In Defense of Al Borges

Submitted by FrankMurphy on September 2nd, 2012 at 3:22 AM

[EDIT: Mods, can you fix the formatting of this thread?]

I have been one of Al Borges' biggest advocates on this board since Hoke hired him. This game has not shaken my faith in him. The reasons are best explained in a post from the MGoArchive that you would all do well to go back and re-read. Specifically:

Again, none of that is to say Borges can't succeed at Michigan ... but the current situation just isn't in his wheelhouse. Based on the last half of 2005 (when Cox, Irons, and the AU receivers were at the height of their powers) and what he's done at SDSU this season with the Lindley-Hillman-senior wideouts package, I'd say the prototypical Borges offense is one with an accurate (and not necessarily strong-armed) pocket passer, big NFL-type receivers on the outside to stretch the field, and a single stud running back as a home run threat out of the backfield. It seems like aside from Darryl Stonum, Michigan doesn't have any of those things.

What's ironic, says Alanis, is that Michigan used to have those things in bunches. Give Borges Henne, Hart, Long, and Manningham/Arrington, and you're going to have one of the best offenses in the country, hands-down. And maybe he can work some magic with Denard (or Gardner), and Hopkins, and Stonum/Miller/Jackson/whoever. But I can't shake the feeling that Borges is the right guy in the right place at the wrong time.

In other words, Borges was hired not for last season or this season, but for the long haul. This man turned Cade McNown and Jason Campbell into first round draft picks. Post-Borges, McNown is out selling insurance somewhere and Campbell is hanging on by a thread. And Borges is on the same page with Hoke, moreso than he was with Bob Toledo or Tommy Tuberville. Think about how chronically frustrated we were with Carr, Terry Malone, and Mike DeBord, and think about what Borges would have done with the weapons that Carr and Malone/DeBord had at their disposal. Now think about what Borges will do with Shane Morris and (fingers crossed) Laquon Treadwell.

Even given his limitations in dealing with our current personnel, he has performed admirably. Last year, we averaged more points per game than we did in 2010. He has done a much better job adapting his offense to our personnel than Rich Rod et al did in '08. As for the 'Bama game, yes, the repeated ineffective Vincent Smith runs were frustrating, but honestly, what was Borges supposed to do? Had Denard's passing been consistently effective at any point during the game? Would you rather Borges have Denard throw even more interceptions or worse, get himself killed by 'Bama's front seven? Facing a defense like that with our top running back suspended, Borges' options were severely limited. You can shake your fist at fate and fermented malts for taking one of our biggest offensive weapons out of Borges' toolbox.

So lay off the man. The players and staff will lick their wounds, learn from this loss, and move forward. Put the pitchforks away, everything will be just fine. These coordinators will get us to the promised land.


NOLA Wolverine

September 2nd, 2012 at 3:34 AM ^

For god's sake, we all know what Denard can do, and if you don't let him do it you're just being counter productive. Threet couldn't run the zone read, and Denard was born to run. If you design otherwise you're just being close minded.

NOLA Wolverine

September 2nd, 2012 at 3:43 AM ^

Do you think that we couldn't make a tackle under Greg Robinson was because of where people lined up before the snap? They clearly were not coached well enough to play football against competant teams. Missing that many tackles is not a function of where you stand before the snap, it's because you haven't been coached correctly. 

EDIT: And that's fundamentals. It's being physical in practice. 


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:14 PM ^

around who isn't familiar with most schemes. They know how the schemes work. It's not like football guys sit on their preferences and never entertain alternatives.

I can't believe I still read the 3-3-5 was 'forced' on GERG and GERG was helpless and had to go read books on how the ILB responsibility changed from taking on the inside shoulder and now has contain! Cats & Dogs living together.

So, in all the years Borges has run his stuff, he never looked at the spread or zone read or speed option and said, "Is this a foreign language?"




NOLA Wolverine

September 2nd, 2012 at 10:51 AM ^

That hasn't been a focus for him since his sophomore year, if we were committed to running that play they would have spent a boatload of time drilling the reads into his head. I'm also not sold that he has been allowed to read shotgun hand offs since then either. It may not result in a better situation than we have now, but it fits his physical skill set. 


September 2nd, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

Denard was pretty good running the inside zone read last year against Notre Dame.  He had success with the "inverted veer" against OSU and that's about it.  It got blown up last night the couple times they ran it like everything else.

What's unquestioned is Denard was VERY good at running QB outside zone and we haven't used it once since Hoke & Borges arrived.  Watching Denard wait for blockers on the QB sweep is painful.  This is square peg round hole stuff.  Wouldn't have changed the outcome last night but it does matter in the grand scheme.

Beyond that, Denard had one meaningful designed carry before the game was out of hand.  That's just poor coaching unless you aren't trying to run the ball at all.


