Al Borges Presser and Spring Practice Comment Count

Tim April 5th, 2011 at 4:48 PM



This is the most receptive of any group he's had coming in (at all 8 or 9 stops). It would be easy to say "we were good last year" on offense, and resist changing. It's an enthusiastic group in spite of all the changes they've been asked to make. It's easy to teach them, because they've bought in.

Shotgun - used quite a bit. "We're gonna gun more than we've ever gunned." [ed: w00t.] They've run plenty of shotgun in the past, but this will be more than that. Two-tights is part of the offense, but you'll see as much shotgun as you'd see from any NFL team, and a lot of the tight end in motion.

Haven't done a whole lot of stuff this year that he's never done. "We have more QB runs, but that aside, our offense is our offense, and we're going to gear what we do to what he's capable of doing."

"[Brady] wants to establish toughness, and he wants to establish effort. And you can't talk it: you've gotta do it." Defense and offense are geared to downhill running, coming off the ball, etc. "Not that we want to turn it into 'bull elk on bull elk' on every single play."

Offense install - "We are now at install 5 today. We have 6 installs of major pieces of our offense." They'll add 'frills,' e.g. screens, 2-minute, goal line, etc. as it goes. "We've gone slower here than I have other places, because I'm trying to give Coach Funk in particular, but everybody... a chance to review and install." They'll complete install 6, and have 4 or 5 practices to review it all. "That's about 60-70%" of everything that they'll do.

The end of spring and fall camp are different beasts. In fall, you have to figure out your starters, and get them ready to play, then focus on your first opponent. "Right now, it's just an audition." They'll have a depth chart out of spring "Like anything else, it'll be in pencil."

Defense - "I very seldom comment on the defense other than to say 'Greg Mattison is as good a defensive coach as you're ever gonna get, and he will get every ounce out of those kids.'"

There's always pressure to succeed, whether or not you have talent. "If you're gonna have pressure, it's better to have talent."

"Michigan is a special place. The walls talk to you here. You walk down the hall and you can feel it... I coached at Auburn where football was a big deal, and I loved Auburn. This is a little different."


Denard and Devin both excited about the change. Doing some "next-level oriented" things, and that's attractive to QBs. More effective in this offense? "We want to pose a balanced distribution of the ball in an aggressive style." The tailbacks will be more involved. That will sacrifice numbers for the QB, but he might be able to throw more effectively with a power running game. He also poses a threat in the passing game as a runner with his scrambling.

Drop mechanics are toughest for Denard - even though he was a dropback QB in high school. With footwork issues - the biggest change - he has really grasped that concept well. "He's still a work in progress, but he's done very well."

"You run for yards but you pass for miles," though Denard is a better checkdown as a runner than throwing to a checkdown receiver might be. "Make plays, and let the good lord make miracles." They want him to use good judgement, but they'll let the kid run. "You have to give him a chance to do what he does."

Who compares to Denard? "Michael Vick is similar. Yeah, he's the first one that comes to mind." Most comparable with speed and passing ability.

Anticipation throws: "That is what he's been doing very well." Good on timing routes and throwing before the breaks. "The guy's an accurate passer... When they guy's open, he's gonna hit him more often than not. When he isn't open open, [Denard] has a way to create... A good passing game, the ball's delivered as the receiver comes open in a manner and fashion that allows the receiver to run with the ball once he catches it."

Denard reading defenses: "He's a pretty good decision-maker." His struggles are more within the offense, not making reads. "He's not hitting defenders in the chest with the ball."

No designed QB runs in last year's SDSU offense, but with Denard's ability, they'll go back to Cade McNown plays, for example, when Borges did have designed QB runs. "More people are going to touch the ball, yet he is going to be the focal point of the offense." If he's more effective running than the backs, he'll be used more as a runner.

Denard came out of 10 games last year with injury, SDSU's Ryan Lindley didn't come out of a single game last year. If giving the RB the ball a bit more keeps Denard healthy, then that's good. The tailbacks have to be worthy of those carries.

