Much as he dislikes it, Al Borges actually calls a pretty mean Zone Read Spread

Submitted by M-Dog on September 17th, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Much as he dislikes it, Al Borges actually calls a pretty mean Zone Read Spread.  And it looks like a true Zone Read Option Spread, not just Denard running from the shotgun.

We have a coach who can call the Zone Read Spread, we have one of the best Spread QB's in the nation, we have waterbug-quick Vincent Smith, excellent Slot receivers, good downfield blocking outside receivers, and an agile O Line.  This team is built to run the spread and can run it well.  That's not going to change real soon.    

And this is a problem?

Big Al, nobody says you have to die a Zone Read Spread coach.  But perhaps maybe you could live with it for a couple of years?   



Seattle Maize

September 17th, 2011 at 4:52 PM ^

Yeah I think we actually have a pretty solid balance right now.  We need to keep running some Pro sets in order to get better at it for the long term but I agree that we need to keep running spread stuff to win today. 


September 17th, 2011 at 4:53 PM ^

I think it's more Hoke than Borges. I really think he would be happy to run the spread per his X's and O's moniker. I'm interested to see us in Big Ten play; really interested. Can't wait!


September 17th, 2011 at 4:56 PM ^

But the very first offensive play was an 8 yard run out of the I formation. After that play, there seemed to be like 12 straight shotgun plays that went nowhere. Once he started mixing it up more, the read option really took off.


September 17th, 2011 at 5:04 PM ^

Yeah, I don't think Borges is cursing the stars whenever he calls a read option.


"If only I didn't have to call zone read left! Woe is me! Curse the fates, who, upon their lofty thrones, do gaze down on us mortals with such disdain!"

blue in dc

September 17th, 2011 at 5:09 PM ^

But Borgess is still learning how to best call a game with the players we have. Luckily the schedule sets up to give him some time to do that, and he got some good luck in his earlly hard test against Notre Dame. I am hopeful that this offense will really be clicking by the time we play Michigan State


September 18th, 2011 at 12:38 PM ^

I was surprised about that.  I don't really care what the formation is, but I'd like to see Denard hand off a little more when we have a comfortable lead.  26 carries against EMU is too many. 


September 17th, 2011 at 5:12 PM ^

The plays that work are basically the fragents of RR's offense that he left in place.  I'm not hating on Borges - it makes sense that the zone read and spread would work better with players that are well suited to it and used to running it, and I'm glad Borges is using spread plays.    But I don't think many of Borges' offensive concepts are effective at this point.  That's not to say they won't be in the future. 


September 17th, 2011 at 5:14 PM ^

Twitter wasn't working so well from inside the stadium today but yeah, I was very happy with the offensive playcalling. My fear was that they'd use this "off" week to practice installing the I-form more. Michigan did use it early but once they realized the ZR was very functional they stuck with it. Read into this what you want but they ran it too with Gardner and Rawls, two guys not expected to be starters until the 3rd year of Borges/Hoke.

Credit Borges: his HC is saying one thing to the media, but he recognizes what works and what doesn't. I am increasingly impressed with the intelligence of this staff.


September 17th, 2011 at 5:22 PM ^

I was kinda in love with the guy when he said he'd call more spread plays than he had ever done previously.  I mean, that's what is going to give us the best chance to win this year.  Also, I saw it as a true credit to his ability to be an offensive coordinator.  Not just coordinate his offense.  As far as installing all parts of the Manbawl, you can't coach an offensive lineman to be 40 lbs heavier from one week to the next. 

Hyperbolic comments run rampant through sports analysis, so I always hesitate to say words with the "-est" ending.  But I do think this is the smartest staff of coaches we've had, from top to bottom, in a long time.


September 17th, 2011 at 5:22 PM ^

Is the offensive line being versatile enough to run both. I think Borges is doing a nice job mixing the offense instead of forcing his system down these kids throats like we saw with RichRod.


September 17th, 2011 at 5:29 PM ^

I think we are all pleased with the shotgun-under center ratio, zone read calls and 3+ wideout looks.

The big kink that needs to be worked out seems to be a relative lack of spread concepts in our passing game. I don't believe that Denard got less accurate over night. He just isn't getting pass plays that fit him and it shows. Whether it's Denard with his performance or Borges with his calls, someone's going to have to shift closer to the other one in this fusion if it's going to give trouble to good teams later in the season.


September 17th, 2011 at 8:34 PM ^

This is exactly true.  Gotta install some of the short bubble screen, quick pass type stuff.  Also, anything that uses Denard's legs to open up the passing game. 

The best sign all day to me was the TD to Dileo where the whole EMU defense bit on the Denard run, and Denard threw a strike to Dileo.  Much more of this needs to be installed.  The 5-7 step drops, and +30 yard passes are just never going to work with Denard's skillset.  Hopefully Borges will recognize this and adjust as the year goes on. 


September 17th, 2011 at 5:37 PM ^

I love the zone reads, and I love the "QB draw oh noes!" implementation. I do wish he would install a bubble screen as well as the high-low read that got Denard so many easy throws.

