Offense mistakes all year

Submitted by CLord on November 24th, 2012 at 11:55 PM

Not starting another "Fire Borges" thread.  I'm personally over the emotions of today's winnable game, instead bearing down for 45 insufferable days of dealing with our two main rivals being collectively 24-0, both vying for one national championship or another.  8-4 is about what we all expected of this year's campaign given the brutal schedule, and few of us expected a W out of today's game.  Our program is moving in a positive direction obviously, Devin's accuracy and decision making for the most part, have been a pleasant surprise giving us some comfort toward next year, and we have great recruits coming in, but it's tough keeping up with the Joneses when they're 24-0, both under relatively new, or new coaches. 

Oh and mind you, Teo will be about as insufferably close to Tim Tebow with the media as anything we've seen in years.  It is going to be painful until mid January.

Now about the offense this year.  Reflecting beyond today's game, I wanted to see if some of you could help me wrap my brain around the full list of patent errors Borges made over the course of the year.  Here's what I can come up with, please add or subtract, defend or disagree, I'd like your input to make a complete list of other errors/deficiencies beyond the obvious ones today:

1. Presiding over an offensive line and offensive line coach that produced the worst UM offensive line product in memory.  The 4th down fail by Denard, where both Lewan and Omameh (talented non-freshmen) whif their assignments, summed this point, and this season from the offensive line, concisely.

2. Mistakenly buying Denard had improved as a passer in the offseason.

3. Evidencing 2 above by scheming mid and deep routes for Denard in the ND game, rather than the short dump offs and  screens.  (See 4 Denard interceptions and loss by only 7).

4. Mistakenly believing Bellomy, rather than Gardner, would be ready as the #2 QB, resulting in the worst half of offensive football during the most crucial 30 minutes of the entire season - second half Nebraska.  Today's second half was a close second, but at least with Gardner we always felt there was a chance today.

5. Today and getting Boom Ferentz'd by Al in the second half.  (Won't rehash).

Am I missing any other major mistakes Al and offensive staff made this year beyond this list and today's game?



November 25th, 2012 at 12:12 AM ^

Still a bashing thread.  Please remember Denard is one of the best (if not the best) college rusher, total TD scorer in NCAA history.  These past 3-4 years were awful, but there is a huge light at the end of the tunnel and we will be great.  We have 1 class of Hoke's recruiting and will be much better in the future.  Stay positive.


November 25th, 2012 at 12:27 AM ^

11-1 and a cake walk to the B10 championship should be what were celebrating. Coulda woulda shoulda but if we game plan better and would have exploited Devin/Denards best potential and skills were talking Rose bowl.

Heres to 2k13 with Devin and hopefully a freak true frosh RB.



The Shredder

November 25th, 2012 at 12:28 AM ^

This quote brought me pain

Mistakenly believing Bellomy, rather than Gardner, would be ready as the #2 QB, resulting in the worst half of offensive football during the most crucial 30 minutes of the entire season - second half Nebraska.



November 25th, 2012 at 12:30 AM ^

For fuck's sake. If ND and Ohio could go from last years mediocre teams with a collective 14-14 record to matching undefeated seasons then we certainly could've done better than 8-4.


November 25th, 2012 at 12:31 AM ^

Those five guys on the O-line are probably the best that could be out on the field. Freshman are very rarely ready to start. When you aren't deep in talent, the margin of error is reduced. A pure pass rusher would have helped today, too. Unfortunately, we don't have another Brandon Graham this year.

Still, I agree that at times, the offensive play calls weren't grounded in the reality of the skill sets a available.


November 25th, 2012 at 12:42 AM ^

This season has taught me the importance of remaining humble, grounded, and respectful to my friends (who are fans of many other teams).

Instead of seeing a grainy video of Devin Gardner making one-handed grabs at WR (without pads, mind you) and thinking he's Michael Floyd reincarnate, I will remain realistic about his production at a position he wasn't recruited at.

Instead of seeing Denard Robinson making passes with beatiful touch and accuracy (agaisnt no pass rush) and thinking he's the second-coming of Drew Henson, I will remain skeptical of his skills and realize QB's don't perfect their form in one Spring.

Instead of talking down to ND fans about their 5 wins in 20 bowl appearances, mentioning the unreal numbers Denard has put up on them in the past - I will be respectful of another prestigeous, tradition-rich team.

I could continue with stories of me mocking my UF friends, and so on, but you get the long-winded point of my rant.  The Rich Rod years should of taught me something about modesty, but all those years did was make me more mouthy and rude when we finally crawled back up.  Maybe this time I will take something away from my lifelong Michigan fandom.


...there's always basketball (?)


November 25th, 2012 at 3:54 AM ^

Since a lot of people are focusing on Borges and blaming him for whenever the offense stalls...consider that the entire OL and the RB positions have been massive failures as well.  Should those position coaches be called out too?

