Using Weapons The Key For Borges' Offense

Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges talks about this season and the development of quarterback Jason Campbell.

New Orleans, La.–-Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges didn't know much about quarterback Jason Campbell and running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown when he first got contacted about being a coach at Auburn, but he says it didn't take him long to figure out they were good football players. Now 12 games later and a perfect regular season and a SEC Championship later, Borges says the key to this season was just using the weapons that were already available to him for the betterment of the team.

"What I think any offensive coach is looking for is some weapons, some guys to score touchdowns so that you can gear your plan to get them the ball," Borges says. "We're just really, really fortunate here at Auburn to have some weapons. Everything we do from a gameplan perspective is centered around making sure those guys touch the ball."

While Williams and Brown got much of the attention coming into the season, it has been the development of Campbell that has made the Tigers a bona fide contender for championships in 2004. The SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Campbell has proven week after week that he's one of the top players in the country and Borges says he hasn't had a bad game this season and has changed the way he thinks on a football field and that has made him a better player.

"I think a big factor with Jason is his mentality about the game," Borges says. "He's always had the ability and he's always been an accurate passer, but the difference in Jason Campbell now and in other years is that he's not afraid to make mistakes. He plays the game with a let it rip mentality. He's out there attacking. He's not taking a passive or he's not afraid, he plays with the idea that he's Barry Bonds up there to hit a home run. When he makes a mistake he knows we're not going to pull him out of the game, but we're going to try to fix the mistake. That makes a big difference when you're playing quarterback."

Jason Campbell

A mentality of playing to win instead of playing not to lose is one that is different for the Tigers this season in some respects. Although the running game was always designed to wear down an opponent, it's in the passing game where you can destroy a team early. Borges says ultimately that's also the difference between being good and great in this day and age of speedy and attacking defenses designed to stop people from running the ball.

"I'm different from a lot of offensive coaches," Borges says. "I don't believe that the quarterback is a guy that ‘just doesn't get you beat'. I hear a lot of that. If you're going to have a great team your quarterback better do more than just not get you beat. There better be games that he plays well enough to help you win the football game. You have to use discretion because you're not going to have him go out there and starting throwing it all over the lot hoping like heck it lands in somebody's hands that's on your side, but by the same token you have to come out firing. That's how I think you win 12 games. You may be able to win seven or eight thinking the other way, but if you want to win 12 that kid better come to play and help you win games."

To be able to change the way a kid thinks and plays requires that all the coaches are on board with the plan. In Auburn's case on offense that meant that Tuberville was on board. Known for running the ball and playing defense in recent years, Borges says that Tuberville gives guys free reign to do what they want on each side of the ball and that's one of the reasons why things worked this year.

"The first thing about Tub is that he's got full autonomy for the coordinators and I work best that way," Borges said. "You pretty much have carte blanche to do what you think it takes to move the ball. That's number one. Number two is he's really, really good at managing a football team, particularly through some bad times. Fortunately this year we haven't seen many, but before I got here they went through some tough times and he managed to keep the team together. The players have great respect for Tommy and I think that in large part is why they stayed here. There were several guys on our team that could have went to the NFL a year ago, but they stayed here because they know he's got their best interest at heart."

Through two days of practice in New Orleans the Tigers have shown the same practice habit they did all season despite the distractions on Bourbon Street and around town. Borges says that he senses the team is getting ready to play, but they still need some work to be ready for a tough Virginia Tech team coming their way on Jan. 3.

"The kids are really, really anxious to get playing," Borges says. "Having this much time between games can be good and bad. It's good because you really get a chance to practice your gameplan. It's kind of bad because at one point it may get a little stale. Then when you have some lapses like Christmas break you can lose a little bit of timing. We're still getting a little bit of the rust off, but the kids are fired up and enthusiastic.

"Virginia Tech is an excellent defensive football team," Borges adds. "They really have been for a long time. They've had better years and worse years I'm sure, but this year they are really, really as good as I've seen them. Being from the West Coast, their style of defense is very similar to the early to middle 90's and we played against the Washington Huskies when I was with Oregon and UCLA. They do just a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback, a great job of stopping the run. They mix just enough things in there so they're not predictable. It's going to be a great challenge moving the ball against this group."


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