Fall Camp 2011: Al Borges Presser Notes

Submitted by Tim on August 10th, 2011 at 8:04 PM


Notes from Al Borges's meeting with the media. I'm a master at taking pictures of him in which he looks startled.


Happy with QBs. Things are registering much faster mentally than they were at the end of spring: you can tell they worked over the summer. "I'm kinda fired up about it. We're not arrived, it only three days and we've got a long way to go. But I'm happy with the dedicated effort they've shown."

Denard's footwork is much better. They're trying to continue getting him to step up in the pocket. "It not only allows him to see a little better, but he can threaten run better once he gets underneath the rush." Denard is on schedule to be where they want him. "Because he's so athletic and he can create... now he has to understand about creating, yet don't try to do something that simply isn't there."

QB - "it's always competitive. We don't hand it to anybody. But this kid has proven he can play." The coaches have to tap that, and Gardner is proving himself as well. QBs know more now than when they left in the spring. They clearly worked in the summer.

Denard will still be running the football, with a lot of the same plays they ran last year. The power offensive style will reduce his carries, and they want to keep him healthy. The offense last year just wasn't the same when he came out of the game.

"I'm not committing to anything" in terms of number of carries for Denard. "Less" is a clear goal, but how much is still in question. Try not to get him beaten up, but want him to make plays. Not sure where the fine line is between those two. Sometimes you need to remind Denard to get out of bounds when he's running. He won't do a lot of sliding, but there are times to avoid taking punishment. "With the ball under his arms, anything can happen," so you don't want him sliding down in front of a guy he can juke past. "You coach Denard different than you coach Ryan Lindley."


Doesn't like a rotation of RBs, but "if two guys are on an equal plane, then we may do it. I'll never say never. But it's never been my preference." They'll narrow RB race down a little bit before they worry about choosing a number 1. It's tough to tell when 5 or 6 guys are dividing reps. "They know. We've made it clear" that they're competing to be 'the guy.' It's time for them to seize the moment.

Can't tell anything about who's stepping up because nobody's been tackled yet. Need to see the freshmen, too. "The kids, from understanding our protection schemes, are much better. That part of it is improved." Won't know a go-to guy until tackling comes around. You'd like to know as soon as possible who the guy is, but they're willing to wait so they make the right choice. It could take a couple scrimmages to find out what they're capable of.

"The ability to win in the open field, break tackles, make people miss, understand our protection scheme, receiving skills are a part of it too. It's not at the top of the list, but it's part of it, a guy we feel like we gan go to that can give us some of the same things Denard gave them last year and that he's going to give us this year."

3rd down backs - "everybody's got a role. Sometimes the 3rd down back is the same guy that can play on first down. Sometimes he's not." Everybody brings something to the table, and they'll use those skills.

Freshman RBs - A bit of a disadvantage because they weren't here in the spring. Young guys can play, and not have to do every part of the position. "There may a few things he can do until he completely understands what we're doing."

Some RBs run better behind a fullback. Great backs like Barry Sanders can do it both ways, but some guys have a preference. "It's a vision position. As long as you give them an opportunity to see the cuts, they can usually make the cuts."

FB - "We got a couple young guys, and then we've got Stephen Hopkins who's kind of a hybrid. He can play in there, too. John [McColgan] is as consistent a player as we have on our offense." He's not going to make amazing plays, but he's going to be consistent, give the best effort, and be tough.


Jerald Robinson - he knows what he's doing better than in spring. Has a chance to make a contribution.

WRs: "They're the same guys that played here a year ago. Junior Hemingway can go get it, Roy can go get it, Tae Odoms can go get it. Grady, we've got some speed guys." It doesn't look like the cast is affecting Odoms's play.

Michigan was more vertical in their passing structure last year, because it fit that offense. This year they'll do more short cuts. Passing routes fit what each offense was trying to accomplish. If QBs can deliver the ball accurately, the receivers will get some YAC as well.


Tight ends other than Koger: Brandon Moore has done a nice job. Still climbing, improving every day. Steve Watson is a solid payer. "Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps." It's too early to say if Chris Barnett is in the mix.


Lewan - "moving around good." Haven't hit, so it's hard to evaluate too much. Need to see how he understands all of what they're doing offensively, because they're firing off the ball differently. "Until we get the opportunity to play some close-quarter football, we're really not gonna know where those guys are yet. But I like what I see so far."

Having Molk and Lewan back from missing some spring helps OL cohesion. Koger considered part of that unit, too. Improved from spring.


"The only thing I've really got a bead on so far is how much more they know." The players have worked to understand the offense. They still don't know enough, but every team in America is at that point three practices in.