September 2nd, 2012 at 3:38 AM ^

So all he needs are NFL-caliber quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers?

Don't get me wrong, I love the players and staff we have. But you have to work with what you've got. You can't just dial up ineffectual offences and say "oh, well, when we get better recruits, we'll score more points."

EDIT: re: Borges being more adaptable than RR, RR also had us sixth in the nation for offense in 2010. I think it's disingenuous to imply Borges was more adaptable than RR since Borges has/had more talent ot work with than RR did in 2008 IME.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:24 AM ^

The general concept is the same (shotgun, spread defenses laterally, employ a quarterback who is a running threat, zone blocking schemes, etc.).  But Chip Kelly and Co. have helped that offense evolve at a breakneck pace.  He uses more inside zone reads and runs a lot more variations/formations.  Rodriguez tends to run a very vanilla zone read spread offense.  He ran (at Michigan, anyway) a few plays and tried to run them crisply every time.  

For all I know, Rodriguez could do more with his offense but chooses to keep it simple.  Either way, Kelly's offense manifests itself in much more complicated ways than Rodriguez's does.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:37 AM ^

Thanks, Magnus. I think the point I was trying to get across is that a head coach is constrained by the players he has on the roster. You can't run a sophisticated offense without a lot of talent and with underclassmen all over the place. Chip Kelly has talented upperclassmen with experience (except for the FR QB who looks to be playing well ahead of where he should be) so he can do that. We don't, and certainly did not during RR years, so we can't.




September 2nd, 2012 at 2:30 PM ^

And yet we've been saying "Oh, we don't have the pieces yet" for the past four years.  That's a long-ass time.  An entire football class, in fact.  If the pieces weren't in place at the end of the four years, then it's a poor job of planning for the future and poor coaching.

Oregon has had an extremely potent offense for much longer than four years..  So bottom line is, whatever Chip Kelly is doing, he's doing it better than Rodriguez.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

Are you shitting me? Were the players exactly the same both years? No, right? Everyone on our squad was older with actual game experience and OSU lost a shit ton of talent through the draft and scandal. Also, they didn't have a competent head coach. 

None of that factors into the different results? Just a different head coach for us?


September 4th, 2012 at 5:19 PM ^

It does when the opposition loses a ton of talent via draft and scandal. They were 12-1 the year before and then went 6-7 last year. What might account for that difference? Maybe losing TP, Tressel and whole host of other players? Or was it all because Borges is better than RRod?

Did YOU eat the magic beans by any chance?


September 2nd, 2012 at 3:34 AM ^

But you would have thought that he learned that running up the middle with Vincent "Devin" Smith against a high-cailber defense is just not a great idea by now.


September 2nd, 2012 at 3:34 AM ^

yep, blah, blah, blah...first of all, hoke didn't "hire" borges, he was with him when he came here so it doesn't matter what you say after that point because i know you don't know what you're talking about.

stupid people are annoying...






































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































September 2nd, 2012 at 4:17 AM ^

yes, i am an idiot.  hoke did not "hire" borges.  he "brought him along" as you said.  that wasn't the point of my post which just proves how much of an idiot you are.






































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































September 2nd, 2012 at 10:16 AM ^

be a point elitist given this thread you've started IME. The spread vs. pro set debate is irrelevant concerning this game, as is the easy pass you've given Borges because he doesn't have NFL personnel as in M years past. The OC's job is to use the personnel he has to their greatest advantage and score points. I don't care what formation Borges uses, but to have 1 designed run for Denard the entire first half, and using him as a pro style QB and asking him to throw into NFL size openings this game, is frankly, stupid. As is the sight of Vincent Smith's 5'6 frame pounding it up the middle again and again. That is stupid as well. And I don't even think that's a matter of opinion.

Despite these words, I too support Borges and especially the entire coaching staff, but that offensive game plan was just dumb. I'm not saying a better plan would have meant victory, but I firmly believe a better plan would have prevented the national embarrassment we all suffered through.


September 2nd, 2012 at 3:45 AM ^

Also in Borges defense:  Denard Robinson was horrible tonight.  Wildly inaccurate and indecisive.  The OL gave him plenty of time to throw most of the night, and he stunk it up.

The whole Denard Hype is too much.  He is a great kid and good runner, but the hype machine is way over the top...because he really is a shitty QB.

If Michigan had done anything on those first 2 drives, they could have made an impact in the game...but the offense's inability to throw accurate passes, eventually put pressure on the defense with the poor field position. It was 2008 all over again.

Perhaps it is time for another QB to lead Michigan.


September 2nd, 2012 at 5:42 AM ^

Might be because of Nebraska and Ohio last year, as well as his entire sophomore season. The kid had a bad game. I think Borges should have called more runs for him early. But either way I'm pretty confident Michigan's O will look significantly better the rest of this season. So there's no need to call for benching our senior, three year starter after one bad game with some questionable play calling against the best defense in the nation.


