ability to be good at this.  Off the top of my head, I remember he checked into a run off right tackle to DeVeon Smith against OSU nad it turned into the longest run of the day.  Gardner is a smart qb and I think giving him more autonomy pre-snap will help, but they've got to get out of the huddle faster. 

Also, Borges really needs some counters.  Concepts need to work together like a jigsaw puzzle so defenses never know what they're going to get hit with.


December 3rd, 2013 at 1:48 PM ^

I don't think this team will be as talented as we've been the last three years on offense (Denard, Gallon, Hemingway, Roundtree, Fitz, Lewan, Omameh, Molk, Schofield, etc. are guys I just don't see equivalent replacements for across the board).  That being said, playing consistently could lead to being as good or better (in the win column) and the defense should again be solid enough to keep us in every game.  And Devin is capable of being an elite-level difference maker if the parts around him are just okay.  We've shit the bed a number of times and played well below our ability level in at least two games per year under Borges (and for long stretches in others).  If that doesn't happen, this can be a 9-10 win team.  If not, Hoke and Co. are either looking for new jobs or Dave Brandon is writing another ridiculous blog to try and convince us how awesome things are going.


December 3rd, 2013 at 3:14 PM ^

(Denard, Gallon, Hemingway, Roundtree, Fitz, Lewan, Omameh, Molk, Schofield, etc. are guys I just don't see equivalent replacements for across the board).

I think you're overselling some of those guys. In particular, calling Toussaint, Omameh or Schofield elite talents is a stretch - I would consider all three of them to be below-average by our historical standards at those positions. Some of the others had their weaknesses, too - Denard was an erratic passer; Gallon lacks size; Hemingway lacked speed.

I'm not concerned about the returning talent at the skill positions.  Gardner has the potential to be a star; he showed that against ND and OSU. Funchess likewise can become a monster receiving threat; the main thing that's holding him back now is just concentration on some of these passes. Chesson needs work making plays on the ball but has excellent size and speed, and Darboh was supposed to be a breakout star on the way before his injury. Butt is emerging as a receiving TE and should come along as a blocker. At tailback, Smith and Green are very promising and could well prove to be upgrades at the position.

The OL is the main question mark, but given our recruiting, it should improve.  Left tackle will probably be worse, but RT may or may not be (I think Schofield was out of position there and did not have a great season) and the interior should be better.


December 3rd, 2013 at 6:06 PM ^

Anthony Carter lacked size.  Marquise Walker lacked speed.  Mike Hart lacked both.  What is your point?

Patrick Omameh was voted 1st team all-conference by the B1G coaches as a senior, made the 49ers practice squad as an undrafted rookie free agent (after the Funk Borges Experience killed his draft status), and is now on the Bucs active roster.  And he was the third best lineman on the 2011 team.  If our third best lineman next year ends up being that good, we may just be fine, but are you really betting on that happening?  And what has actually happened on the field to give you confidence in that bet?

Funchess does have loads of talent, but he has to produce at Jeremy Gallon's level (possibly the most productive WR season in UM history) for us to tread water next year.  And someone has to replace what Funchess did (between a guy who missed the season with injury and hasn't caught a pass and a guy who posted 17.8 ypg this year as the #3 receiver).  And we have to replace the top lineman in the conference.  And replace Schofield (another guy the fans seem to have turned on in an effort to exonerate a shitty offensive coaching staff).  And Green/Smith have to come up with the 849 all purpose yards and 12 TDs that Fitz produced (in addition to what they did this year).  And that is just to stay at 7-5 level production.

I'm frankly sick of hearing about how guys like Denard Robinson are the reason Al Borges can't get it done.


December 3rd, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

I think it all comes down to a basic offense that assumes no improvement from the line over the offseason and relies a good bit on allowing Devin to make plays and pulls linebackers/safeties out of the box horizontally, until the line shows that it can get motion on a front seven straight up and can provide enough pass protection to allow for those over the top play action attempts.