Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-8-12: Al Borges Comment Count

Heiko August 9th, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Al Borges

Opening remarks:

"Okay. Who’s going to break the ice?"

With Fitz out for a while, how quickly will you be able to identify your next No. 1 RB?

“Well we’re just going to the next guy. We’re not really changing anything. Thomas Rawls is going to be that next guy. Vince is going to do what he’s done, and on we go. I think the key to these situations from a game plan perspective is to try to make as little out of it, to make it as seamless as you can, and just go.”

What can you glean from the first few practices?

“Not much. I mean, what do you see? They’re just running around in shorts. Until somebody’s going to hit somebody and somebody’s going to do something, it’s really just kind of glorified aerobics in a lot of ways. I hate to put it that way, but you know, we have a few kids run pretty good. We’ll learn more today because we’re in half pads and we’ll learn even more towards the end of the week. To make any hard and fast assessments of where we are is really hard to do right now. It is. I’m not copping out, I’m just telling you this. We know more about the offense, but we kind of knew that before we even lined up. That part is better.”

Does that mean Vince is just a third down guy?

“No. Not necessarily. Vince is going to pretty much play the same role as he did a year ago, and that wasn’t always on third down. So he was in there sometimes to spell backs, and we’ll just see how it shakes out, but Thomas is going to get a good chance, and Vince is going to get a good chance. Justice Hayes is in the fold, too. So we’ll kind of see, and again these next few days -- not few days, but really this next week or so, when we start and the full contact takes hold, we’ll learn more about that situation.”

Have you talked much to Fitz?

“A little bit. As much as I ever do, ya know. ‘Hi Fitz, what’s going on, how ya feelin.’ Yeah, I mean. I talk to all offensive players at one time or another. But yeah, that’s about it.”

You’ve been around Rawls. What do you like about his style and what he brings to the table?

“He’s reckless. He runs with a demeanor that’s aggressive. Suffice to say, aggressive would be the best word -- he looks like he’s mad when he runs sometimes. But he’s a tough guy, and if you hit him you’re going to feel him, I promise you that. You are going to feel him, because there’s times when he’s just simply not interested in avoiding you.”

In your offense, how do you choose where to place your X and Z receivers? Does it make a difference?

“Yeah, it does make a difference, but optimal thing is you’d like to have a guy that plays the position. But the X receiver tends to draw a little more single coverage depending on the team. Some teams that’s not true, and he’s on the line of scrimmage most of the time, so he’s going to draw tighter press coverage, too, whereas the flanker’s not going to draw quite as much tight coverage. The X is a guy that’s got to be kind of rangy because he’s got to be able to get some jump balls. The Z does sometimes, too. The Z’s got to be a guy that moves around a lot more. He’s going to be in more formations than the X is, so he’s got to be on the ball with regard to that. But the skill set in terms of being able to catch, run, and jump, it’s very similar. But once we get them there we try and kind of fit the guys that look like they can handle those things I talked about better.”

What role do you envision Jeremy Gallon to be in?

“Pretty much more the same, with a little bit more seasoning, if that makes any sense. He’s a tough guy. He plays much bigger than his size. You just don’t see a lot of guys his height that can go up and get jump balls like he does. He’s a very good blocker. But what I’d say in answer to that question is that every phase of his game should be a little better simply because of his overall understanding of what we’re trying to do. But he’s a reliable kid, and the quarterbacks have faith in his ability to go get the ball. They know they’ll get his best effort every time he goes up. I would look for him as well as Roy, who’s really [had an outstanding spring] -- both of them have taken that next step. Now I hope we get some carryover once we start playing.”

How much do you think you can use Devin at receiver?

“Well, that’s going to be a lot by game plan, but we’re developing him at two different positions, and let me tell you that’s a challenge. For a kid to be an occasional player is one thing, but to be a guy that you’re really kind of splitting time with, that’s a challenge, but we’ll just see how that shakes out. That’s still kind of in the embryonic stages. As we go, we’ll decide how much of it we’re going to use.”

Do you expect to use him more at one position or another?

“He could -- it depends. I can’t commit to that because you don’t know. At the end of the day, maybe, but we’re trying to exploit every option at this point.”

Does the decision to play Devin at wide receiver mean you have more confidence in Russell Bellomy’s ability as a backup quarterback?

