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 2:29 PM ^

Northwestern's defensive coordinator might as well be somewhere tropical soaking up the ray this week because the previous two defenses already did all his work, and apparently Borges is just going to stay the coarse with what he's got going.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:56 PM ^

NW's DC is actually a former player for Michigan




Before position meetings, the defense meets as a unit. Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz asks the group, "When you look at Ohio State, what comes to mind?"

"Big plays," the players answer. Ohio State already has 28 plays of 20 yards or longer.

Hankwitz expects Ohio State to provide opportunities for takeaways, a strength of Northwestern's defense, which has 10 interceptions and a fumble recovery through the first four games. The Wildcats' defensive line is especially adept at tipping passes, which could come in handy against Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller, who has a tendency to throw sidearm.

Hankwitz mentions the dropped interception by Wisconsin near the end of the first half against Ohio State, and how the Buckeyes struck for a 40-yard touchdown on the next play.

"You've got to take advantage," he says. "Get yourself in position. Make 'em earn every f---ing thing they get. Yeah, they're Ohio State. I don't see a big red 'S' on their chest. Go be their f---ing Kryptonite."

The base game plan is in, and they'll work on zone pressures at the walk-through later in the morning.

"When I play the scarlet and gray, the adrenaline level goes up to there!" shouts Hankwitz, who played for Bo Schembechler at Michigan. "Let's go!"



November 13th, 2013 at 2:33 PM ^

"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."

When the fuck has anything seemed to have had "a chance" with regards to MANBALL failing miserably against both good teams and terrible teams?!!?!?!?!?!????


November 13th, 2013 at 4:50 PM ^

At least he's laid out his cards on the table:

He's officially done adapting to his players.  It's year three and Manball shall be run come hell or high water.  We've wasted enough time on detours, in his mind.  Learning trumps winning at this point.

As a fan, I can actually take some comfort in this.  At least I know what's going on even if I don't like it.  Once you realize they've written this season off, their actions don't look as much like total madness. 

Every game is now a glorified Spring Game, but instead of the Ohio State Lacrosse team in the Big House, we'll get the Ohio State football team.
Free admission, right?


November 13th, 2013 at 8:48 PM ^

You're absolutely right: What you see is what you get here. That's why I liked this presser. He said, that's it. We're doing what we want to do with this program. Because we have to adjust. Is that frustrating when we all want to win RITE MEOW!!!! Yes. Of course. But will it be just as frustrating if, in two-ish years, we are winning a B1G Championship? People forget that Hoke's record at Ball State went down before it skyrocketed.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:41 PM ^

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

“Right now we’re struggling to pass protect and run the ball..."

what's left - if you can't run or pass?  I wish he would take more accountability and stop the arrogant response to his lousy playcalling.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:43 PM ^

So let me ser if I understand you coorrectly. We weren't running your system with your players in 2011 but finished 11-2. Then we started implementing your system and players last year, and finished 8-5. Now we're seeing more of your system and your players, and are staring 6-6 right in the face. Do I have that about right?

Sten Carlson

November 13th, 2013 at 3:48 PM ^

False argument, sorry.  Did  you read what Borges said?

Michigan wasn't running the system they've installed in '13 this season in '11, as you said.  However, Borges specifically said that they are "2 years behind" because they expressly weren't implementing his system in '12.  Further, this idea of "his players" for the '11 recruiting class is a huge stretch.  Not only was the '11 class messed up by the coaching hire, but there were only 6 offensive players in that class: 2 OLinemen, one of whom isn't on the roster (Posada) and the other who played a bit, but has been hurt most of his career (Bryant); 1 QB (Bellomy), 2 RB's (Hayes and Rawls), neither of whom have done much, and 1 TE (Barnett) who isn't on the roster either.  All in all, not really any significant contributors on offense.

Basically, you can look at the '12 class as the first "real" class of "Hoke & Co's guys."  Those kids from the '12 class are RS Fr./So. and they include contributors like Funchess, Kalis, Norfleet, Williams, and Chesson.  But, read wha the man said.  Installing a new offense with young kids at many positions leads to "growing pains."