"He poses the threat of a quarterback draw every play." Scrambling - "If you understand the footwork of our offense, that comes naturally." The guards set the depth of the pocket, and the tackles set the width. With only 4 rushers against 5 linemen, there should be scrambling lanes if necessary. "Certain quarterbacks will run 5 or 6 yards, he may run 55 yards." They tell Denard "don't turn down wide open receivers, but if they fall off, run like hell."

Devin competition - "Devin is formidable." He does some really good things. Has some of the same traits as Denard, but is a taller prototype with pocket passer height. Can work inside the pocket more easily, but he obviously isn't as fast as Denard. "You play or somebody replaces you. It's that simple." At this point, Denard is the starter, and there's no reason to believe he won't be in the fall - even though Devin is pushing him. "They're competing and I love it."

Planned playing time for backup QBs? "I would never say never, but it's never been my approach." Borges doesn't really believe in putting the backup in for a series every game or something.

Running Backs

"I've been happy with our tailbacks... We've had flashes of excellence from all of them, and [picking a starter]'s not a decision we have to make today." For one back to stand out, he'll have to be a complete player. "Block and protection, run the football, be consistent. The guy who demonstrates the most consistency is the guy who's gonna play."

"Vince Smith is a pure football player, I mean in every sense. He's coachable, tough, not real big obviously but I've had guys his size be very effective... Vince has a good football IQ. You tell him something, he understands what you're talking about, and he'll do it."

"Michael Cox has done some very nice things."

Michael Shaw just came back to padded practices (from a broken hand) and he's made some nice plays.

Who can be downhill RBs - "All of them really... Cox has done it, Shaw came back the other day and he did it, Stephen Hopkins is just that kind of runner, period." Hopkins is a lot like Atlanta RB Michael Turner. He is a hybrid RB/FB, and has done some nice things.

McColgan has done a great job leading the way for the backs. Not gonna show up in the scoresheet, but helps the running game.

Wide Receivers

"I think Roy's had a really good spring. All them, really. We've had some nice catches." Roundtree has been very consistent. Junior Hemingway is moving well, and has great range. Darryl Stonum has also played well. "Jeff Hecklinski does a nice job with those guys. He'll coach those suckers up." They're running more intermediate cut routes in this offense. "We throw it down the field a lot, but more intermediate cuts."

Gallon and Dileo, et al, role has not changed a whole lot. Odoms and Roundtree have played inside and outside. "We're not a spread team, but you're gonna see we're in 3 and 4 wides a lot now."

Tight Ends

TE position is similar to the FB - not heavily featured in the recent past, but they're catching more balls than they've caught in the past. "I'm a tight end guy."

Brandon Moore has been very effective. Steve Watson caught a TD pass the other day. "Steve's fired up."

"We've got some good people there, and I think when it's all said and done we'll be pretty good there." They will recruit tight ends heavily going forward.

Offensive Line

Injuries on the offensive line haven't affected installation too much. "We found a way to get 5 of them out there, and they haven't done a bad job." Some guys are having to learn multiple positions.

Lewan could be a good football player - needs to add weight, and work on some fundamental technique issues. He has the talent for a bright future.

"We're a downhill running team." Their scheme is geared to O-line getting off the ball and being aggressive. "We're in a 3-point stance and we're gonna do our best to move whoever's in front of us." It's different playing from the shotgun every snap.

Practice Photos and Video




April 5th, 2011 at 5:05 PM ^

In those pictures...was that Mike Martin I saw standing up as a rush end!?

I like what I'm hearing from Borges about our offense and our guys.  Sounds like we're going to have a lot of stuff we can pull from on that side of the ball this year.  If we can find that one or two RBs that can really stand out, it could very special.

PS  I think Kovacks might actually be paler than I am.  That's pretty hard to do.