Going full pads on Friday: "Physicality, toughness, 'who is that back?,' have we got closer... how much have we improved since the last time we got in full pads?" See who can perform with contact.



August 11th, 2011 at 8:29 AM ^

walking by Al Borges in Glick at the youth technique school. He was sitting in a golf cart cruising through his iPhone. This was the day Tom VH had us all strap in. I didn't see Kalis, but there were several recruits on campus that weekend, and they offensive line coach had been absent from camp the evening before with a recruit. So I asked Al: "So what is Mgoblog saying about recruiting today?".  I said it in a sort of joking way - like why would an offensive coordinator be looking at Mgoblog when he was running a youth camp and trying to land key recruits - but I also wanted to see how he responded. He kept looking at his iPhone and said "I hear recruiting is [going really well]" with a grin (or a pleased smile) on his face. To which I replied that we all hope they keep it coming. (I didn't have the pluck to ask why I am strapped in, but maybe should have.)

There was an emphasis on really well, but I cannot recall the direct wording. In my view, he said it in a way that implied he knew of Brian's reservation about their recruiting abilities, and wanted to emphasize how well they are really doing.

Anyway, the point of the cool story bro is, I believe they are aware of Mgoblog, and most likely Brian's opinions, and TVH's reports. I have often wondered how annoyed the coaches are with Mgoblog, as it would seem a clear place to get recruiting and game planning intelligence.


August 11th, 2011 at 9:09 AM ^

The administration and coaching staff are 100% aware of MGoBlog. I know DB's secretary and during the whole cc process, she remarked a few times "can you believe what they are saying about him on that blog?" she said that db definitely knows about the blog and is aware of what is said there (I doubt he reads the board or comments, but he certainly is aware of the front page content). After hoke was hired, supposedly db was really annoyed about some of the things that Brian said about hoke.


August 11th, 2011 at 9:33 AM ^

Brian now gets put in the troubled children section along with the Freep guys at press conferences and such. Imagine how icy things are in that group. Does he get a new back row obstructed view seat in the press box behind the pillar with Rosenberg or something?

I have also wondered if they intentionally launched a bunch of Hoke evangelists on us to convert us over.

lexus larry

August 11th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

No...and Tim and FA generally attend the "Reporting-type Substance" events

Absolute zero for Fr**p writers

No, he has his own heirloom seats he uses (kind of a Consumers Reports strategy to not be beholden to any mandated viewpoint).

There are some that seem a little too jolly, low post counts pre-January 2011 who have spent a LOT of time banging themes and drunk-on-the-Kool-Aid rah-rahs.

I'd say Brian's in an OK place...remember, he's among the speakers at the Football Kick-Off dinner along with Greg from MVictors.com, so...


August 11th, 2011 at 9:22 AM ^

I wonder if it would be possible to close off posts or threads with "sensitive information" and allow access only to people who are logged in and have either been users long enough or have accrued enough points. Can't be layin stuff out like a buffet for opposing coaches.


August 11th, 2011 at 9:28 AM ^

...telling, I meant it was telling about where the press corps is focused - QB, RB and WR. Since we know that the performance of the OL is all important, it says something about the priorities of the reporters to angle questions toward the skill positions. This isn't a new or particularly outrageous tendency, it's just par for the course.

Personally, I would have liked to have learned more about Borges' approach to teaching and enforcing OL discipline (to avoid penalties) and how he feels the process is going with the line learning how to pass block when the QB is under center.


August 10th, 2011 at 8:21 PM ^

Hoke also mentioned Jerald Robinson in Chicago a couple times. Definitely one to watch. His high school film was real impressive.



August 10th, 2011 at 8:59 PM ^

Denard mentioned him on more than one occasion. I believe I heard one of the other players mention him as well (RVB, Martin, Woolfolk? can't remember) With all the excitement over the 2012 class I think we overlook the fact that this team currently has a lot of raw young players we haven't seen yet. Hopefully a few of them can be difference makers.

Michael Scarn

August 11th, 2011 at 12:52 AM ^

Gorgeous Al Borges, I am falling in love with you the more I hear.  I hope to be saying "oh I've seen that before" plenty this year.  If you can install some pro-style elements without having us take a step back offensively, you'll be my new hero.  And yes, I will address you in the second person, Al, because I know you read this blog - everyone does. 


