Fewer Mental Mistakes Pleases Borges

Offensive coordinator Al Borges gives his thoughts on the offense with less than 10 days until the season opener.

Auburn, Ala.--Just a little more than a week days from the opening kickoff of the 2007 football season, the Auburn Tigers and offensive coordinator Al Borges are hoping to take care of offensive questions before taking the field against Kansas State.

Wednesday's practice may have gone a long way towards doing just that as the Tigers worked on down and distance situations and sharpening the offense in a scrimmage style setting against the defense that lasted around 80 plays.

While it wasn't live and the players weren't facing a defense taking them to the ground, Borges says he was pleased to see his guys take another step forward. That was especially true in the mental aspect of the game.

"It was okay," Borges says. "Our tempo is getting a little bit better. We're still not where we need to be, but we're making less mental mistakes and that excites me. I know once we're not making mental mistakes we'll be better technique-wise. The more the guys have to think the worse their technique gets. We're making less of those and that's good."

Part of the problem for the offense to this point has been the merry-go-round on the offensive line throughout the first three weeks of practice. With guys moving in and out of the first and second team in rapid succession, Borges said having the same line group on the field a few days in a row has allowed his team to settle in and start building some togetherness.

"It makes a huge difference because we spent two and half weeks doing the lido shuffle and we had to," Borges says. "It was necessary to find out who we felt our best 11 were. Now we're getting a little more honed in on that and the kids play together, you create some chemistry. You've heard me say this before. Offense is about getting in synch, running successful plays behind each other. When guys start feeling their oats you get a little synergy and everything starts working out good. That takes a while, particularly when you're not playing with the same guys all the time."

Al Borges talks things over with quarterbacks Brandon Cox, Steven Ensminger, Blake Field and Kodi Burns.

Another thing that has helped the offense come together is the play and leadership of senior quarterback Brandon Cox. Healthy after being hampered for much of the 2006 season with leg and knee injuries, Borges says Cox is a long way from being a running threat, but he is moving around the pocket much better. That is something that should also help an inexperienced offensive line early in the season.

""He's very pocket aware in that he can get out of a mess," the coach says. "He couldn't do that last year. His physical state a year ago kind of stuck him in cement a lot of times and he was a target. Now he's not, he gets around. I'm not going to ever say he's a scrambling quarterback because he's not, but he's got enough pocket presence to maneuver within the pocket and buy time to make throws."

Another area of concern on the offense has been at wide receiver where Rodgeriqus Smith, Prechae Rodriguez and Robert Dunn have stepped up as the starters, but nobody else has come on to solidify a spot in the rotation. Borges says he's still looking for several guys to come on strong in the next few practices, but he's been sold on the play of one player in particular, at least to this point.

"We get Montez Billings back and he may be pushing the first tier of receivers. I think when we get him back he'll be in the fold. The guy that has had a good camp and I have been happy with his progress is James Swinton. He's really never really come to the forefront in the past ,but he really wants to play. The thing about James is he can run. He's faster than greased lightning. If he can show some consistency with his route running and with his receiving, he's catching the ball better now than I've ever seen him since I've been here. He can be a major factor."

In the end it will come down to Auburn's ability to make positive plays without too much of the negative thrown in. While the offense will go into the season opener with plenty of questions, Borges predicts his group will be as ready as possible after facing Coach Will Muschamp's defense every day in practice.

"They're the ultimate test for us because we've got a really good defensive line to start with," Borges notes. "They are very well coached. They will test you as a pass rushing unit and a good run stopping unit. I have been very impressed by our coverage on the back end, particularly in terms of our corners. We've got a couple of guys back there that really make it tough. They are good bump and run corners and they don't play off bad.

"I think Will does such a good job of mixing the blitzes with the coverage packages," Borges adds. "If you can move the ball on our guys I start feeling pretty good about our chances to move it on anybody. I don't know if we're the best or not (Auburn's defense) but we're going to be one of the best if we keep all our folks healthy."

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