April 5th, 2011 at 5:15 PM ^

I'm still leery of the changes but I think RR was coaching Denard to never scramble, and I wish he'd scramble.  If Borges is coaching him to scramble sometimes then that's a plus for sure.


April 5th, 2011 at 5:43 PM ^

I am making no assumptions about what Robinson was or was not coached to do, but there were plenty of broken plays last season in which Robinsons would roll out, have a ton of space in front of him, and then just wait for a receiver to open up rather than run. Again, not saying he was or wasn't coached to do it, but Robinson gave up a lot of potentially big runs to stick with a pass.

(What I am assuming, though, is that by "scramble" people mean taking off running when the passing play breaks down.)


April 5th, 2011 at 7:44 PM ^

biggest knock on running QBs is?  That they trust their feet more than their arm and bail on a play too quickly without going through the proper progressions.  Denard is very obviously more inclined to be an actual QB than a runningback who receives the snap and throws sometimes, just based on what his instincts tell him to do when a play breaks down.  He doesn't just run, he keeps his eyes downfield and looks for a receiver.


April 5th, 2011 at 7:04 PM ^

I'm pretty sure RR was coaching Denard to do just the opposite.  I recall a few times when RR implied they wanted Denard to consider his legs as a check-down but he almost always chose to throw it.  I know it's easy to lump everything on the old coaching staff, but some of the issues were player problems/inexperiences.


April 5th, 2011 at 5:16 PM ^

Nice to hear good things about Roundtree, especially his consistency. He seemed oddly absent from the videos (not totally absent, just not really featured as much as I'd expect). I have very high hopes that he can get his case of the "Braylons" under control and catch the ball before thinking about the end zone.


April 5th, 2011 at 5:16 PM ^

Good to hear Roundtree's become more consistent.

...Some of the catches he dropped last year could have been game changers, him consistently catching passes is almost scary to think about, and if he develops to this system well, he should be our #1 wideout this season, though Stonum and Hemingway are gonna give him a run for his money.


April 5th, 2011 at 5:24 PM ^

bright guy. Nice ed/write-up job, Tim. I had worries about Denard, but it sounds like he's just one bright dude who can handle the changes, embracing them with all his usual enthusiasm. And it sounds like Borges is flexible, too.


April 5th, 2011 at 5:27 PM ^

Did I just read that Borges is going to design plays that he designed for Cade McNown back in his UCLA days?  Dear Little Baby Jesus, please tell me that was a joke.  Borges' response reminds me of the job interviewee that has no experience in a particular field and instead makes up something to avoid not answering the question . . .


April 5th, 2011 at 5:29 PM ^

Once again the pictures showed the read option.  I am impressed with the multiple formations they are showing in the early part of their first spring training.  It looks like Borges is truely adapting his offense to the skill sets we have coming back.  While we all hope the defense gets back to its old school ways, this is defintely not our father's offense.


April 5th, 2011 at 5:40 PM ^

I've had a feeling that reports of the demise of Vincent Smith may be premature. I bet there's a good chance a lot of his struggles last year were due to the effects of his torn ACL. I can see him developing into a Jamie Morris between-the-tackles kind of runner. Any back who can catch and block as well as he can is going to be hard to keep off the field.


April 5th, 2011 at 5:45 PM ^ is something else. Borges just said he was going to feature more shotgun than he ever has before, have significant designed QB runs, have the threat of a QB draw on pretty much every play, and wants Denard to scramble when his receivers are covered.

What's not to like?

Regarding his affinity for the history of Michigan football, there's also this quote from Angelique Chengelis' article:

You don't have any appreciation for what Bo Schembechler was all about, what Fielding Yost was all about, what this whole place is all about until you're here," Borges said. "I just think it's the coolest football situation you could ever ask for."


April 5th, 2011 at 6:00 PM ^

Good to hear him mentioned first with 'consistency' thrown in there.

While he's small, and a definite slot receiver, he's not a burner and never will be. I think with this coaching staff, he will continue to be a solid posession receiver. I love the way he gets his feet moving downhill after the catch. His dropsies thing from last year was so strange, because before we started noticing a trend, he was, to me, one of the most reliable receivers in recent memory.