August 11th, 2011 at 1:00 AM ^

The new offense "should" help balance both sides of the field, but from the little details Borges gave, it sounds like a lot of focus is on Denards playmaking ability. As exciting as he was in the spread last year, I really think he's going to confuse the defense and create more plays this year. Defensive coordinators wont know what to expect from him and even if they did, he's already 10 yds ahead of you! If they get his timing down, work on his footwork and pushing the pocket, no question he's going to put up some awesome numbers!

Blue in Yarmouth

August 11th, 2011 at 7:59 AM ^

but I can't really say I know what to expect with Denard this year. I am very hopeful that what you expect comes to fruition, but honestly, after seeing Denard play for one season I can't say I am as optimistic as you are.

What continues to give me pause is the fact that Denard had many opportunities last year to run the ball when he couldn't find open targets but instead, tried to fit the ball into tight windows and many times either throwing the ball incomplete ot turning the ball over. 

If he can learn to have the mind set of looking for his first couple of options and then running when they aren't there he could be lethal and I hope that will happen, but I just haven't seen him show a willingness to do that to this point. It's funny because I think many had the other fear last year (that he would take off and run too much).

I guess the bottom line is that it's going to be a bit of a balancing act for him when it comes to running during passing plays. If he can find a good balance I think this offense could be incredcible, and I am hopeful of that.


August 11th, 2011 at 9:00 AM ^

I had some of the same concerns that you express, but with every day that goes by, I am more convinced that he is going to be way better this year from the standpoint of decision making, protecting the football, mechanics, vision and overall playmaking.
<br>Last year, Denard dominated on the basis of his pure athleticism. He as not a very fundamentally sound player and he was certainly not a good decision maker. Which was 100% normal for a first year starter. But, It seems like Borges is focused much more on fundamentals and decision making, which is something that Denard needs. I see great things on the horizon for him under this new offense.


August 11th, 2011 at 10:02 AM ^

I've been critical of his decision making, however thats completely different than his play making abilities.

I dont think its fair that we put all this pressue on the kid during his freshman and sophmore year and say he hasnt shown a willingness to improve his decision making process. The kid didnt have help from his coaching staff and he was running an offense that was completely new to us.

I guess my point earlier was that he's a defensive coordinators nightmare. How can you prepare your team for a pro-style offense when you have a quarterback that slips and slides around the field like Denard?

Blue in Yarmouth

August 11th, 2011 at 11:29 AM ^

First, I don't think many people (fans or coaches) put a lot of pressure on Denard in his freshman year. He only was used in spot duty and rarely (other than the Iowa game) was in the game when the outcome was in doubt.

Also, where did I say he hasn't shown a willingness to improve his decision making? Not only was that not in my post, but the thought never crossed my mind. I think everyone knows Denard has shown (both this year and last) he is one of the most coachable and humble players on this team.

Lastly, I was never overly vocal in defending the previous regime (I liked RR, but was of the opinion that he had to go following the bowl game), but I have to take exception to the insinuation that the previous staff didn't help the QB's in their understanding of how to run the offense. I mean come on...seriously? What evidence do you have of this?? That is one of the most absurd allegations I have heard levied against the previous coaches. 

Other than that I agree with you (as I did in my previous post). Denard could be a nightmare for defenses next year if he shows the same sort of progress from last year to this year that he did from his freshman to sophmore years.

Michael Scarn

August 11th, 2011 at 11:16 AM ^

Based on the growth we saw from his freshman to sophomore year, I have total confidence in his decision making improving. People often forget that this kid was a TRUE sophomore last year running a very complex offense. Every time I worry about this year's Denard I just think of 2009 Iowa compared to any number of throws from last year (and then I pray Al Borges incorporates a lot from last year). A big part of the decision making process is the pace at which a QB perceives a game. Another whole year to have things slow down for him should yield results.


August 11th, 2011 at 7:56 AM ^

Well he basically said all the right things. I have wished and wished that he would still utilize some of the spread plays, he will and for that I am forever grateful! I also like that he is going to try and protect Denard. Blood pressure just dropped.

Blue in Seattle

August 11th, 2011 at 9:54 AM ^

The discussion about what the offense will be like next year is starting to sound a lot like the discussions before 2008.  Of course Denard wasn't a part of that conversation, but there was a generally heated back and forth about the merits of one scheme over another.  What I remember was that the posters who were coaches generally had the position that you needed to value the players over the scheme.  Basically any scheme has strengths and weaknesses, but the success of a scheme is execution, and other than having the time to let players practice, the key to execution was talent.

