Full Transcript: OC AL Borges
Question: So who is your starting running back?
Al Borges: "We still do not have a starting running back, but we've got a nice field to work from. We're getting a little closer to that I think. It is pretty much the same old cast of characters, but we've had some real nice inside and outside runs. Some guys, Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michael Cox, all of them have just showed some great flashes. We've demonstrated at one time or another and we have hit a few home runs back there too, which is kind of nice but we still do not have a starting running back. I'm guessing, we won't name one for a while. The good news is that they've all shown up, they have and in some instances had some real improvement I think over the spring."
Question: Fred Jackson had said the other day that at some point you guys have to at least whittle the group down to a couple and then decide from there, is that still?
Al Borges: "Oh yeah you got to do that."
Question: When do you plan on doing that?
Al Borges: "As we get closer to game week. As soon as we start scout teams, which will actually be before game week. Another guy I didn't mention that I should have mentioned that I think has been really good for us is Vince Smith. Vince is so multifaceted. Probably as much if not more so than any of our backs. He does so many things well."
Question: That third down role that you had been talking about last week, is he a guy that maybe fits?
Al Borges: "He certainly is a candidate. You bet, he certainly is a candidate. We have a couple of guys that I think that can do that, but Vince is certainly a candidate. He's not big, but he is a real good pass blocker and he has got real good receiving skills. A year ago, they used to actually put him on the flank sometimes and he caught some passes. He fits. You'd like a bigger guy but Vince plays bigger than he is."
Question: There are some other guys who can play the role, who are some of the other guys?
Al Borges: "The same guys, Shaw is another guy and Fitz could do it too. All those same guys, but we you got to do with your nickel back is you got to test people out in passing situations because it is an interesting role. You got to be able to protect #1, because you're not free releasing the guy all the time, you are some but not all the time. #2, you got to be able to run precise routes and catch it when they throw it to you. Some of the guys are better protectors than receivers and some guys are better receivers than protectors. You just got to find that one guy and I think we've go a couple of candidates that will fit that mold."
Question: Can Vince's skill set make up for some of his lack of size?
Al Borges: "Yeah and his football awareness and football IQ and his toughness. He is one of those guys that he loves playing. We got a lot of kids like that. He loves playing and it is important to him. With a guy like that, you've got to find a role for it somewhere."
Question: Have you found anybody else at the fullback position beside for John (McColgan) yet to kind of stand out?
Al Borges: "We're moving some folks around and I don't want to say who, but it will tip my hand a little bit. John has been the primarily guy. Assuming that there is always the possibility of someone getting hurt, we have actually messed with some other guys and I don't want to say who it is. It is really pivotal, really important from our grouping perspective that we don't expose that right now. I can't explain it any more than that. I hate to be mum but that's one we want to keep under wraps."
Question: Last week, there was talk by you coaches that Junior (Hemingway) and Roy (Roundtree) kind of were a cut above everybody else, are there guys who are closing that gap?
Al Borges: "I don't know if they are closing the gap, but we've got some guys that are playing well out there. Some of the guys played some last year, Jeremy Gallon who did some special team things. He has played real well. Kelvin Grady has done a nice job. Jerald Robinson didn't play much last year, but he seems like he has got a future here. Drew Dileo, all those guys have worked their buns off. They've been going now and we run them pretty good. One thing about receivers, if they want to be on the plane or the bus, they've got to be on special teams. The next thing is that our practices are very, very up tempo. We are going from the time that practice starts to the time that practice is over with and receivers run like crazy as do the DBs, the same thing. We work hard them hard, but they've responded very well. We ask them to do some dirty work too. They got to block out there to and if they don't block, they aren't going to play. Our kids have responded really, really well. I think there is a little tradition there here with regarding to blocking as receivers. They've had guys who have done that in the past and we'll try to carry that on."
Question: Do you worry about the lack of size in the receiving corps save from maybe a Junior or Roy?
