Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-12-13: Al Borges Comment Count

Heiko November 13th, 2013 at 2:12 PM


“Fire away. Come on.”

Do you ever get to the point where you start beating your head against a wall?

“Oh yeah. Sometimes I do. I think everybody does with their job at one point in time. I’ve never had two back-to-back games playing so poorly. So yeah, absolutely. The one thing that you always have to do in my position is maintain your perspective and understand what you have to do to get better. This is – if you want to change the situation, change your attitude. Yeah, you might beat your head against the wall a little bit, but you can’t keep beating your head against the wall, because there’s another game to play …

“I don’t remember playing two [bad games] back to back. It’s bound to happen I guess at one point in time. WE have to think about what we’re doing next, not what happened last week. We have to fix what we do next by what happened last week as a reference.”

What’s the number one challenge you need to address?

“Right now we’re struggling to pass protect and run the ball. They go hand in hand. If you can’t run the football and you’re dealing with as many long down and distances as we are, it’s sharks in the water. You run into some issues. Any time we haven’t played well, any time we’ve struggled, it’s because it’s second and 12, second and 20, for whatever reason. You start looking at your play call sheet and go, ‘What do I call next?’ There aren’t a lot of third and 24 calls that are good calls.”

Do you find other teams using Michigan State’s defensive approach against you?

“To a degree. If you look back at our games, Indiana sent a lot of the same stuff we’re seeing in this game. The barrel crosses through the middle of the defense, the outside stuff. This isn’t a completely novel concept. If we don’t handle it, you know, then you just ask for more of it. And it shows up more. I guess, to a degree, yes, but it’s not like this is new. This has been really the whole season.”

MGoQuestion: Is it too late in the season to make more personnel changes?

“Well we’ve made so many. If we just keep changing, then you have new guys making new mistakes. Rather than guys that you think give you the best chance you have to win growing. You can change everybody, but it’s a recipe for disaster. We’ve done enough of that. We have to allow our football team to grow. With that, some growing pains. That’s just the way it is.”

MGoFollowup: For the interior offensive line specifically, you have four games worth of film on one group, two on another group, and three on this current group. Can you throw all that together and come up with the best personnel now that they’ve been given equal opportunity to prove themselves?

“Yeah. Pretty much. Yeah. We just judge who we think gives us the best chance to win, and that’s who’s going to play.”

MGoFollowup: Does that mean you’re going to stick to the current group?

“Yeah. Pretty much. Yeah. Until something changes. Injury or something changes in our evaluation. It’s always fluid.”

Can other guys have more of an advanced role though?

“That’s possible. Absolutely. Again, the flow of the game determines some of that sometimes. You have really good intentions sometimes, and sometimes the flow of the game doesn’t allow it, so we’re very noncommittal. We have people whose roles could increase, so we’ll see how that goes.”

How are defenses reacting to the plays that do work?

“Well the good defensive coaches put the fire out quickly. They stop the bleeding. If you hit them with something, generally there will be some type of thing done to overcompensate for that. What you need to do is be able to execute the counterpunch for that. That’s something that’s been an issue. We’ve seen some deals and we go back to the counterpunch, and because of our inability to execute the counterpunch, that puts us in bad down and distance situations. Everything we do, we document. Everything they do, we document. Hopefully you have a counterpunch to it, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t make any difference what your schematic is. If you can’t execute, it’s completely irrelevant.”

Is there a sense that you have the right personnel, but they’re not ready to run your system now?

“I don’t think there’s any question we have the guys here to run any system we want. But there’s a transitional phase now. We’re two years behind, really because we didn’t do it at the beginning. We have to start doing what we want to do. With that comes some growing pains, but at times it really looks like it’s got a chance. Also we tried to expand a little bit just so we could not be completely dependent on that. We’ve done that the last three or four games. We’ve got a direction we want to go, and that’s where we’re going to. When it does take, this program will be where we want it to be.”