“Yeah. I have more confidence in all their abilities. Any way you cut it, Russell Bellomy’s going to have to take the next step, just like we’re asking everybody else to do. So yeah. I think that’s the key point. You have to develop three quarterbacks. At this point, anyway. Now once you get into the season and you decide how you distribute all that, you’re really working just with two quarterbacks, but we have to see how this whole thing shakes out. Right now we’re still an open book, but we do have some nice options, and right now that’s all you can ask for.”

Have you consulted any other coaches who have dealt with players splitting time between two positions?

“Uh, no not really. No, I tell you what we did do when I was at UCLA is we came here when [Michigan] had Charles Woodson. We came for a spring. Just curious because we had a kid there who we were talking about doing some of that stuff with. But that was different. It was a little different because Charles was playing in a defensive and offensive position. He had this completely different deal. You have to learn two different systems. But Devin’s … in the same system. Learning, hearing the same words all the time. But I can still remember doing that.”

Have you done this with many players in the past?

“A few. A couple over the years, yeah. One time or another you’re forced to do some of that. Sometimes you’re just short on depth, particularly when I coached lower levels when you didn’t have all the scholarships, you know. You had to have some kids that were versatile, so it was through necessity.”

Any examples?

“Oh god, I don’t even remember anymore. God I’d have to walk in the room -- I don’t remember.”

How hard is it for a kid to split time?

“It’s tough because there’s not that many reps. You get X amount of reps and you have to figure out how to get them those reps without killing them. It’s hard. It’s not easy to do.”

You said you’ll see “how it shakes out.” Can you determine that by the end of fall camp?

“Well we determine it before we get to a game situation because we have a game plan, right? You have to make some hard and fast decisions before you get to game time because you have to have a plan going into the game. You can’t do that experiment. And I will say this, too: once you get into the game, it better work out at least in part how you wanted it to, or you’re gonna have to make some adjustments, but at one point in time, we have to have an idea how many reps everybody’s going to play. You know what I mean? Not just him, but everybody -- where and when and what situations. That’s part of game planning.”

Does it help Devin that he’s practicing at two positions that have to work together so closely?

“I think so. Yeah I do.”

Are Devin and Bellomy 1A and 1B?

“No, Devin’s still the second quarterback. That part of it doesn’t change.”

Any impressions of the freshman receivers?

“Eh … nah. I ain’t doin’ it. Nah. I could [say], ‘This guy’s great, that guy’s great,’ then tomorrow you put pads on and go, ‘Oh my god.’ No. Ask me in a week and I’ll probably have a better assessment.”

Does Devin’s switch to receiver show off his athleticism more?

“Yeah. Yeah, and that’s why we did it. Some quarterbacks are quarterbacks and that’s all they are. We’re fortunate in that we have really a couple good quarterbacks that can probably play [receiver] … and he’s one of those guys. You know, he’s a big guy that can run and has good hands. So I mean it’d be bad coaching if he’d be standing next to me the whole game when you have a guy who can really help us. Last year we were pretty deep at that position so it wasn’t as critical, but I think this year he can play more of a part.”

Thoughts on offensive line chemistry?

“Eh, again, it’s just so hard to call, but I know that those kids worked their butts off in the offseason. They did. And they worked together as much as they could. I think that’s something that if it’s not there now, it’s going to come because I know how important it is to those kids.”

MGoQuestion: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the deuce package, and will you consider using it again this season?

“Well I had my analyst do a -- I believe we were eight-point-something yards [per attempt]. I’m not sure exactly. I don’t have it in front of me, but it was good. And even the plays that weren’t good set up plays that were good. You know what I mean. There were guys we’d run a play that wouldn’t yield much, only to be set up by another play that did. It’s not always the play, sometimes It’s the residual effect of the initial play. So it was good. Now how much we use of it? I don’t know. That’s a game plan deal. As we get through the install and we see where we are, we’ll decide on that. But we’re not doing any of that stuff now. That’s not what we’re about right now. We’re about teaching the system and getting our valuations straight. And once we do that, then and only then will we start playing with some of the more I guess cute phases of our offense. I hate using that word. Why’d I say that.”

You mentioned starting Denard off a little too quickly with the pro-style concepts. How do you approach it this year?

