Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-12-13: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on 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 2:22 PM ^

Borges sure seems to be saying the right things, that he needs counter-punches and that the team needs to execute them, and that he's not doing all the right things.

So... if he sees the problem, what is he going to do to fix it? (Not that he should tell the media or broadcast the Northwestern gameplan...)


November 13th, 2013 at 2:24 PM ^

I find it believable that their defensive ccordinator knew what we were going to run, because I'm not a defensive coordinator and I knew exactly what we were going to run >60% of the time.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:40 PM ^

It's called scouting / watching tapes.

Kids in school aren't going to learn 10 new plays a week and execute them correctly. 

So what ever is on tape is 90% of what you'll see. Then you run a scout squad running the same plays against your D. 

So yah, most smart D players know pretty much what is coming. You have a pretty good guess.

But if the O blocks and executes well it doesn't matter. Good running teams run you over even if you know it's coming.

In the past Michigan was known for prefect execution mistake free football. Bo, Mo, Carr would go crazy on missed blocks and turnovers.

I think those expectations are a bit weak for this coaching staff and that's the missing part. Call it grit, heart, will to dominate the leadership and expectations aren't there.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:47 PM ^

If you run several different plays out of the same look/formation, then yeah they will have seen it on tape, but they can't predetermine which play is forthcoming. Our problem is that we have about 40 different formations and one or two plays per set. Even if we execute perfectly, the defense can still have an advantage by stacking nine guys in the box when it is an obvious power play on first and second down.


November 13th, 2013 at 3:58 PM ^

This is my biggest problem with Al and the offense. Offense doesn't need to be complicated to be successful. You could have 5-10 run looks and 5-10 pass looks with 10-15 formations/motions/shifts and have over 100 "plays". West Virginia installs their offense in 3 days! You rep your responsibilities for each run/pass look to death and really it doesn't matter where you line up. Then during each week you can add counters based off of the defense you are playing and maybe a new "home run" play here or there. It's not that fucking hard. Instead Michigan has ~2-3 plays per formation with not a lot of overlap and doesn't have time to practice each one to death and thus is not really good at anyone of them.


November 13th, 2013 at 7:04 PM ^

 I Like The Way You Think BornInAA.

It's like raising kids. One parent says to the teen rebel, 'getting good grades and doing all your assignments will get you far in life'. And the kid half way listens.

The other parent says, 'No missed assignments. Not even a damn pop quiz. You miss one assignment, ever..and the cell phone is mine. The video games are mine. The only thing you will do is eat, sleep and school. Plus, I want weekly progress reports until I feel better about this. Missed assignments are the worst thing you can do in my damn house. Not having it. And then they really mean it and enact the promised punishment.

You get what you accept..


His Dudeness

November 13th, 2013 at 2:25 PM ^

Give the man a hoagie and he will eat for 2 minutes, but teach the man to make a hoagie and he will eat all of the ingredients before even making the hoagie.

That my friends, is the "thing it's really all about.'

Promote RichRod

November 13th, 2013 at 2:26 PM ^

  • it's all just execution
  • we are done trying to make personnel changes
  • we are going to stay the course scheme-wise
  • guys, you've got to understand it's all about execution.  it's not about play-calling

Promote RichRod

November 13th, 2013 at 5:40 PM ^

Ignoring the politics angle here...

I got the joke.  It wasn't complicated.  He's saying I made excuses for RR, excuses I'm now refusing to make for Hoke.  Read my posts below, that's not the case.  As a side note, he thinks I'm frustrated at Borges' excuses and that's funny because RR also made excuses for losses in his pressers and I didn't get all frustrated then.  The reality is that I'm not frustrated, I'm laughing at Borges. I've never placed much stock in presser responses.

My response to this "joke" was that I see a similar joke - that people like DahBlue clamored for change, got it, and are now pissed that the transition is having some costs and we are now watching more terrible football.  You got what you wanted, enjoy it.  Meanwhile, my investment in Michigan football is at an all-time low.  I don't even care when we lose in pathetic fashion, I just go about my day. 

