How Saban is preparing his defense for Michigan

Submitted by PeterKlima on March 9th, 2012 at 2:58 PM

An interesting tidbit in an article on about the recent Borges radio interview:


Unofficially, Saban and Kirby Smart have asked new defensive grad assistant Jules Montinar to breakdown every game Al Borges has called plays in since 1986.

While the Bama Coaches Noon-time Basketball Association continues its season, Montinar is reviewing old film from Portland State, Boise State, Oregon, UCLA, Cal, Indiana, Auburn, San Diego State, and last season's Michigan team.


Now, Saban might just be messing with the new guy or getting him prepared for the many film breakdowns that will come during the season.  But, that seems like an awful lot of game film.  I was kind of hoping Saban might be resting on his laurels heading into the game.  Oh well, there is only so much planning you can do for Denard.



March 9th, 2012 at 3:03 PM ^

Borges has one tendancy. That is that he has no tendancies. All this breakdown will only reveal one giant unholy mess of a scatter plot for play calls and offensive gameplans that is totally unhelpful for deriving results.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:07 PM ^

even ones that they are unaware of. If this guy actually reviews all of that tape, and does a good job,

IMHO, it's difficult to break tendencies if you don't know that you even have them. Hopefully, this is just to mess with Borges.


March 9th, 2012 at 4:26 PM ^


Looking at tape from 1998 UCLA or 2004 Auburn is probably a waste of time.

Whatever tendencies there are that carryover are probably either very minor, irrelevant to Michgian, or universal to offensive coordinators. 


March 9th, 2012 at 3:14 PM ^

He's one of my least favorite coaches, but I'm sure he puts in a hell of a lot of work.  I'll bet anyone $5 that the guy is a workaholic and that he essentially demands that of his staff too. 


March 9th, 2012 at 3:06 PM ^

There's a reason is the guy is probably the best college football coach in the nation right now.  I mean, he made LSU in the NC game look absoluely foolish.  That said, it's going to be a bit different because Borges has only every had a player like Denard for one year in his whole career.  Can't defend Borges' offense presently like you would his Auburn offenses with Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown and Williams.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:07 PM ^

the same thing sparty and VT did, force DR to throw.  The difference, I hope, is that DR is not the same passer as he was last year(s). 


March 9th, 2012 at 3:13 PM ^

I was kind of hoping Saban might be resting on his laurels heading into the game.

A coach who wins multiple national championships doesn't rest on his laurels for anything. It doesn't surprise me in the least that Saban is going back that far and to that level of detail in scouting Al Borges' playcalling. I think Saban is a scumbag, but there's no doubt that he's obsessive in his level of preparation for opponents. We'll have our work cut out for us.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:20 PM ^

"there is only so much planning you can do for Denard." - only if Denard is playing his best game.  If he significantly improves in passing and on field decision making compared to last season, he'll be deadly on the field. VT clearly figured out how to shut down the offense, and they (while no offense to Mr. Beamer and his crew) are not as good as Saban's crew. 

But on the flip side, it's not like Hoke and his crew aren't breaking down Alabama tape.  Isn't it normal to do this kind of thing anyway? Who doesn't break down film before a big game (even if people think it'll be a cakewalk for Alabama)? I'm just more surprised that they're not going on record on trying to breakdown Mattison's defense. Defense will decide this game.

 I think both teams are probably going to go in with a no holds bar. It'll be an interesting game to watch to say the least.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:35 PM ^

...but, how much tape is the question.  I feel Dantonio probably breaks down a ton of Michigan film, but not as much Indiana or Notre Dame film.  Hoke will plan and scout Bama strongly, but I don't know if he will go back to s coordinator's game tapes from almost 30 years ago.  That is pretty intense.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:44 PM ^

People seem to think last year showed some inherent flaw in Denard's game when the fact is he just had to learn a totally new offense.  Even when things looked similar, the terminology, the route trees/fundamentals, and the role the WR's play (more decision making mid-play than under Rodriguez) were all new.  Not to mention I think there was a bigger focus on high risk/high reward throws deep down the field (which probably accounts for that fact that he upped his number of touchdown passes despite struggling slightly everywhere else across the board and throwing less).  When you are talking about a cerebreal position where less than half a second can make all the difference, a little difficulty is natural.  On the flip side, the line between a little difficulty and great success is a fine one.

If he just gets back to his 2010 numbers we would see a 7.5% increase in completion percentage and a pick every 26.4 throws (which equates to less than 1 a game based on his 2011 usage) rather than every 17.2 throws.  He also got sacked twice as often in 2011 (13 vs. 7) despite having a pretty fantastic line in front of him, which I'm guessing is just a product of still not being quite as sure on where to go with the ball.

If Denard does what we've already seen he can do, in an offense that now has a fantastic back standing next to him, we'll be more than fine.  If Borges's constant comments about a "dramatic leap" in year 2 of his offense and Denard's prior history (going from an INT machine to #6 in the Heisman voting in year two with RR) tell us anything, we should be in for a real treat next season.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:45 PM ^

.. that Denard is trending in that direction.  Early last season he had 6 INTs in three games against the defenses of SDSU, NW and Eastern Michigan.  Some pretty "low level" defenses.  BUT, at the end of the year, he had only 2 INTs against three pretty good defenses (Neb, OSU and VT). 