Lets look at the OL.  This is the worst run blocking OL at Michigan in over 40 years.  They are flat out horrible and cant even open space for the RBs to run simple off tackle plays.   Last year, they were similar but the problems were masked by Dave Molk who was excellent. The group also struggles in pass blocking and picking up defenders in open space.  Daryll Funk is not developing his group up to par.  There is a lot of young talent there for next year for Funk to work with.  His group is currently well below "par" for OL play at Michigan.

Lets look at RB.  Everyone loves the guy (rightfully so) but Fred Jackson Sr. has not developed a decent RB in over 5 seasons at Michigan.  The last one was MIke Hart..and a lot of his efforts were due to his heart. 


The current crop of RBs is dismal.  Fitz seemed to have lost burst this season, before he was badly injured last week.  He was also indecisive in his running and passive in his approach for much of the year.  Rawls, really should not even be playing RB at Michigan.  He is that bad.  Slow first steps, slow to read cuts, and doesnt run with nearly as much power inside as a man of his size should.  Vince Smith is gritty and excellent in picking up blitzes, but not much of an offensive threat other than on the ocaissional screen pass. Hayes, we have not seen much he has not developed obviously if he is not able to beat these sad guys out.  Which of these RBs will step up to be a factor next season?? Who is left after that??  Drake Johnson?  Michigan needs to take another RB in this seasons class desperately.  The cupboard is pretty bare at RB at Michigan.

...there just is not as much to work with on this offense as many people seem to think... Denards legs..and for a few games Devin's arms...mask the problems vs. lessor opponents... but vs good opponents, particularly on the road..  the OL and RB problems constantly come up.

but im stating the obvious now....


November 25th, 2012 at 7:52 AM ^

Smith didn't have a great game yesterday, but Al Borges mostly used Smith properly over the past couple seasons - as a blocker and screen-catcher.  Running him up the middle is and has always been a bad idea.


November 25th, 2012 at 9:38 AM ^

I would agree that the O-line has been the biggest disappointment this year,  but as others have pointed out, there were no real options besides those who started.  I do think those guys had the physical skills to be an o.k. line, but they just made too many mistakes.  I remember one game where three linemen were blocking one guy!  But Michigan also lacked in the skill positions.  Not just the RBs, but the Receivers as well.  There is nobody on the team with the size and speed to be a real threat.  The success on offense came from Denard's legs and Gardner's talents in scrambling and passing down field.


November 25th, 2012 at 8:02 AM ^

How is #1 possibly addressed in the middle of a season?
Re: #2, so? Are you arguing DENARD shouldn't have started?
#3 is the most reflexive, post hoc criticism. This blog and board, prior to the game, wanted us to "tes the terrible ND secondary. Then, when he does, it's a nightmare. Remember when we then got upset at him for being "passive" againt MSU? You can't have it both ways.
#4 is the only legitimate criticism on your list.
#5 - if your OL can't block their front, which has been the case in all four losses, you're in trouble. I saw Lewan get abused repeatedly by a true freshman, interior guys unablemto move DTs with double teams, and consequently oodles of free hitters - even on he outside runs. The only difference is that DENARD somehow can occasionally transcend that.

Swayze Howell Sheen

November 25th, 2012 at 8:08 AM ^

I think the worst part is the failure to develop an average or decent offensive line. For all the talk of MANBALL, there is scant evidence that this offensive coaching staff will be able to develop a team that can push others around and just run the ball. We all dream of becoming the team Alabama was in game 1, but at this point I have little faith in how that will turn out. It sure as hell ain't gonna happen next year, when we lose so many starters on the o-line...



November 25th, 2012 at 8:17 AM ^

You're complaining, basically, that they couldn't turn inherited juniors recruited for zone blocking into an iso-blocking line before they graduated. I think that's pretty short-sighted.

Frankly, I don't see how our OL can be worse inside next year. That, and Lewan is injured - he hasn't played to his rep once this year, and is frequently seen limping like an octogenarian.


November 25th, 2012 at 8:31 AM ^

Eh, the Denard Robinson Special isn't really a departure from what Michigan will do in the future, blocking-wise.  Obviously, we won't run it (as much?) with Gardner, Morris, Bellomy, etc., but it's basically an offensive line that blocks down with a backside guard pulling.  We're going to see that same basic blocking scheme pretty frequently, but it's going to involve a handoff to the running back running up inside.


November 25th, 2012 at 10:18 AM ^

Regarding the second point, it should be noted that this year saw a more balanced, steady performance by Denard Robinson in the passing game. Using the first seven games of last year and this year for comparison, you have three games where he threw for less than 100 yards last year, and two where he threw for more than 300. This year, in all of his starts, Robinson threw for more than 100 yards on each occasion, with three 200+ games. Mechanically, he was never purported to be the best fit for Borges' offense, but I think there is evidence that they did make some progress in the passing game and that the scheme changes were working overall.