It's sad that I actually have to spell these things out.  I think I'm going back into hiding for a while.


November 13th, 2013 at 3:41 PM ^

I'm actually most enjoying folks like you complaining about the coaching staff and refusing to give them the precious time to endlessly droned on about for your boy, Rich.  It was Rich's fault that the team performed poorly (and that he couldn't build the program with new players) and it's Hoke's fault that the team is performing poorly now.  The top man is always responsible, and Hoke says as much.

Me, I'm all about reality.  I was happy with the RR hire and with Hoke's hire.  I soured on Rich due to his performance (whereas you soured on Hoke because he wasn't Rich).  I'm not happy with the team's performance and, frankly, am not football-smart enough to know what the answer is.  It seems like Hoke's bringing in a ton of talented youth (whereas Rich couldn't even hold on to his commits), though I can't conceive of any excuse that justifies the rushing output (does it become "input" if it's negative?) of the last two games.  Maybe Borges needs to go?  I'm not sure (though it's not like our line is getting much more senior next year).

That's what rational people do...they attempt to use the same evaluation parameters for different people.  I'll evaluate Hoke just as I did Rich - by the team's performance.  You, PromoteRichRod, clearly are the opposite of that.

Promote RichRod

November 13th, 2013 at 3:55 PM ^

I complained about the defense in 2010 as much as anyone.  Like most people, I wanted Gerg out.  I just didn't want to fire RR - I think all HCs should get 5 years.  I think HC changes cause problems, see ND.  Guys like you called for the HC's head, endlessly, and ultimately got your way.

Fast forward to today.  I hated the Hoke hire based on, you know, results.  The problems I envisioned re: coaching change, turmoil and what I viewed as a mediocre hire at best are coming to light.  I still want to give Hoke 5 years.  Today, the offense is horrific.  I want Borges gone and I am not calling for Hoke's head.  He should get 5 years, period, to show what he can do (and how he manages staff....).

Guys like you are now only calling for the OC's head whereas 3 years ago it was a call for the HC's head. 

Who's inconsistent?



November 13th, 2013 at 4:03 PM ^

Part of the difference between RR and Hoke, is the degree to which RR meddled with the defense. He threw Shafer under the bus just to turn around and hire Robinson and force him to run a fairly esoteric defense he had no experience with. Not to mention the nepotism in the assistant ranks.

I'm sure I'm not alone in seeing the current offensive woes as a pretty significant point in Hoke's coaching tenure. Will he go the way of RR and hold on to demostrably bad coaches? Will he force the team to run schemes and plays they're clearly incapable of? Or will he clean house and/or allow for some adjustments in what the offense is trying to do?

Side note: where exactly is RR supposed to be promoted to? I mean, he was already the head coach.

Promote RichRod

November 13th, 2013 at 4:12 PM ^

the 2008 season when there were already tons of FIRE RR comments rolling into MGoBlog.  Like most, I thought this was ridiculous.  The screenname is the opposite of FIRE RR and intended to make fun of the nutcases. Today, it looks like my screename means I want to praise RR at the expense of Hoke, or something.  Or, at least that's what people commonly write under my posts before they read my join date.


November 13th, 2013 at 4:36 PM ^

between RR and Hoke was the budget constraints that forced RR to make do with second- or third-choice DC's. Either way, Shafer should have gotten three and then RR should have gotten five. And Rubinstein should never have happened, which maybe it wouldn't except for something murky, and not to UM's credit, with or without RR, going on in the background.


November 13th, 2013 at 4:30 PM ^

I'm calling for the head of Borges?  That's kinda the opposite of what I said.  I don't know what the answer is and I think it all takes evaluation.  Maybe Borges needs to go, maybe the team can begin to show some development.  

And, wait, you hated the Hoke hire based on results???  He hadn't coaches a single game here!  You can't judge results until they happen (and no, past records are not "results" upon which to judge a coach's present success).