So even though you’re struggling, you have to stay the course?

“Oh to a degree, otherwise you’re going nowhere. Particularly when you haven’t been doing it. Now, if you’ve done this from day one and you’re in this situation, you’re going to have to do some re-evaluating. But really this is the first year in its completion that we really got into some of the stuff that we plan on doing in the future. We’re still recruiting to those needs, too. That’s kind of the way it is right now. It’s tough. That’s tough for everybody.”

You anticipated growing pains, but have they been more significant than you anticipated?

“Yeah, this far into the season I thought that we would be a little … But like I said at times we’ve shown some real brilliance. I look back, and we’re always evaluating the tapes and looking at what we’re doing from the self-scout perspective, and I say, ‘Gad dog, we’re good at that!’ Our biggest thing is our consistency of play. A lot of ten-man football, a lot of turning guys loose or not being able to block them or missing a throw here or dropping a pass. So often it’s just not one guy. It’s more than one guy. It’s always. From my own perspective, not calling the perfect play, not giving them every play. It’s a joint effort when it works, it’s a join effort when it doesn’t. That’s just the way football is. It’s the ultimate team game.”

Do you think the interceptions early in the year have gotten into Devin’s head and making him unwilling to take as many risks?

“Oh yeah. And it’s an ongoing dilemma. At the end of the day, I’d rather he didn’t throw the picks. But we’ve got to find that delicate balance, where ‘Hey, you can still throw the ball away and not throw an interception.’ No, it’s been a great growing process for him. It’s been hard. It’s been hard for all of us. But this kid’s going to be a hell of a quarterback. I really believe that with all of my heart. He has the skills. He just needs to shore up his game. He knows where his deficiencies are. He’s a very coachable kid. In time we’re going to reap the benefits of a great football player, because he certainly has the skill set.”

What do you do when you realize you can’t pass protect or run the ball?

“Well, first of all you don’t mentally or strategically punt. You look at ‘How can that get better?’ Maybe it means simplify your run game, maybe it means throwing the ball quicker. We look at all of these options. We have to give him chances where the line doesn’t have to hold up forever, where we don’t have 20 runs, which we never really have anyway. Having to block a lot of different looks with a lot of different runs. All those things. We’re just trying to be as concise as we can in remedying this issue. Our experience helps in that. How we practice, how we go about all that, it’s going to be critical. And our mindset going into the game. All those things I think are a factor.”

MGoQuestion: Do you think lack of execution has made your play calling more predictable? One of the Nebraska players said he knew what the offense was doing the entire time.

“Yeah, part of that is post-game posturing. I heard that. Everyone’s got tendencies, but to say you’re calling out every play. I watched the tape. They’re not doing that, I promise you. I’d take that with a grain of salt. I’ve heard that twice now since we’ve been here. I could easily after several games say the same thing. I might be accurate, I might not be.”

MGoFollowup: Brady said the predictability thing was overblown, too, and that most offenses have elements that are predictable –

“Like I said, there might be a tendency, but I promise you they’re not calling every play. Because if they are, they were in bad positions on some of them, too. I would not take that too seriously.”

MGoFollowup: But is there something you can do as a play caller that goes above and beyond that normal level of predictability/unpredictability to help your players execute better?

“Oh yeah. All the time. We try to do that as much as we can. We run as many as 40 different looks at the defense in certain games. The biggest thing you’ve got to understand is it’s not about that, okay? That’s part of it. It’s about execution. Your ability to create successful plays that forces the defense to over-defend certain plays to run other plays. And we have not been very good that way, obviously.”



November 13th, 2013 at 5:08 PM ^

So if Al is fired, what are the real chances of the next OC being an improvement? Hoke likes what he likes, he's a meat and potatoes guy. You will probably just be reading about how the next offense Al is on is doing great just like Gerg. The problems of this team run much deeper than Al- they are in every facet of the team.