Al Borges: "You always like to have a few rangy guys. It is like quarterbacks, I've played with so many different sized guys at that position. I've had big guys. At UCLA, I had all the receivers who seem like they were 6'3" to 6'4" or better. I have gone other places where we couldn't get those kind of guys. So we would take a smaller faster guy like an (Martavious) Odoms or a Jeremy Gallon or somebody like that. We found that they don't give you any less points if you're 5'7" or 6'7". It is six points one way or another. So if they can get in the end zone, catch the ball and player than they are, we'll find a place for them. I've never been a big sized guy. Best now is big and fast, if you find guys like that that is what you like, but sometimes some of the better players aren't big and fast."
Question: Coach Mattison seems a little bit down about the defense; I assume that means you're up at this point?
Al Borges: "No, I'm down too (laughter)."
Question: I wonder how every coach can be sort of down.
Al Borges: "This time of season, there are so many frustrations out there, because they are just not doing it the way you want yet. Our guys, we run one play and I'm doing figurative back flips, because god knows if I tried to do that. The next play, I've got to control myself because sometimes it is so bad. It is just the way it is this time of year. Until you get into sync and you start playing with the same 18 guys with all your groups and sub groups, 17 or 18 guys play during the course of the game, sometimes more if you got better players. But until you cut to the chase on that stuff, you're going to be a little rough around the edges. It is like spring football, it is the same way. I very seldom come out of spring football happy. Because we are working so many people, it just doesn't ever look, unless you got a real experienced team, it never looks the way you want it to. But it does tend to get better when you narrow the field a little bit."
Question: Can you get to where you want before the season starts?
Al Borges: "I certainly hope so. I don't know if we've arrived. Like I was telling you guys before and I believe this, as much as I have transitioned jobs is that what I have found is that they are never going to get exactly what you want in the first game so you may as well forget that. You still push for it, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to accept mediocre and neither is any other coach in this staff. As they get through the transitional growing pains, you have to do as little damage as possible. You can't do things that lose you football games until you really get it because they're going to get it. They're going to get it and I'm not exactly sure when, but I've been fortunate at the places I've been that we've got it eventually, where we felt good about it. You don't want to kill yourself in the process. The growing pains can't be catastrophic, does that make sense?"
Question: How has Denard (Robinson) looked?
Al Borges: "He's playing good. He is kind of a kick to coach. He is upbeat all the time. I get on him sometimes and he looks at me like I have ten heads sometimes, but he's awesome. He has been so receptive from the time we've gotten here. He's just accepted what we wanted to do and then he knows that we've got his best interest and the team's best interest at heart and he has been fun to coach."
Question: Is he like anyone else that you've coached before?
Al Borges: "No. No he is not. Now some of the guys that I coached could do…no (laughter). I won't say that. Cade McNown, he would get around, he was tough. He was tough and ran well but not like Denard. They had other attributes that were good. He is a unique talent and again I've said this is a 1000 times and I'll say it again, as long as he uses good judgment and doesn't try to do more than he is capable of doing, he'll be a very, very good player for us I believe."
Question: You talk about guys not always doing things the way you want them, is Denard doing them?
Al Borges: "He is sure as heck trying. That's all I ask as a coach is if we tell the guy do this, we want to feel good about the fact that he's trying to do what we're telling him to do or is he just nodding his head and saying yes coach and just being courteous and doing what he wants, we'll know that. I have not seen much of that here. Most of the kids have been very receptive to what we've tried to teach them. It is different and sometimes change can be met with resistance, we're all that way by human nature. I think for the most part unless I'm naïve and my wife says that I am, but unless I'm naïve I don't see much of that. Now the proof is in the pudding. You got to get to a point where you're successful. You have to have these things work and then really everybody jumps into the boat. So the testing ground is still ahead."
Question: How much are you still drawing up plays?