September 2nd, 2012 at 10:13 AM ^

   The thing is you don't bench Denard but you got to let him be Denard! if thats an example of what Borges wants to do with him you might as well bench him. I'm not thinking it was all Borges tho Denard could have kept a few of those Vincent Smith up the middle for 1-2 yard run but , he chose to hand it off.


September 2nd, 2012 at 7:13 AM ^

The offensive line did not give Denard "all night" to throw. He constantly had a 6'6" defender in his face, and he had to throw the ball high to avoid batdowns and interceptions. Add in the fact that receivers (Roundtree and Gardner) were either running sloppy routes or dropping the ball, and most of the blame can be taken AWAY from DRob.

As much as I know it will pain everyone, I can't want for Brian to UFR this game. If for no other reason than to prove that Denard wasn't the source of our poor passing game so much as the receivers. (The only exception was the SECOND  int, that was DRob's one really bad mistake of the night)


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:23 PM ^

Look at Denard's placement of the ball, and where Roundtree would have been had he not gotten manhandled. A lot of what I saw last night involved the ball being in a place where only Michigan receivers had a chance to make a play on it. Denard consistently got the ball where it looked like his receivers SHOULD have been.


September 2nd, 2012 at 3:49 AM ^

Our 2008 offense returned 1 starter (Steve Schilling) from the year before.  Brandon Minor increased his ypc by nearly a yard per touch.  Freshman Steve Threet posted virtually the same QB efficiency rating as Ryan Mallett did the year before (completed 50% of his passes with 9 TD and 7 picks to Mallett's 43% completions for 7 TD and 5 picks on about 60 fewer throws).  Threet also made a contribution in the running game (long Wisconsin run being the main example).  Greg Mathews had virtually the same production as a sophomore under Carr as he did in both years under Rodriguez, despite playing with less experienced QBs.

Roy Roundtree has gone from the 2nd leading receiver in B1G games as a sophomore to a shadow of his former self, due in large part to a slight position change and play calling differences (if you know of some dramatic change in his physical makeup, I'd love to hear about it).  I don't see how having a player get dramatically less productive is a sign of great adaptation.  I'm guessing your next thought will be to mention Junior Hemingway without looking at the numbers and realizing that his 2010 and 2011 stats were virtually identical on a per game basis.  Roy's drop in productivity hasn't been countered with a similar increase somewhere else in the passing game.

We have a player on our team who has rushed for 3,200+ yards in his career (with 2,800+ of that in the last two seasons) and scored 35 TDs on the ground.  With Fitz out, he's by far our best returning weapon on the ground, and arguably one of the best in college football.  Tonight he didn't carry the ball until the score was 21-0 (he picked up a 1st down on 3rd and short).  He didn't carry it a 2nd time until the score was 31-0 (he made it 31-7 with a TD run).  I realize what he was going for and he didn't have the worst plan in the world, but I think if your plan involves never giving #16 the ball the burden is on you to make it work.

I am probably a bigger Al Borges fan than you and was raving about the hire the second it was made.  But these are looking like some fairly major screw-ups at this point.  We'll see how the rest of the season goes.  Hopefully the ship is righted, it is appeared it was at the end of last season.  It at least seems that Fitz has a positive influence on both the talent level of the team and the play selection.




September 2nd, 2012 at 6:00 AM ^

But I suppose the argument is we're not going to destroy our qb in the first game of the season when it's non conference ball and isn't crucial to the staff's stated goals. After hours of cooling off, I'm actually grateful for this. The only thing that would make me more depressed than possibly having Lewan, Countess injured is having denard injured too. Which, after that Cb hit, who knows.
It would be meaningless to lose by 10-20 with a couple Denard flashes than to lose by almost 30, which happened.
And I have no problem with Borges trying the game plan at the beginning. They scored 21 so quickly against us, it was hard to think. And without Fitz, and with the analysis of Bama's D being impenetrable up the middle, I have no problem with trying to air it out.
However, I saw little attempt for misdirection, which I think would've been crucial against Bama and I saw no attempt at hurry up which a front page analysis said would be crucial. In those and the multiple Smith squashings, I share the disheartening of all.


September 2nd, 2012 at 1:59 PM ^

To say this game wasn't crucial to stated goals is absurd.  Games like this directly affect recruiting and recruiting well is basically half of your plan to achieve the goal of winning the conference and going to the Rose Bowl.


Today you think it's no big deal.  3 years from now when Joe Blow misses a tackle in the 4th quarter of The Game and we lose because the 5 star LB who would have made that play was watching this game and decided to go to Notre Dame, you'll understand.