Denard is a huge amount of talent.  It would have been awesome to see that talent hone itself on the same scheme two years in a row, along with the rest of the team.  We'll never know whether that next step would have been a large or small increment, certainly it's hard to imagine it would have gotten worse.  But as far as the run option with spread passing goes as a scheme, while the Michigan example was the #2 Offense FEI, both Wisconsin and Stanford were in the top 10 of offensive FEI, #5, and #6 respectively.  With Arkansas at #3 on OFEI.  Scheme doesn't seem to matter, it's important for a coach to know how to use their scheme, but it's the players that execute the scheme and talented players execute better.  Oh, I guess I should probably admit, San Diego State was only #12 in OFEI.  Wait! that's pretty good, cause OSU was #16!

Another interesting aspect of the FEI is the measurement of explosive drives (those drives averaging more than 10 yards per play).  Michigan ranked 16th, with Wisoconsin and Stanford at #24 and #19 respectively (these are the raw measurements, thus not adjusted for opponent strength).  BUT, SDSU came in at #7 for explosive drives, one below Auburn at #6.  This tells me that for raw statistical glory, and thus the pure joy of seeing a large quantity of home run plays, you got more for your money watching SDSU than Michigan last year!  So you are telling me that one scheme is more exciting than another?  WRONG!

Denard is talented.  Clearly Denard has an excellent work ethic, taking his performance in his sophomore season and improvement over his freshman season as the example.  For me the question is NOT whether Denard has put the work in or has the talent to run this offense.  What I'm looking for is the running back who is going to take advantage of getting a handoff at full speed versus being handed the ball standing still and having to juke out a defensive end in the first two steps just to gain yardage.  If you look at the play calling last year (and I have for Connecticut and Wisconsin) you'll find that QB run was called just as frequently as run option was called.  You'll also find that in run option Denard pulled the ball for himself about 1 out of 10 times.  To me this means all that Denard yardage came from the QB run where not only was the running back blocking for Denard, but frequently an H-back was thrown into the mix as well.  There was no trickery to that QB run play, especially when that extra spread receiver is taken away and a TE/H-back blocker is inserted.  That was MANBALL Rodriguez style, with the Uber talent of Denard executing.

We are going to see a different scheme.  But Denard is still Denard.  And Denard is exciting.  Denard is talented.  And even more important, he displays that talent in a way that makes everyone else around him more talented.  It's not a question of whether Al Borges can utilize Denard.  It's more a question of what opponents will choose to stop?  Will they stop the run up the middle to get burned on bootleg rollouts and passing?  Or will they devote critical LB and safety resources to stoppind Denard, and again we see receivers hand wavingly wide open, or even more exciting to the old school Michigan fan, a running back bursting through the line and accelerating into the second level of a defense spread too thin because they were focused on Denard?

So, I'm not going to worry and speculate over Denard.  What I'm watching closely is if Touch the Banner is correct about Michael Cox.  I think he is.


August 11th, 2011 at 10:15 AM ^

"It's not a question of whether Al Borges can utilize Denard.  It's more a question of what opponents will choose to stop?  Will they stop the run up the middle to get burned on bootleg rollouts and passing?  Or will they devote critical LB and safety resources to stoppind Denard"

Thats exactly it. If I were a defensive coordinator I wouldnt know who to cover or what to expect.

I think it was/will be more of an issue of what well happen on defense vs our offensive game plan. No question that we fixed that with hiring Mattison!


August 11th, 2011 at 10:08 AM ^

I feel better since he admited they will put DR in the spread sometimes, but I am still of the opinion that UM offense will only be limited by Borges inflexability.  This guy acts and talks like a person who wants football done one way and one way only.  I like to say nothing more conservative then a general or a priest then a football coach. 

Borges keeps harping on reducing DR's carries.  In my opinion DR's increased carries were more due to Shaw getting hurt, Vincent Smith being slow and out of shape from his ACL, and Hopkins being unable to hold on to the ball.  Add that R^2 knew he was fired if he did not win 8, and of course he was going to go with his best RB(DR).  When R^2 had a decent running back, the QB averaged 10-15 carries a game. 

I also take issues with some posters who imply Borges is going to clean up DR's game.  We keep forgetting that last year was DR's first year as a starting QB and he was a sophmore.   You get better with experience regardless of who the coach is.  I remember Grback, Navarre, Griese, and Henne as 2nd year players.  Not good.

I also take issue that UM needs to run a power offense so that the defense knows how to stop it.  That is absolute bull&#$%!   I saw TCU throttle Wisconsin just fine.  I saw Oregon hang with Auburn.  Florida has also put some decent defenses together.  If we have a decent Dcoordinator and keep having to play freshmen on our two deep to under three and the defense will be fine..