Your fourth point is something I would agree was probably a miscalculation on the part of the coaches, but consider that they lost Hemingway and they lost Stonum in the WR corps (and they were unsure about Roundtree back in August because of his knee surgery, larger point being that depth at WR was and still is a bit of a problem). If Stonum were able to remain, the situation may have been different - there's no real way to know what the coaches would have done ultimately. It was an opportunistic move involving someone who could ably fill in at the position. It was great to see that Gardner could almost pick up and run at QB when Denard was injured. I understand that when the injury to Denard happened, they were reluctant to just throw Gardner in there when he hasn't taken QB reps for two months. In my opinion, however, the depth situation at QB seemed to indicate that Gardner probably should have been taking reps at QB to remain a viable option, especially with the potential upside of the experience and knowing the playbook from two angles, if you will. 

The fifth point, at least in part, starts up front quite literally. In some games anyway, people complain about the playcalling when they should wonder a little more about the offensive line. Borges seemed to appoint inside runs and a smattering of off-tackle stuff as his rushing plays of choice this year, especially with Fitz in the game, and those are great calls and very Michigan, but like someone has mentioned, we don't have a full complement of power blockers to make that work consistently (and it is a contributing factor - but not the sole reason - we averaged 17% fewer rushing yards per game this year). I also believe you'll see improvemenet here in coming seasons. 



November 25th, 2012 at 9:22 AM ^

Our offensive tackles are above average in both run blocking and pass blocking. The offensive guards play on passing play has been average to below average. The real weakness has been our center play. I rate him as poor in pass blocking and just plain sub-standard at run blocking. Unfortunately our choices to play the offensive line are just plain poor and I never like the idea of playing a freshman at that position. Most offensive line freshmen play with very poor technique that must be retaught at the college level. Coach Hoke is all about the offensive and defensive line. Those positions will be flat our scary in 2 years. 11-2 last year and 8-4 so far this year. Do Not forget Rich rod!!!!


November 25th, 2012 at 9:36 AM ^

Bunch immediately this season so their lack of a push didnt hurt as bad as the Bellomy experiment. It brought back days of Sheridan and Threat.

ND beat us because Kelly had the balls to bench his QB. Something Hoke just refuses to consider.

In a nutshell, this season went down in flames because of the misevaluation of one Mr Devin Gardner and I blame both Coach Hoke and Big Al for that failure.


November 25th, 2012 at 9:47 AM ^

I'm not sure, though, that Devin Gardner is the same QB early in the season that he turned out to be later.  All the game time at WR helped him improve his game.  He had substantial in-game experience, and he had a better sense of where the ball needed to be and what the receivers were dealing with.  Obviously he had the physical tools all along, but I think his time starting at WR helped him immensely with the mental side of the game.



November 25th, 2012 at 10:04 AM ^

We have an Offense and O-line made for a dual threat QB so why have a backup thats a drop back passer when you have a 5star dual threat QB on your roster?

Its just hard to imagine Bellomy outplaying Devin in any aspect of playing the position in practice.

Also, I fear starting Denard at QB this year instead of WR may have cost the young man millions at the next level.


November 25th, 2012 at 9:38 AM ^

I am sceptical of how things will shape up for next year.  Looking at how Mattison moulded the talent he had vs. how Borges has struggled raises some fundametal questions on team prep.  At the same time, I am not seeing how the game plan will be more different than what we have already seen. 

The question is if there's any chance the gaps raised in this thread will really get addressed in the future.  The ones we saw from last year actually became more glaring.


November 25th, 2012 at 10:47 AM ^

OL is a position where experience usually matters more than probably any other position except maybe QB.  Technique, physical development, and understanding scheme all require time to excel.  I'm concerned that, while talented, the youth next year on OL (especially if Lewan leaves) will be problematic.


November 25th, 2012 at 10:42 AM ^

Al deserved some patience last year with the shift in schemes and lighter OL. Not after 2 years. Blocking has been poor in pass protection, iso's, and zone plays over the last 2 years.

It appears like Al is trying a range of styles and incoherent plays to see if anything works. It really resembles an intrasquad scrimmage.

I don't see any trend that indicates year 3 will bring a breakthrough with this offensive scheme and coaching.


November 25th, 2012 at 11:07 AM ^

Not sure any amount of coaching could have helped this group.  Probably worst collection of offensive lineman in the history of Michigan football, save maybe the Bump Elliot days.


November 25th, 2012 at 12:34 PM ^

My big beef with Borges when he arrived two years ago was for a supposed genius but he really bounced around.  The 2nd issue was he seemed to do well coaching other failed staffs players but could bring in his own.  UCLA and Auburn both saw marked decreased  offensive production after Borges had been around long enough to particapate in  recruiting a 2nd generation of players.  My concern was he was more a X/O schemer and not someone players could relate too?  The fact were losing out on big time skill players while Mattison picks & chooses his recruits is troubling to me.