Al Borges: "I don't know, I'm obsessed. The guys tell me I'm a nut job and I think I am. I like that part of the game. I like so many parts of the game, but I like the tactics and I like to scribble. So many coaches do, I'm not unusual. A lot of guys that do my job are really, what Brady calls me is a football junky and that is probably partly true. I like to think I got a life other than that. We're always trying to evolve and figure out another way to use our talent the best we possibly can. My dad told me that as long as I had a pencil and a piece of paper, I was never bored. He said I envy you, you got a pencil and a piece of paper and you're never bored. That's probably true and maybe some of the stuff I'm drawing is worthless (laughter). I'm sure some of it is. I throw it all away. I don't really keep it very often. One I write it down, I usually remember it."
Question: How did your creative process change once you realized what kind of talent Denard was?
Al Borges: "That's a process too now. This running quarterback thing really poses some interesting options that I haven't had in a while. The biggest thing about the quarterback whether it is Denard or anybody, you have to as quick as you possibly can, identify what he can do. He can do darn near anything, but he is going to do certain things better than other things and you got to identify what he does best and not just running but passing too in every phase and then try to gear your schemes to that."
Question: How is the passing game right now with the timing with Denard and his receivers?
Al Borges: "He is getting better every day. I think we were really rough around the edges when we came and I was a little surprised. The kids in the offseason had worked at it I think, but they weren't in football shape and they weren't used to the coaches watching them every minute and all that. The last few days that has gotten better. It is not there yet, but it is showing some promise."
Question: On Sunday, Brady talked how he brought you to San Diego State, why did you go to San Diego State to be with him?
Al Borges: "There are a lot of reasons. After 2007 when I left, I actually stayed at Auburn in 2008 because my wife worked at Auburn and I had another year on my contract. So I stayed in Auburn and crawled up the walls because I didn't coach in 2008. I went everywhere. I went a lot of places and learned more football and I enjoyed it, and I told my wife unless I got a job or we got a job that fit us, we would stay here. Brady called me and asked me if I was interested in going to San Diego State and I always thought San Diego State was kind of a sleeping giant. What a great place, it really is. It was down, they hadn't won, but I'm from California and it was a good chance to go back and my parents were getting older, so that was part of it too and get back into football. I was chomping at the bit to get back into football. I knew Brady for a long time. I knew what he was like and he was a guy that I knew I could work for. You put all that together and it wasn't a real tough decision. Then Rocky Long got hired and it made it all the better, because I had worked with Rocky at UCLA and we had some success there. It was a very, very good situation, it really was."
Question: Was it tough to leave them or was it a no brainer to come to Michigan?
Al Borges: "It was a little bit of a no brainer to come to Michigan, but it wasn't like San Diego State was bad. I think we had taken that program to where people were starting to care about it again. I really do so that part of it. You kind of missed it, but this opportunity here is golden. A chance to get back and coach at a BCS school with a place that has the tradition that they got here. If you asked 100 coaches if they had the option, maybe 99 of them would say they would go to Michigan and the 100th guy would be committed to an insane asylum. I'm not putting San Diego State down because that was a great job for me and it revived my career but this is just too good of an opportunity."
Question: How have you seen Brady's coaching style change over the past three years that you've been with him?
Al Borges: "It hasn't really changed. You'd better be tough, we're going to give effort and we're going to play as hard as we can for as long as we can. We're going to gear our offense and our defense to that too. Brady doesn't believe in lip service toughness. He believes in that if the bodies don't collide and noses don't get bloodied a little bit once in a while then we're probably not playing the game right. It hasn't changed as far as I'm concerned, the same old guy to me. It is just the way he is, it is the way he is as a person and if you want to coach with him that's the way you'd better be."
Question: In terms of how he delegates to his coordinators and specifically to the offensive coordinator, how does he compare to other head coaches you've worked with?