Not to hard to figure out.


November 13th, 2013 at 7:10 PM ^

They anchored Denard in the pocket vs ND and tried lining him up under center. Those are at least the beginnings of what Borges wishes to do. I'd even argue that the game plan vs MSU in 2011 was glimpse into what Borges wanted to do. Thankfully he realized that was not going to work and instead embraced what Denard had to offer.

Sten Carlson

November 13th, 2013 at 10:12 PM ^

Maybe the beginnings, sure. But the ND Denard plan was to try to see if Denard could become more of a pocket pass AND a lethal runner. Because if he could have been, his overall lethality would have doubled. Then as now, MSU exposed the formula to beat Denard, and ND's elite defense was sure to do everything they could to copy that scheme. Didn't go over well, and they basically scrapped that -- 5 INT's can have that effect.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:50 PM ^

The problem is, even if we're technically in the first-year of a transition to Borges-ball (something I don't believe, as they've been at least half-and-half in prior years), the team's been historically awful the last two weeks. That's a lot more than just the expected transition bumps. This team can't do ANYTHING well right now.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:51 PM ^

Good to see he at least let Heiko ask more questions than other reporters, and answered with basically "yes I understand constraint theory; we keep derping the constraints."

There's still a massive problem here in that they shouldn't be derping so damn much. And he's seemingly forgetting all the times Nebraska stuffed the box against his obvious run formations and he ran into that.

Ron Utah

November 13th, 2013 at 4:01 PM ^

You have basically summed-up my view of AB this season: he knows what we need to do, but he can't get his players to do it.  That is ultimately his responsibility.

The guy understands constraints, but can't seem to coach his players to get it done.  AND he is happy to set-up his constraints by burning downs...I do not like that.

Sten Carlson

November 13th, 2013 at 4:14 PM ^

The question, IMO, is "what will the offense look like like when the players ARE able to execute the counter-punch plays?"

The OC calls a play that will in turn set up other plays going forward, but if that first play fails, you're kinda stuck because now you have to use ANOTHER set-up play, and if that play fails...

To me, this is where Michigan is right now.  The OL, and to some extent the QB and RB, cannot set up the defense for the counter punches, and they cannot really run the set-up plays all that well either.  Is that "on the coaches" as so many in here continually say.  Sure, but it's also "on the players."  So again, what will this offense look like when it can run the set up plays well, AND the counter-punch plays well?  We know what it looks like when they can run neither, and it ain't pretty.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 14th, 2013 at 8:00 AM ^

I'm afraid that's not the question at all. The question is can this coaching staff ever develop the talent sufficiently enough so that they will be able to run said plays effectively?

If your answer to that is yes, I have to disagree with you. This offensive staff has shown over three seasons that they ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT develop talent. Every single position group (with the exception of WR) has regressed considerably since their arrival.

This staff took an offence that had been developed under the previous staff to an 11-2 record. Since then it has been steadily down hill. The promise was improvement (which the previous staff showed in each year, yet still got canned, not that I wanted them to stay) and we have had three solid years of going backwards with no indication heads will roll.

Our QB played better in a year where he practiced more often at WR. He spent the offseason attending camps and being coached by QB guru's. The praise was universal. The talk was potential heisman and leaving early. Then he gets back with his QB coach, our very own AB, and the regression commences again.

O-line? Same story. No development whatsoever. Tons of talent and yet none of it playing to it's potential. If it was one or two guys, that would be different, but it is absolutely everyone. If the fifth year seniors, one of whom is a sure top ten pick, look lost at times that's on how they're being coached.

Go through the positions and none are showing development except maybe WR. If one kid fails you blame the student. A whole class of kids fail you blame the teacher.

Here at UM Al's job isn't just to sit in a booth and call plays, he has other responsibilities like developing our QB's, scouting defences, and hiring and monitoring/evaluating assistants. One might be able to argue that from a play calling perspective he is doing alright (I wouldn't agree, but others might) but he is failing miserably at his other obligations.