“Well we have a lot better feel for what we are. You know what I mean. We knew Denard was a good spread quarterback. I mean, anybody could see that. It was a matter of how much he could do of what we’d done in the past -- because we were always going to have some of that in our offense. We decided that when we came here. We decided that when I took the job. So once we decided what percentages that was, then we could proceed accordingly. We have so much better feel for that now because we’ve been through a fall, a spring, we know basically how much we want to be of both. It’s different now. It’s different without a question.”

Can you make a determination on certain position battles -- like left guard -- by a certain date? Do you have a timetable?

“I would never put a date on it because it could change the day before the game, you know what I mean? But there is a point in time when you have to narrow the field down to how many kids you’re going to practice in scout teams. And that’ll be sometime within a couple weeks to the game -- within at least a week and a half to the game. We have not set that date yet, but at that time it’s fish or cut bait. You have to take the 18 to 20 players that you’re going to practice with every single day, then kind of go from there.”



August 9th, 2012 at 9:24 AM ^


What can you glean from the first few practices?

“Not much. I mean, what do you see? They’re just running around in shorts. Until somebody’s going to hit somebody and somebody’s going to do something, it’s really just kind of glorified aerobics in a lot of ways."

Hmmm...sounds familiar...

Anyway, I'm glad that the coaches are acknowledging the Gardner at WR thing. It's not like it would have been a surprise to Alabama if/when it happened.  He's the closest thing Michigan has to a true superstar receiver, when it comes to speed, athleticism, and size.  I don't think he's going to have 1,200 yards receiving or win the Biletnikoff or anything, but you might as well get him on the field than have him ride the bench for three years.


August 9th, 2012 at 9:31 AM ^

" It’s not always the play,  sometimes It’s the residual effect of the initial play."

Just shows how cerebral Borges is when it comes to gameplanning. One specific play that comes to mind is the goal line fullback dive. We ran that play a bunch, TB would split out wide, and Denard would give it to Hopkins for the dive. Finally, we set up the same thing, and Denard faked the handoff and ran the easiest Naked Boot touchdown.

Follow up MGoQuestion - since Borges understands the value of constraint plays and "setting up" the defense, how much has he looked into spread-concept constraint plays? Is that something he'd look to add more this year now that he and Denard are more comfortable?

(This might get a thoughtful answer as opposed to Y U NO BUBBLE SCREEN?)


August 9th, 2012 at 9:36 AM ^

Not sure why the site is freaking out. In the "reply" window I see the comment I want to reply to, but then it got put here.

Coordinators seem to like talking to people who know football

Where Hoke gets a lot of boiler-plate coach speak questions, both coordinators seem to really enjoy when they get a good football question. It's almost like a light bulb goes on saying "this questioner knows football!" and they can explain the things they like to.

They don't have to talk about toughness, want to, which rival is important, and well..... other stuff that the media laps up.


August 9th, 2012 at 12:47 PM ^

Not trying to be a jerk, but I don't think it really demonstrates that he's cerebral, it just demonstrates that he's willing to talk about actual football at a press conference, rather than just boilerplate.  Of course he understands setting up the defense--any OC that doesn't understand the value of constraint plays is going to have a tough time finding a high school coaching job.

I know everyone hates it when we say "they're the professionals, they know way more than us," but trying to glean a coach's offense chops from a press conference seems meaningless, at least to me.

All that said, I totally agree that the coordinator pressers are really fun to read, and I learn something every time.  But I think every OC in the country knows and understands the concepts he's talking about.


August 9th, 2012 at 9:52 AM ^

MgoQuestions that don't reference the bubble screen should now include the word "cute".

Ultimate question: Is the bubble screen to cute of a play?


August 9th, 2012 at 10:08 AM ^

So I mean it’d be bad coaching if he’d be standing next to me the whole game when you have a guy who can really help us.

That would be terrible coaching, particularly because Borges is in the press box during the game.


August 9th, 2012 at 10:13 AM ^

There you go again, Heiko, making Borges uncomfortable.  He used to get angry, now he gets all flustered and self-conscious like a little school-girl.  You're a helluva interrogator!


August 9th, 2012 at 10:21 AM ^

Sam and Ira were talking this morning about how Fred Jackson had said Thomas Rawls was pegged to be the #1 running back last August before the 2011 season started, until he got an injury and Toussaint took the reigns from there and never lost them.  Has this been confirmed by tea leaf readers or is this just Fred being Fred?


August 9th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

This is correct.  Rawls was at the very least getting half of the carries in early fall practice last year.  That's saying something for a true freshman.  If I remember correctly, he tweaked his back and his shoulder.