November 13th, 2013 at 4:24 PM ^

I think Borges has been horrible this year. Here is why:

1) It doesn't appear he knows how to make any in game adjustments.

2)  He keeps blaming the blocking, but he is part of the issue. You can't keep shuffling guys in and out on the offensive line and expect them to start playing great all of a sudden. They need stability and good coaching. Also you got to help the blockers out when they are facing constant pressure by running screens, draws and quick passes. He calls those plays once in a game and then is done with them.

3) He has been predictable. There were at least 5 plays in the last game where Chris Spielman knew what Michigan offense was going to do just by their formation. If Chris Spielman knows what play it is then Nebraska coaches know that also.

4) Borges specialty coming into Michigan was supposed to be Quarterback development. Well since he has been here the qb's are getting worse. Denard not only didn't take a step forward with his passing in the two years he was under Borges, but he may have actually taken a step or two back. Devin was a better qb directly after he was a wide receiver then he is now with a full year of coaching from Borges.  


November 14th, 2013 at 8:01 AM ^

I agree the formations are predictable. He needs to implement some motions, exchanges and trades to disguise the formation. Get the LB and safeties moving around and out of position, thus getting more blockers in positions and catching the LBs and safeties in broken coverage. Just a thought…


November 13th, 2013 at 4:32 PM ^

This presser made a lot more sense than I expected.  I get that they had to implement their offense at some point.  I also get that if the team can't run OR block, there's not a lot you can do.  And honestly, the suggestions on MGoBlog are completely contradictory -- some people are saying he's mixing up the plays and personnel too quickly, others are saying he's not doing enough.  Well, it can't be both.  Space Coyote did have that long diary where he noted Nebraska wasn't in position to shut down the inverted veer, so Borges' argument that they didn't predict every play has merit.

That said, I still agree that "putting the players in a position to succeed" is the coaches' responsibility, and at times Borges seems to leave a lot of yards on the field.  That PSU was able to do the most basic data analysis and find that Borges calls runs on like 90% of first down and roll out four DTs -- absolutely no excuse.  That he won't call a bubble screen -- hell, reduce it to a two-man long handoff -- to save his life, I find his justifications more arrogant and stubborn than reasonable.  If the team IS struggling, and damn you've got a QB with a rocket arm in DG and a shifty receiver like Gallon with a CB playing off him, well the line can implode but if Gardner throws immediately out of so much as a pistol formation the blitz is basically asking for a roughing-the-QB penalty.  The ball's in Gallon's hands and there's nobody within five yards, and -- here's the biggest point -- the young offensive line can still try to practice their blocking in a real game.  It's not just the 6-8 free yards.  The linemen are now allowed the luxury of screwing up because you just put the ball in the hands of a senior receiver in space.  This is not some magic play, but it's a play that can be run any time the corner cheats off the receiver to shut down the obvious run call.  Hell, forget the screen; it can be a simple check if DG simply counts more defenders in the box than blockers.  The guy's got a college degree; he can be trusted to count.

I guess the whole thing is that Borges is a big-picture guy, and fine we do need someone who can see the big picture (I think that was RichRod's biggest weakness), but this is a team that needs the pennies.  Like, NOW.  It's like giving stock tips to someone living out of a car.  Yeah it can all make sense but you can't blame a guy for "not executing" when he's nowhere near in a position to follow your oh-so-brilliant advice.  You've got to get the guy out of the gutter before thinking about turning millions into billions.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:20 PM ^

"Do you ever get to the point where you start beating your head against a wall?"

How is that a question? "Hey, Al, do you sometime get a serious case of the Mondays?"


November 13th, 2013 at 2:28 PM ^

Was it a question about playcalling?  Was it meant to ask whether he ever reaches a point of despair?  Was it a question about whether he engages in self-harm as a means of emotional release?  I don't know.   