He seems to be on the right track.  That might be scaring other coaches.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:51 PM ^

Borges was learning a whole new offense too, in a way.  In addition to learning the strengths and weaknesses of a roster full of players he had just met 6 months earlier, he was trying to implement a diverse rushing attack with possibly the greatest running QB in college football history.  Early in the year I think he relied more on the "snap it to Denard and let him run with it" and throughout the year began to expand the offense and lean more heavily on his backs (especially Fitz).  There were certainly ups and downs, but I think with a season full of tape and a better sense of what he's got (Fitz is the man) he could very well make just as big a leap in the run game as Denard will make in the passing game.

If that happens and the D remains in the same ballpark this team won't lose a game next year. 


March 9th, 2012 at 3:21 PM ^

what college coach wouldn't spend his time reviewing tape for an upcoming opponent? I mean he has all of season to prepare for one team, I am pretty sure Toledo's coach would do the same thing right? I think we are kinda blowing this up a tad bit too much. He didn't win 2 NC by just guessing what the other team is doing. He is a great coach, but so are our coaches. Big game so big stakes.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:22 PM ^

4/5 of the teams in college football will play tomato cans in the first week of the season. Yet, they will scout these teams. We may be no where near as good as Alabama but we have one of the most dynamic offenses in college football. We're definitely not going to be beneath their notice.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:23 PM ^

based on several factors including his history with Michigan State, and my belief that he thinks Brady Hoke and Denard Robinson are both "twerps," that it is Nick Saban's intent and desire to beat Michigan by 16 touchdowns after saying "Pain" to Brady Hoke at midfeild before the game ala Clubber Lang.  I have no doubt that reviewing every game film of Al Borges that he can find is legitimate.

steve sharik

March 9th, 2012 at 3:29 PM ^

...has a tendency to turn to what he loves when things get tight.

What Saban is trying to do is learn what type of coaching personality Borges has and find out his general philosophy when it comes to calling plays.

What Michigan has going for it, in this case, is that Borges is pretty much convinced that while Denard is here, Michigan is a spread team and must use concepts that Borges hasn't really used except for last year.

I'm guessing that Borges will be visiting some spread gurus this offseason to learn more ways to take advantage of Denard's talents.  Probably won't be RichRod, obviously won't be Meyer, so it could be Chip Kelly, or maybe some other really creative guy in D1-AA (FCS), DII, DIII, NAIA, or JUCO.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:34 PM ^

he has to break down that much film cause he knows, like i would, that his defense lost alot of key players with veteran experience and when you have alot of younger, newer players you have to play A ball to beat an opponent like Michigan, especially the first game of the season. Their 27-11 game at PSU last year was a totally different dynamic sense PSU had the worst QB play they've had in a long time last year and their D was so nasty. Just a little list of who is gone from that team: Kirkpatrick-CB, Barron-S, Gentry-DT, Upshaw-DL, Hightower-Hybrid LB. I dont care who you are that is too much veteran talent to replace and the sad part is I am sure I missed another one on D. Not to mention Maze and Richardson on O. They should be worried! As should we cause its Alabama.


March 9th, 2012 at 3:43 PM ^

Saban is a Bellichick guy.  Bellichick always gives his lower assistants projects to do in the off season.  This looks like one of those kind of tasks.  Saban is not worried about what plays he called at Portland St.    I bet this assistant has been tasked with a goal of coming up with a certain amount of information from all this film that Saban can use.  I can see him running into Saban's office all bleary eyed.  

Ast: Coach I got it.

Saban: What have you found?

Ast: Check this.  Borges has faced 61 4th and 1  playcall situations in his career.

Saban: I'm listening.

Ast:  He has called a play action pass 31 of those 61 times.

Saban: So you are telling me if we get Mich into a 4th and 1 it is 50/50 if he's going to run or pass it?

Ast: Actually 51% but yeah.

Saban: You're fired.  Pack up yor shit..



March 9th, 2012 at 3:44 PM ^

To try to get in to the Goregous one's head.  It won't work. 


By the way has any one thought of looking into whether Dantonio and Narducci put bounties out on our players last year?  It's so obvious that they put one out on Denard and I bet there is someone within that dirty program who is willing to spill the beans for 15 minutes of fame.  

Maybe Michael Rosenberg needs a story line?  Anyone want to make  name for your self, get on it.

Seattle Maize

March 9th, 2012 at 3:48 PM ^

I think our defense will be able to match up fairly well with Alabama's offense, but we will need to see a ton of improvement out of Denard and the passing game to have a chance.  There is no denying that Denard is a special runner but no one can beat an Alabama defense without getting the ball downfield.  This is needed to open up the running game and back up an aggressive Bama defense.  Look at what they did to Jordan Jefferson and LSU.  We really need to see some major improvements in Denard's decision making and mechanics.  

Having said that, I was watching the UTL game the other day and when Denard sets his feet he can really deliver a nice ball.  It was in games like the Sugar Bowl when his mechanics  and decision making broke down that he really struggled (obviosuly).  If he puts in a lot of time in getting more comfterable with his reads and mechanics then we should at least have a shot vs Bama.  


March 9th, 2012 at 4:02 PM ^

Or we could just troll them completely. Focus on defense to completely stop their offense and then just get the ball within kicking distance and kick field goals. This is why I could never be a coach. I'd just do too many things to amuse myself. Hey, you want to waste hours watching this film? Boom, nothing but special teams Sabie.

biakabutuka ex…

March 9th, 2012 at 4:16 PM ^

What Borges did his first years on different teams with different players is nothing more than noise on a graph of his current tendencies. It would be like analyzing two different coaches at once. You'd need a statistician on retainer just to make sure you weren't poisoning your data by going that far back.