I remember telling a story over on scout about when I golfed with my Dad and a few of his buddies last summer (all connected to the program) and Rawls was brought up multiple times as having high expectations and the only RB they would have that looks like a B1G back.

This coaching staff has been in love with Rawls since the first day of pads last year.  He had/has that toughness already instilled in him.  They didn't have to show him what it meant to play tough, like they did the rest of the backs (and most of the team.)  With that being said, Fitz's durability was a huge concern last year, but he proved everyone wrong and earned that starting roll.

Do I wish we had Fitz for Bama, absolutely, but Rawls will not disappoint.

Thomas Rawls: Not interested in avoiding you


August 9th, 2012 at 12:50 PM ^

in the (very) limited action we saw from him last year, were people impressed? I kinda thought about Grady when I saw him run. I'm not knocking him, he was a true freshmen after all, and didn't get a real shot, and would love it if he was awesome. Maybe I don't knowe a good RB when I see one though


August 9th, 2012 at 1:07 PM ^

Did he ever run behind the first string Offensive line?  If I remember correctly, the majority of his carries, if not all of them were with the 2nd string O-Line in the game (a portion of that line were walk-ons). 

There's no question about it, the jury is still out on him and he hasn't proven a thing up until this point, but the expecations of him being an every down back have always been there.

Also, he has much greater agility, better footwork and top end speed than Grady did.  Rawls would have been much more highly sought after if he didn't have academic issues throughout high school. 

Yup, I'm on Rawls Jock.  Always have been! 

His Dudeness

August 9th, 2012 at 10:47 AM ^

I kind of feel like the coaching staff is doing a diservice to DG. I know they know waaaay more about football than I do, but if you are going to coach a kid who has obvious goals of making a NFL squad you should choose a position and coach him there 100%. I know it happens at QB/WR quite often, but I have always felt that way. If a kid is going to split time at positions then he isn't getting a fair shake at either position as far as being prepared is concerned. Just my opinion. We have a back-up QB in Bellomy. If you want DG at WR then by all means put him there and coach him there 100%.

Sten Carlson

August 9th, 2012 at 11:51 AM ^


I understand what you're saying, but I don't abide 100%.  I think the issue, at least right now, is really Bellomy's development.  Hopefully, by the middle of the season, Russ will have enough game experience (against UMass and possibly even AF and Purdue) to where the coaches are comfortable with him as the #2 QB.  When/if that happens -- and if DG performs well at WR -- DG will move to WR on a more permenant basis, but he's always going to a QB.

Aside from Bellomy, I think the issue is just finding a way to get an amazing athlete on the field rather than on the sidelines.  The kid has two guaranteed seasons to contribute, and he really hasn't.  Get the ball into his hands.  This isn't about preparing players for the NFL, it is about every player on the team giving the most that they can for the success of Michigan.  If there is anything that is certain about the NFL...if you can play, they will find you.  If DG becomes a game changer, regardless of the position, he'll be playing on Sundays.

I think the decision to have DG play WR is going to be lauded as one of the all-time great decisions in Michigan football history.  I think he's going to be highly productive -- initially on short screens and passes in which he gets the ball in space, but then later as a deep threat -- and will give Borges the luxury of being in the "Dual QB" formation more often.  This is really going to be a challenge for opposing defenses.  Imagine the possibilities!


August 9th, 2012 at 1:07 PM ^

Did you watch the press conference?  You can see the answer above when Borges was asked about Bellomy's position on the depth chart at QB (clearly behind Devin), but the tone was also pretty dismissive of the question, as in "Don't be silly, Devin is clearly the 2nd best QB on the team and that isn't going to change until Denard graduates."

I think the move could very well help the team, but its impact is being greatly exaggerated because of how little we actually throw the ball (leading receiver last year made 2.6 catches per game) and how many other contributors are coming back at the position.  If Devin makes 15-20 catches the experiment is a rousing success, and he will still definitely be the #2 QB this year and the starter there in 2013.


August 9th, 2012 at 1:22 PM ^

Bellomy hype overrated?  You gathered that conclusion off the press conference.  Why would Borges answer that question any other way?  You think he wants to create a mini-controversy?

If you think these coaches are telling the truth about everything in these press conferences, I have beach front property to sell you in Nebraska.