With regard to any problems coming from the coaching change, I'm not sure there are any.  Turmoil?  The "family" has been united and recruits are lining up.  The fact that we didn't have any linemen on the roster would have affected the team regardless of coaching staff.


November 13th, 2013 at 4:34 PM ^

Yeah, it was you missing the joke.

And how can "results" be things you "envisioned?" I mean, you might have hated it on what you projected the results to be, but not on any actual results. Which come after the fact. So yeah, you based it off the fact that you made excuses for the prevous guy, ones you won't accept with the current. 

So yes, there is a difference between thinking a guy with a winning record deserves a chance on a second OC where a guy who had lost at historic levels probably wasn't going to get it right with his 3rd DC. So, it's pretty much you.

Promote RichRod

November 13th, 2013 at 5:21 PM ^

I never said I envisioned any "results." Read my post again.  The results I spoke of were related to Hoke's coaching record, which didn't make me think he was a good hire. Unlike DahBlue, I think past coaching success is pretty much the only consideration you can have when considering a new coach to hire.  How else would you evaluate? 

My whole point re: "envisioning" was I envisioned all the traditional problems that come with coaching changes after letting a guy go after 3 years.  Turmoil such as changing schemes, having a bunch of spread guys to run manball, trying to stitch together a recruiting class in like 2 weeks in 2011, and everything else that comes with it.  Like what we are seeing now.

The "excuses I made for the prior guy" are precisely the same excuses I'm now making for Hoke.  We are likely to finish close to RR's 2010 record.  The trend is downward.  We are seeing a terrible product on the field and badly regressing and I still want Hoke to have at least 5 full years.  RR's problem was Gerg and I wanted him to take care of it.  Hoke's probelm is Borges and I want him to take care of it.  In both cases I want the HC to remain in place for 5 years mnimum.

Got it now?  I can't make it any clearer for you.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:27 PM ^

Your ability to create successful plays that forces the defense to over-defend certain plays

This is the part that worries me most about Al, long term. His philosophy has always seemed to be so good at your base that you force the defenses to be unsound, then take advantage of it (think Stanford v Oregon). I don't see Michigan getting to that point anytime soon, we'll need to do the opposite, i.e. take advantage of the inherent weaknesses of the base defense first, but that doesn't seem to be something he's very good at.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:59 PM ^

It's a fine philosophy to have; constrain your way into a battle you know you can win regularly, and punish the defense if they start to try to cheat. But in that scenario, if there isn't a battle you can win regularly, NOTHING will work.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:27 PM ^

"We run as many as 40 different looks at the defense in certain games. "

This seems to be the problem - if every play has its own look, then you have an easy time figuring out what the play is. He thinks his weakness is a strength.


November 13th, 2013 at 5:02 PM ^

Everybody is saying the playcalling is predictable- then prove it. Call the plays online before they are ran during the next game. My guess is that you will not be that successful when it comes to details. I am not sure how predictable Al's plays are. Even running plays up the center can be done many ways. The easiest thing an OC can do is call different plays so I doubt Al is failing THAT badly at doing this. The fan focus on predictability may really be a way of avoiding a scarier issue- that it doesn't matter which play is called because the line can't block and the backfield won't block. This is much harder to fix- so blame the playcalling.


November 13th, 2013 at 8:50 PM ^

it often doesn't matter if the D knows exactly which play is called.  if they blitz every down and maintain their lanes, it doesn't matter which run play Al calls.  it will fail.  it doesn't matter which long-developing routes Al calls, DG will get pressured/sacked.  the point is Al doesn't call many plays to punish those blitzes.


November 13th, 2013 at 10:36 PM ^

40 looks once analyzed become easily predictable for a defense to contend with, and we don't adopt those looks on the field at speed, so defensive calls can be made.

Getting to 40 looks in practice potentially becomes problematic for an offense to absorb and execute smoothly, especially if the players are young.