His Dudeness

November 13th, 2013 at 2:34 PM ^

Hey Al, do you ever get mad when you open the foil on a new jar of peanut butter and the foil rips and then you have to pick off all the little peices? Or are you one of those guys that just says "Fuck it" and lets that foil just sit there getting your hands all peanut buttery when you get to the end of the jar?


matty blue

November 13th, 2013 at 3:43 PM ^

of course football is all about emotion. it's also all about preparation, and maintaining composure, and talent, and blah blah blah.

this notion that any of us can tell one damn thing about what happens in the locker room or in the film room or on the sideline by what happens in a press conference is completely idiotic.  if we were winning people would be talking about how great it is that our coaches are always so even-keeled.


November 13th, 2013 at 4:27 PM ^

Many of the truths in life are tiresome. How do we spank ND and then almost choke away Akron and UConn?

Same players. Same plays. The difference is motivation.

This is my 7th year of youth football coaching and on game day it's all about emotion to win the little battles. The other team didn't practice or prep any more than we did.


November 13th, 2013 at 5:14 PM ^

What you think coaching a 15 year old is that fundamentally different from an 18 year old? 

Like the 18 year old goes to campus and immediately gets laser like focus and full adult maturity? Doesn't need motivation from the coaches or other players? 

From your reply, it looks like you need some maturation yourself.




November 13th, 2013 at 4:34 PM ^

Yes it does, if a level is a mean then if you have 100% of the mean then you are average. 110% is ten percent more than average. 1000% is ten times the average. 

% is just a designator that indicates x 100. If I have 100k capacity in a stadium but my attendance is 105k don't I have 105% of capacity?



November 13th, 2013 at 5:05 PM ^

I don't think you know how percents work. "...if a level is a mean then you have 100% of the mean then you are average." What? 100% isn't the mean, it is by definition the maximum.

These reminds me of a Colbert Report interview with a guy trying to get the Large Hadron Collider shut down because there was a 50% chance of it creating a black hole, either it was going to happen or it wasn't.


November 14th, 2013 at 2:50 PM ^

Fuses are rated for a certain load or current.  That rating is based on a constant current, however, can withstand a load greater than the rated load for a short duration.  This is what he is stating by the component withstood a load of 300%, he just forgot to add in that there is a time constant.

I suppose this could be related to sports.  I can set my 100% speed at a 8 mph run, and say I was at 200% speed cause I was sprinting, although for only 40 meters. Sounds stupid. 

I regret having typed this. 


November 13th, 2013 at 10:07 PM ^

If a player has to depend upon a coach to get him fired up on game day, they have likely already lost those battles. The impact of pre-game speeches are way  over stated in my opinion. Kids will play much harder for a coach they love, respect and don't want to disappoint than a coach who is all about showing his fire.


November 13th, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

Do you ever stick toothpicks down under your fingernails, peircing the underskin and just leave them there bleeding until it hurts so bad you can't stand it and then jam them in further until your screaming in agony and then take a metal pipe and bash it on your head until it bends and breaks and you are all blood and rolling in pain on the floor in a pool of blood and spit and shit?!?!?

Follow up - Does it hurt?

The Iron Jock

November 13th, 2013 at 8:03 PM ^

Calling 27 runs by Fitz for 27 yards against Penn State was the definition of Al beating his head against the wall. 

He didn't answer any of these questions. He's not going to just come out and say, "I'm calling the plays I want to call because this is the type of offense I want to run regardless of whether the kids can run the plays or not so everyone just shut up and let me call the plays I want now!" 

He's not saying that, but that's what he's doing and it's gutting Michigan's football program.

By the way, why didn't Denard and Devin see the field at the same time in the second half last year in Columbus? I'm waiting.




November 13th, 2013 at 2:23 PM ^

 "If you can’t run the football and you’re dealing with as many long down and distances." 

Al, you CAN'T run the ball, it's overwhelmingly obvious.  You end up with long down and distances because you continue to try and do something that is not working.

Is anyone willing to go through the past 7 press conferences and count how many times the word "execute" has been used?