On a day when his top three running backs rushed for a combined 185 yards on 38 carries and the first-team offense had a 90-yard scoring drive against the starting defense, Borges said that he felt like the offense got better.
"I think we made some progress in this scrimmage," Borges said. "We made more routine plays in terms of hitting open receivers and things like that. We got a little bit more offense in. We put our screen game in and our draws and such. Hopefully that helps a little bit to slow the pass rush down, although a couple of times there was no evidence of it. "
Brandon Cox runs for yardage during Saturday's scrimmage.
First-team quarterback Brandon Cox got much of the work in Saturday's scrimmage, completing 8-12 passes for 98 yards with one touchdown, but two interceptions. Back-up Calvin Booker had a much better second scrimmage with seven completions in 15 attempts for 83 yards while Blake Field added 17 yards on 2-6 passing with one interception. Borges said the quarterbacks struggled at times with mistakes, but that's something he doesn't mind seeing in spring practice.
"The only problem that stands out more than anything is that we threw the ball to the other team more than we should have, but I would rather suffer that growing pain now than deal with it in the fall. All those are good learning experiences for the quarterback. A quarterback has to play with the mentality that he's out there to make a few plays. We'll coach him up on the things he does wrong, but he can't go out there scared to make some throws too. You walk a thin line with that."
While the offense struggled at times in the face of a strong pass rush once again from the defense, the running game and short passing game helped to offset the defense and give the offense some life. Kenny Irons led the way in the scrimmage with 77 yards rushing on just 12 carries and he also caught one pass for seven yards. Carl Stewart rushed for 52 yards on 10 carries before a hip pointer caused him to end the day early. Tre Smith continues to be solid with 56 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Borges said the running game is solid and that's important when breaking in a new quarterback.
"It's critical, particularly for a young quarterback or a kid that hasn't played, his best friend in my opinion is a running game," Borges said. "We've got some kids, as I've told you guys before, replacing our great players that are very capable players. Kenny Irons continues to impress. Carl Stewart had another good scrimmage. Tre Smith is Tre Smith. He does the same thing every time out there. We're good at that position, potentially some day great."
A problem area this spring has been at center, where the Tigers are replacing departed starter Jeremy Ingle. With projected starter Steven Ross out this spring because of a knee injury coach Hugh Nall has worked several players at center including walk-on Joe Cope and currently Jonathan Palmer. Borges said the unit has played well and had another good day despite giving up a number of sacks on the outside.
"The offensive line did good today," Borges said. "We've got a good offensive line, we really do. Our first five players are really solid players, both run blockers and pass blockers. Right now they pretty much understand our system. When we want to run the football they understand our run checks and our technique. Hugh (Nall) does a great job of getting our offensive line doing what he needs them to do. I think that's a position that could be a strength for us, depending on how those two positions we have to fill, play. Right now it's okay."
For the first time this spring the first-team defensive line used a lineup that had both Stanley McClover and Quentin Groves on the field at the same time. Early on both were playing the weak side end position, but on Saturday Groves lined up on the strong side for quite a few plays and the results were positive for the defense. The move caused the Tigers some problems as the duo combined for six sacks and Borges said playing against them makes an offense work every down they're in the game.
"You can't let them continually fly up field," Borges said. "You have to have a few counter-punches to keep them honest. If you're constantly in pass situations where they are rushing up the field comfortably then you've got problems because they're just too fast. I don't care how good your team is. But, if you've got enough in there that they've got to play the run and they can't pin their ears back then you've got a chance to get them blocked. Even then they're athletic enough to make plays."
The Tigers will take Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off before returning to the practice field on Wednesday. Next Saturday's A-Day game is scheduled for 1 p.m.