I don't see him, however, as a number one guy... I really think Stonum or Hemingway needs to break out and be the big play threat we will need down the field. I think Roy will lead the pack in receptions/yards again, but look for Stonum and Hemingway to be 40-50 catch guys at 15+ YPC with some big play TDs.

What I love the most, though, is the depth of that WR corps... Odoms at #4? Gallon, Grady, Stokes, etc after that? This is good news.


April 5th, 2011 at 6:06 PM ^

 Borges is beginning to encourage me with his comments. It seems like running multiple formations is going to be the norm and I see that as a good thing. With the multiple references to "the power play "  that Hoke has thrown out over the past few months, I began to wonder if he would scrap the zone read in every way, shape and form. Apparently, Borges has seen the light and realized that lightning in untied shoes has it's benefits.


April 5th, 2011 at 6:21 PM ^

I don't know if Borges ever needed to "see the light."  He is a great coach with lots of experience with different types of players.  I think we, especially Brian, freaked out about MANBALL comments from Hoke.  As a head coach Hoke is trying to drive the toughness mantra, while Borges knew what he had and is now adding plays to the base offense. 

All that matters for me is to know that Denard is happy is this offense.  If Denard is happy then I'm happy.


April 5th, 2011 at 6:44 PM ^

i was a big RR supporter, but it's so refreshing to hear all the new coaches talking about adapting to the players we have and letting denard run around and doing some shotgun. it helps me sleep at night knowing we're probably not going to bomb our awesome offense into oblivion


April 5th, 2011 at 8:30 PM ^

Spread is not the only way to utilize Denard's talents. The spread was no way to utilize our QB's talents in 2008. The funny (not ha ha) thing is we ran more zone read that year than we did last year. Go figure. But you're right, just like in 2008, it may be all talk. But I think the poster is hoping we don't make the same mistake twice.


April 5th, 2011 at 9:58 PM ^

There was no way to use our QBs' talents in 2008. That was the problem. The options were a walkon/career clipboard guy (and God bless Sheridan; it's not his fault he was on the field) and a frequently-injured second-year version of a guy who only had a 133 passer efficiency rating as a 4th-year player.


April 5th, 2011 at 10:10 PM ^

Makes the most sense? It'd be great if it was all just instituting the system for the other guys, but we ran stuff we used infrequently again. Zone Read option all over the place, which made the defense key in on the RB, and was even worse if the QB kept it. So we get Denard, then run far less Read Option for power QB sweeps. So a lot of it was for nothing.

Sac Fly

April 5th, 2011 at 7:27 PM ^

This coaching staff understands the teams strengths and they are building around that, not trying to force everyone into a scheme that wouldn't be as effective. I was expecting to see at least one of the receivers get minimal playing time because of 2 wide sets, and he's already talking about 3 and 4 wide formations.


April 5th, 2011 at 7:41 PM ^

"If he's more effective running than the backs, he'll be used more as a runner."


Isn't this EXACTLY what Rich Rod did?  Saw that Denard was his most effective ground threat (by far) and used him more as a runner?  And by "more", I mean a little less than half (291 passes, 256 rushes).


And I'm really getting tired of all the "downhill, toughness" talk.  I don't remember running many sweeps last year.  Denard ran mostly off-tackle.  And the inside handoff is between the tackles.  That's "downhill".   And "emphasis on getting off the ball"?  That's just rhetoric.  Every coach on every team at every level teaches you to get off the ball hard and fast.  That's like saying "we're going to emphasise playing with our feet on the ground." 


How is it that everybody just eats this stuff up?

El Jeffe

April 5th, 2011 at 7:47 PM ^


In all seriousness, I have mocked the TOUGHNESS coachspeak more than anyone, but I am optimistic that Borges knows that he has the keys to a Ferrari and won't treat it like a Yugo.