Gardner is the number 2 right now.  By the start of the B1G season, I doubt he will still be the number 2 and instead starting on the outside at WR.

Of course, barring injury to Denard up until that point.

This move has been in the works since the clock read 0:00 at the Sugar Bowl. 


August 9th, 2012 at 1:33 PM ^

I should have based my opinion on nothing but wild internet speculation and assumed conspiracy theories behind every blatant thing the coaching staff says about a guy they repeatedly inserted into games last year at quarterback (especially right after Borges talks about how successful he thinks that process was).

My mistake.

Mr. Yost

August 9th, 2012 at 3:21 PM ^

People act like split reps is going to make DG worse at QB.

You do realize that he was only getting a certain amount of reps as the #2 QB running with the #2s? He can still take all or most of the reps and practice WR when last year he would've been on the sidelines picking his ass.

Sten Carlson

August 9th, 2012 at 3:13 PM ^

@ Purple,

I watched Borges' presser -- and even rewatched that specific part before I responded -- and I didn't see anything that I would characterize as "dismissive" in his comments.

When asked: Does the decision to play Devin at wide receiver mean you have more confidence in Russell Bellomy’s ability as a backup quarterback?

Borges replied:  “Yeah....Russell Bellomy’s going to have to take the next step...So yeah. I think that’s the key point... Right now we’re still an open book, but we do have some nice options, and right now that’s all you can ask for.”

Then later, when asked: Are Devin and Bellomy 1A and 1B?

He responded:  “No, Devin’s still the second quarterback. That part of it doesn’t change.”

Listening to these comments was, in part, how I came up with my statement above -- the "key point" is as Bellomy steps up, we'll see more and more of DG at WR.   An open book means that anything can happen.  Sure, that is coach speak, and he says DG is #2, but he's certainly not being dismissive IMO.

As far as exagerating the positive effect, I think you're taking a shortsighted view of the implications.  First, it's going to give Denard another weapon, and one with whom he has a great relationship.  Second, it's going to get one of the best athletes on the team in a position to contribute.  This second aspect cannot only be measured on the stat line.  It will play out in the way in which the opposition schemes, and the overall moral of the team.  DG is a very popular player, and when he's on the field and getting excited about his role, it will only help the energy and passion with which the team plays.  It will show the younger players that a Michigan Man will do anything within his power for Michigan. 

Lastly, it has the potential to be a match up nightmare for opposing defenses.  Just think about all those 3rd down passes that ND completed to Floyd last season.  Even when  you know they're going to throw to him, it's nearly impossible to stop a 6'3" 200+ lbs. WR from catching a 4 yard toss and lunging for a first down.  Even if DG isn't dominant, he's going to have to be accounted for, and that is worth a great deal.

Funny that you call this "conspiracy theory."  It came up, people discounted it.  It continued to come up, and again people poopooed the idea as unlikely.  Even now, as the coaches have publically admitted it to be in place, it's still hasn't sunk in.  What's it going to take?


August 9th, 2012 at 3:23 PM ^

I certainly think Devin will play some at receiver.  And I think he'll play pretty well, I just think the size of his role (or that of any receiver in this offense) is being a little exaggerated (I doubt he's as a big a part of the offense as Hemingway was and he only caught 2.6 balls per game).  He's not going to be a 1,000 yard guy.

I still think there is zero chance that Russell Bellomy is ever ahead of Devin Gardner on the QB depth chart, and I think Borges's comments made it clear that he still isn't close to making that happen, even if he says nice things about Bellomy and that having three guys on the roster makes it easier to get Gardner more reps at WR.



August 9th, 2012 at 10:49 AM ^

"One time or another you’re forced to do some of that. Sometimes you’re just short on depth, particularly when I coached lower levels when you didn’t have all the scholarships, you know." - Borges, talking having players in the past who split time between positions

This sort of underscores what a luxury it is to have talent like this, especially when you don't necessarily have to do use a player in another spot but instead experiment with it because you simply can (and because Gardner happens to have the build and speed to be a legitimate deep threat at receiver, I would say). Borges alluded to it in the question right before this one, but it does make me think about how fortunate we were to have someone as versatile as Woodson too.


August 9th, 2012 at 11:42 AM ^

I'm still very hopeful that Devin gets a full year in at QB next year as Shane redshirts. That way we could let our local five star have a chance and let Shane do what normal star freshmen should do. The future is very bright at QB.