From Wishbone, To West Coast Offense And Beyond

New offensive coordinator Al Borges discusses his background in football coaching.

Auburn, Ala.--Early in his coaching career in the high school ranks in California, Al Borges decided it was time broaden his knowledge of offensive football strategy.

Luckily for Al Borges, Auburn's new offensive coordinator, there was a college coach nearby who was willing to give some help to a young high school assistant.

"I was coaching high school football back in 1978 and we were running the wishbone," Borges remembers. "I wanted to learn about the passing game so I went to Stanford. I am from California originally. Bill Walsh was the coach there. He was wasn't the name he is obviously today. I wanted to learn about the passing game, but I started studying what is commonly known today as the West Coast Offense."

In 1982, Borges got his first college coaching job at Cal and a year later became an offensive coordinator at Diablo Valley, a small college in California. After two seasons with the USFL's Oakland Invaders, Borges began moving up the college ranks with successful offensive coordinator stops at Portland State (1986-92), Boise State (1993-94), Oregon (1995) and UCLA (1996-2000).

However, when he decided to return to Cal near his California roots for a big pay increase in 2001, the move backfired. He joined a coaching staff that was fired as a group and that led to the veteran coaching moving east to the Big Ten Conference when Indiana's Gerry DiNardo called. On Friday, the journey east took a turn South after two seasons at IU when Borges accepted Tommy Tuberville's offer to become offensive coordinator at Auburn.

Al Borges

"I started studying that passing game and now, heck, over 20 years I have been doing it," Borges says. "I actually started coordinating it at Portland State. We have kind of built on it. I would still say we are a 75 percent West Coast Offense team. We have become a little bit of a hybrid in that we started looking at some other things the Washington Redskins were doing when Joe Gibbs was there. Ironically, he is back there again. Also, what Don Coryell was doing when he was with the Chargers and through the years it has evolved to what we are doing as a hybrid of a offense.

"I think its nucleus is still what they call the West Coast passing game--a term that has come in the last five or six years. When people asked me what we did I never really had a name for it."

Borges says that he believes in being balanced with strong running and passing threats. He says that the impression that the West Coast offense is mainly a passing attack is not correct. "A lot of people think the West Coast offense is a passing circus when nothing is further from the truth," Borges says. "Passing is a big part of it, but a good team, and I hate to call it the West Coast Offense anymore because we have gone to a lot of other things, too...but a well-run offense has run and pass in it.

"I believe if you don't run the ball well and you don't run it consistently, you are not going to win. You have just got to understand that there are going to be certain ball games when it is not going to be easy to do. Passing a lot of times is going to dictate whether you win or lose. I think this style of play has turned a lot of people in that direction."


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