On a tactical level a number of actions by Borges bothered me.  In the ND game he asked DR to throw in the pocket down the center of the field a lot.  We know down the field passing is not DR's strength.  Yet Borges was asking him to make the riskiest of throws without the benefit of the kind of receivers you need.  Spread receivers make smaller targets and an overthrown ball is an interception opportunity for the other team.  Worse, when DR goes pocket he becomes at best an average QB.  Spread receivers thrive in space off of run action. What makes him great is what he does with his feet.  If DR showed a reluctance to bail out of a pocket, it should have been beaten into him during spring and fall practice.  My suspicion is Borges was quite content to never ask his QB to bail.  If he was supposed to, that was a failure of the coaching staff to address.  One of the reasons why Carr loved the out is it was very risk adverse.  Down the middle can end in bad things.   

The other item that bothered me is the frustrating continuation of the blind play action fake when it was clear there was no threat of it.  If you never run Vincent Smith in a given formation then having DR or Gardner waste time with it is pointless since the defense has sniffed out the play allready.  We saw that last year and it happened again.

The play calling never seemed coherent.  It was an eclectic glob of goop that had no ryhme or reason.  There seemed to be very little coherence and rarely did one play set up another play.  If a trick play was called it was not predicated on being set up.  It was like Borges knew he could not run what he wanted but would not admit to running what he knew could be succesful.  Instead he straddled the fence.

What was most troubling is that the Oline took a bigger step backwards from last year.  Molk was a great college player.  But I find it hard to believe that the loss of one man would make everyone else including a projected top ten pick look so bad.  That brings up the question of technique.  Everyone seems to insist that next year the redshirt freshmen are just going to clean house.  Why do you believe that if this coaching staff is unable to adjust to what you have.

In parting I really do not believe Borges in an innovator.  He draws up little wrinkles based on what he is comfortable with.  But borrowing from Chess it is all based on the pawn to King4 opening.   If the interior running game was struggling, why not move Schofield to the interior and try Barnum at center?  Why not have packages prepared where you have DR and Gardner on the backfield at the same time?  We could have tried in some of the garbage games.  Yet we went out with the same personel packages and expected a different result.  We never saw the R^2 equivalent of the Oh No or any run adjustments.  It seemed to me that good defenses could sniff out the play based on formation and they were rarely out of balance.  Even the bad defenses were beaten not because they were tricked but just because they were so bad.  No wonder the offense failed so badly against a defense with good personel.  So going forward I just am concerned that defensive coordinators are going to win the RPS war against Borges.  So maybe if we get a couple NFL caliber RB's, a NFL QB and three NFL linemen we will be okay.  But anything less and Borges will struggle.



November 25th, 2012 at 12:45 PM ^

One big mistake probably isn't Borges's fault. No quarterback coach. Think about the lack of development over the last few years at the position, the lack of backup ready for Nebraska. Many of our woes have come at quarterback. Even Ohio had two guys sitting next to each other in the box to share ideas-the OC and quarterbacks coach. We had Borges, our OC/ quarterbacks coach. We need a dedicated QB coach.


November 25th, 2012 at 1:56 PM ^

We had a dedicated QB coach back in 2010, and Denard was still a poor passer.  Forcier wasn't great in 2009.  Sheridan/Threet weren't great in 2008.

I think the whole "We don't have a QB coach" thing is EXTREMELY overrated by people on this board.  An offensive coordinator doesn't do anything different during practice than any other position coach.  It's not like he's over on the sideline drawing up plays while Denard is alone on the field doing his own thing.

EDIT: By the way, Ohio State's offensive coordinator Tom the quarterbacks coach.  Just like Borges.


November 25th, 2012 at 5:46 PM ^

For the record, I am not a fan of Borges and have not been from the start.  I believe the only "QB development" that any Borges defender can point to in the past decade is year one to two at SDSU with Ryan Lindley.  It is worth noting that at SDSU, there was a separate QB coach, who had played under Don Coryell.  Again, I don't think anything with Borges (e.g., adding a QB coach) is the answer, but I don't think many people realize he was not the person coaching Lindley.  The record of his QBs at every other stop he has had the past decade plus give me further reason to doubt that we will see positive strides made at the QB spot or anywhere else on the offensive side of the ball.


November 25th, 2012 at 5:57 PM ^

Well, he helped Jason Campbell become a first round pick at Auburn, and he helped Cade McNown become a first round pick at UCLA.  Borges was the QB coach at both places.  Regardless of their lackluster NFL performances, they played pretty darn well in college, and that's all that really matters for Michigan's purposes.