If we have to wait for the time that this offence runs properly with this same staff...we are all going to be waiting a long LONG time.


November 13th, 2013 at 5:38 PM ^

Seems plausible,but isn't it the case that Borges isnt calling the "counter-punch" play in the obvious situations to do so (based on defensive play call anyway).  It's not like he is calling the counter-punch, which would've worked RPS-wise, but the players just didn't execute it.  They aren't executing most plays that well, regardless of the RPS. 




November 13th, 2013 at 2:52 PM ^

You know football isn't that complicated Al, they show 8 guys in the box, you put your 5 OL down, a TE, two backs that's 7 vs 8 if they all blitz. Then you got 3 vs 3 man on man recievers. 

Bring in another blocking TE and use two backs that are willing to block. You can't have Fitz block two LB every play. Right now it's 8 vs 5 since Fitz can't block. 3 D guys are free in the box every play.


November 13th, 2013 at 3:32 PM ^

"Bring in another blocking TE..."

I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that there was one blocking TE on the roster, let alone another!

(Also, there's a whole discussion on the board about how going max protect might not be a good idea, which I thought on the face sounded crazy, but was actually really interesting and kind of changed my mind about it.)


November 13th, 2013 at 2:53 PM ^

Why not ask some form of the Brian vs spacecoyote debate? Like "How much of the execution problem is that the players are not being put in a position to succeed or not preparing them properly?" I wouldn't expect an illuminating answer, but it's not like we're getting that anyway.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:53 PM ^

How are defenses reacting to the plays that do work?

“Well the good defensive coaches put the fire out quickly. They stop the bleeding.


DT76 Followup - And good offensive coaches start new fires.


November 13th, 2013 at 2:57 PM ^

I remember when Threet got hurt in 08 and every time Sheridan went back to pass it was either intercepted or incomplete (except Minnesota obviously which is the only reason i am still watching because anything can happen i guess).   I was like, "WILDCAT!! Direct snaps to Brandon Minor every play please!"  Why would you continue to run plays that have no chance?  I don't get it.  Al lines them up under center in third and long and goes play action - again?  Have a nice face full of helmet Devin, compliments of Al.


November 13th, 2013 at 3:08 PM ^

especially how I felt about our propects in Columbus. Those feelings of being totally fucked are front and center. (And that year, except for the 3-3-5 Purdue experience, we actually had a defense.)

Now, can anybody explain how we have way more talent now, and seem equally as fucked?

Fort Wayne Blue

November 13th, 2013 at 3:09 PM ^

I feel like the "everbody knows what everybody else is doing" is a little ingenious at this point. Everybody knows what Michigan is doing with formations and personal grouping is because they only 1 run play out of a particular formation. Its not just that one of the options for an under center 2nd and long play is going to be a play option pass, its that they only run a play action pass from under the center in 2nd and Long plays.

Borges is not making the defense guess from a series of plays what they're going to do. He's pretty much narrowed it down for them......


November 13th, 2013 at 3:11 PM ^

Heiko, you should have asked at the end if he was going to add more Bubble Screens to his playcalling.  Or maybe save that one.........I know what he is going to say, but I still find his answers on that subject entertaining. 


November 13th, 2013 at 3:16 PM ^

they are two years behind from where they want to be. Assuming his time table is reasonably accurate (my guess he is off by a couple of years) you can kiss next and probably the season after that good bye.

Mediocrity will rein in the Michigan program for a few years.


November 13th, 2013 at 5:02 PM ^

This is all Devin's "fault" (credit).  Borges did not feel Denard could run his system at all, so why try?  He did feel that Devin could run it, and so Year three was time for Manball  He was done adapting to his players.  

What's frustrating is that you just know he could call a pretty good game to take advantage of DG's strenghts, but after 2 years of Denard, he's fed up with that approach. 

Sons of Louis Elbel

November 13th, 2013 at 3:17 PM ^

I wish someone had asked him why we even have an RB on the field, given that they're struggling to get 1 ypc and can't pass block, either. Go 4 wides, empty backfield, Gardner in shotgun. Can't be any worse...