I have high hopes for this offense going forward, but it does worry me that Denard isn't being given many easy throws. He's being expected to get into a passing rhythm by taking a lot of hits and throwing a lot of deep stuff. Clearly, it isn't working.

Rather than coming out and running pro-style in the first quarter until switching back to the spread when it doesn't work, I'd like to see a bunch of short stuff in the first quarter.


September 17th, 2011 at 5:40 PM ^

Why does everyone speak of Denard's accuracy like he was a sharp shooter last year? I remember significant periods of inaccurate passing last season; I feel Denard's accuracy has always been streaky.

One Inch Woody…

September 17th, 2011 at 5:41 PM ^

I actually wanted much more I-form.... we were dominant whenever we ran I-form, picking up many 4,5 yard runs and a couple 8+ yard runs. A lot of the shotgun runs seemed to go nowhere due to inadequate blitz pickups. Toussaint showed great running back ability and I'm confident that a Toussaint/Smith rotation would be the most beneficial to our team.


September 19th, 2011 at 2:51 PM ^

First drive:  2 of 7 plays I-formation, under center (one of which was the one time that an RB ran for decent yardage out of this formation -- gain of 8 on first play)

Second drive:  three and out, first two plays I-formation, under center (netting one yard)

Third drive:  three and out, first two plays I-formation, under center (netting minus one yard)

Fourth drive:  no plays out of I-formation, 7 play, 97-yard TD drive

In summary:  when they took the I-formation plays out of the "mix," they moved the ball.


September 17th, 2011 at 5:43 PM ^

After three games, some early observations:

1. Both new coordinators seem pretty flexible and are willing to adjust. Mattison on defense seems to be able to take what he's seen or what the team tells him after the first few drives and adjust. Borges likewise tries to run the new system each game for the first few series, but if it isn't working, he'll go back to more spread sets and spread plays. He may not be a spread evangelist like RR but he is pragmatic. The downsides are the slow start for the UM defense, and so much depends on DR - except for bits and pieces here and there he is still pretty much the whole offense.

2. BUT having said that it is heartening to see how many tangible improvements are there. Statistically the defense is better. On offense, we can win without exposing DR to that much wear and tear.

3. Right now it is clear that DR is not having an easy time with the drop back passing game, but if you recall when he came in as a freshman, his passing was very poor when compared to his great progress to his sophomore year. One more year working with Borges, should bring a much smoother and more effective passer as a senior. Wonder if he would benefit from working with a QB coach who has helped shorter and smaller QBs? Not everyone is the 6'4"+ Brady-Henne-Mallet tall QB. Drew Brees and Doug Flutie were effective college QBs so it can be done. He just needs to be a bit more comfortable. Right now, it seems like he is "measuring" his throws and sometimes a short touch throw is more awkward than a longer throw.


September 17th, 2011 at 5:54 PM ^

 Does Borges have much of a choice?

With the exception of the 4th quarter against notre dame Denard has not really been lighting up the passing game. He's completeing like 30%- 40% of his passes ( not counting WMU). I exspected or more hoped he would light up EMU but he went what 7-17. I hope that changes before the big 10 season starts or else this will be another looooong year.


September 17th, 2011 at 6:05 PM ^

I don't think Denard's accuracy is any worse this year than last. The difference is that last year he had at least 5 (and often more) automatic throws that were basically long hand-offs. This year there isn't any of that, so of course his completion percentage is suffering. Denard's never been a good pocket passer, and I assume that we'll see a trend away from it as the year goes on.


September 17th, 2011 at 5:56 PM ^

I think the spread option is growing on Borges a little bit. He did use it quite a bit in the second half in particular. That being said, I think you'll see it mixed with pro-style because that is what they want long term. I trust them to work to the strengths of what they have now and also plan for the future like that. 

Solar Bob

September 17th, 2011 at 7:49 PM ^

Our QB, HBs and O line are 2008 Michigan bad at executing it, and they're our starters through next season.   Use it as a change up in game and work on it in practice and garbage time.  Michigan won't be equipped to run a proper hybrid offense until 2013 with Gardner and early contributors from the mega class; we dion't need to try and shoehorn the current guys into the new system. Starting out a game with a manball tirefire isn't going to end well against better competition.

 Or maybe I'm just being oversensitive about the issue because every game this season has started out with Michigan looking like the 2008 offense with the 2010 defense. I guess I'm wrong about the issue until we actullu lose a game because of pro style incompetence, but we came damn close against the Irish.


September 18th, 2011 at 12:23 PM ^

Gotta agree that Michigan's offensive linemen are too undersized and not powerful enough to run a pro-style offense.  They're smaller than most Big10 linemen, and more suited for zone blocking rather than the physical I-formation run plays...

Seems I recall those sorts of comments -- that a spread team would be too small, not physical enough for "smash mouth" Big 10 play -- being trashed a few years ago.  Michigan's offensive lineman average near 300 lbs, which is only slightly smaller than an average Big 10 line.  i continue to believe that the "we don't have the personnel for pro-style" platitude needs to be put to rest.