We stick DR in the pocket, we are taking away his bests strengths.  Yes, he will run for buku yardage against EMU.  However, a good defense with a disciplined 4 man rush can and will keep a great running QB from bailing.  DR in the pocket will be just a 6 foot pocket passer.  And if he has dink & dunk routes, that means more defenders near the line of scrimage. 

What I liked about the deeper routes is if DR did run and was rolling out, and beat the rush, there was no one near him.  The play was designed to put him in space.  You could probably design your bailout contigency.  When you bail out of a pocket, there is more to random chance.  Yes, DR may bail and go for 7-8.  But some chance event may put a rusher in his way and he gets dragged down at the line of scrimmage.  Easier to happen with more people closer to him.

I believe this will be more apparant as the season progress's.  Spread plays will have more success then power plays against good teams.   If Bourges wants to be stuborn were going to be stuck with a lot of 3rd and sevens.  Your almost better off putting in DG and cut your losses.  I am not knocking DR at all.  I believe he is a Heismen candidate in the right system. 

I hope I am wrong and Bourges runs more spread and DR figures out the old stale west coast that everyone knows how to defend.


August 11th, 2011 at 10:36 AM ^

Eh, I'm not too worried. The coaches, especially Hoke, seem to be masters of Coach Speak. The body of evidence concerning Borges' offenses suggest he's really quite flexible. Now, we won't be running what we did a year ago, but I think we'll see a good amount of spread concepts. And Hoke is on the record also saying he would never tell Borges what to do with his offense.

Randy Marsh

August 11th, 2011 at 10:42 AM ^

but nothing Borges has said screams "stubborn". He simply wants to reduce Denard's carries to keep him in one piece.

He has said many times that they will be in shotgun more than he ever has before, and the QB will run more than any QB he has had before. It's not at all the "one way and one way only" you're trying to claim.


August 11th, 2011 at 12:41 PM ^

I think he has repeatedly said that he will utilize the talents he has.  These coaches want to win as much as anyone else and I don't see them not utilizing weapons and schemes that are successful.  I think he has been consistently clear that there are aspects of DR's game relating to decision-making and technique that need polishing/improving, and that is what they are focused on.  Yes the scheme overall will be different, but I am hopeful that it will be complimentary to what he did last year.  Everything I have read seems to suggest that is the plan. 


August 11th, 2011 at 10:49 AM ^

In my opinion DR's increased carries were more due to Shaw getting hurt, Vincent Smith being slow and out of shape from his ACL, and Hopkins being unable to hold on to the ball.  Add that R^2 knew he was fired if he did not win 8, and of course he was going to go with his best RB(DR).  When R^2 had a decent running back, the QB averaged 10-15 carries a game. 

So you're upset that Borges says he'll do something you feel Rodriguez would have done anyway?

J. Lichty

August 11th, 2011 at 11:18 AM ^

His track record shows far more adaptability than RR's.  Also, Borges has has successful short stints at many different programs which means that he has had to adapt to the personnel at those places rather than being able to build his own offensive program.

I like what I am hearing from Borges and I think his offense will be far more multiple than RR's.  RR made very good adjustments as well documented through picture pages here, but don't sell Borges short.  He wants to win.

I think what we can see is where a couple of those extra scholarships will be coming from for 2012.  Not all of the non-senior running backs on the roster will still be there next year.  I think that either or both Cox and Touissant will not be on the team next year.  I think there is a role for Smith as a change of pace, Jeremy Jackson type back, but if he is not used in that vain, he also could be gone.  I think that Shaw and Hopkins (with Rawls being the wild card) are most likely to get the bulk of the carries.

Dont know that Shaw can be an every down type of back that Borges is looking for.  He does not break tackles, but he is very good in the open field and when healthy hits the holes very well.  Decent receiver as well.  Shaw's upside is Wheatly type.  Burst and gone or stopped at the line, but right now his best comp is probably Carlos Brown.

Cox is a tremendous athlete with great balance, speed and size and he has the potential to win the job with the upside of A-Train.  I think if his mind is there, he could be the most complete back of any on the roster. Toussaint is similar, and it all depends on whether his speed has returned.

Hayes will be redshirted.



Blue boy johnson

August 11th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

Borges' priority one two and three for Denrad is simple, don't turn the damn ball over. Denard is a big play waiting to happen with his arm and with his feet. If he takes care of the football like he does his dreds, he will be an AA from AA.

Mr. Yost

August 11th, 2011 at 10:35 AM ^

He always says he wants one guy...but he coaches Ronnie Brown (Mike Cox), Cadillac Williams (Michael Shaw) and Brandon Jacobs (Stephan Hopkins)...AT THE SAME TIME!