Al Borges: "Similar to a couple. The guys that are defensive guys tend to let you run with your end of it more, but Brady is on top of anything now. It isn't like Brady ignores what we're doing. Brady knows what we're doing and understands what we're doing and monitors everything that is done, even though he would probably tell you more of a defensive coach. What we do, I make sure he is aware of…I don't have to make sure, he is on top of it. I have had several guys who were very similar to that."
Question: On the offensive line are there any spots up front that are maybe more in question than other?
Al Borges: "No, not really. It is kind of is what it is right now. We've got five guys and the depth chart is always in pencil. You don't play, we'll take you out of there in a second. We've proven that. We have some kids that are playing pretty good out there. The one thing about the offensive line, there is a chemistry to it. I think the offensive line and secondary are kind of like this. There has got to be a chemistry to it where the guy has got to work together, communicate and you would like to find five guys that are good enough to play every single game, communicate with each other on a consistent basis and knows exactly what the guy next to him is going to do. We're working towards that end. Yeah it is competitive, but it is always going to be competitive. If one of those five guys doesn't play well, we'll find somebody else. We're not going to sacrifice a good player just for that thinking, but we would like the same guys to be in there."
Question: What have you seen from the Mike Schofield?
Al Borges: "Mike has got a chance to be a really good player, a very athletic guy. I think he is going to contribute here. I'm not sure when and how much, but he is going to contribute here. He is going to be a good football player. He is developing every day."
Question: Can you talk about your other backs and what distinguishes each of them?
Al Borges: "Cox and Shaw are very similar in that I think they have got some home run threat to them. Toussaint is a tough kid that makes no concession to the defense and he too has a nice burst and can go. Vince, like I said is probably as diverse as any of them. Thomas Rawls as a freshman has shown up as a guy and Justice Hayes too, has shown some skills, stop and go ability in the hole and those types of things. Stephen Hopkins is your consummate big back. He is a powerful kid who can run inside the tackles and believe it or not is fast enough to get outside. He has great feet for a guy that is his size. So they all have a little something to them. That's my kneejerk if I was going to distinguish them."
Question: Does it make harder to make a decision because they're all so different?
Al Borges: "No. You just go by production. A guy you think is going to produce. Hey we've seen them all over the years, they all come in different size and shapes and the bottom line is production. This is a result oriented business for coaches and players a like. A guy shows that he can tote that thing 20+ and can get you a 100 yards plus. The guy who is going to beat him out is the guy who can tote it 20+ and get more than that. That's kind of our goal."
Question: How much of that battle will be decided once you guys start scrimmaging?
Al Borges: "I think some, but I'm not sure. We may get into the season. I told you I don't like the running back by committee, but if it takes games to find it, I've done it before at places I've been. Some guy exposed his ability under the lights and won the position, I've seen it."
Question: Is it fair to say that by the end of September you figure you'll have…?
Al Borges: "I guess, but again I don't...timelines, I don't paint myself in a corner by saying it has got to be done by now because you just don't know. You play a game and it happens right away, I did that one year at Auburn. We had a starting running back and a guy behind him and the guy got in the game and the other guy became the starting running back, it happens. It has happened other places."
Question: You said that last week the freshman backs heads were spinning just because they were not around for spring and missed some this fall because of classes, are they getting a better grasp now of what you're looking for?
Al Borges: "A little bit at a time. Like I said the biggest issues with the young kids is not running the ball. They can get their tracks straight in terms of where to run and if their visual that usually comes natural. The biggest issue with young guys is protection because there is just so many fronts and so many issues particularly now with contemporary defenses where they give you so many different looks with the zone pressures and zero blitzes and all that stuff. You got to digest some stuff, you got to have good functional intelligence and generally that takes a little experience to do it. That's the issue with the young guy at most every place I've been is who to block on pass protection and god knows we don't want to get our quarterback hurt."
Question: Will Fred make the call?
Al Borges: "We wall do. This is a collaborative effort or a joint effort. Brady, Fred and myself will sit down. We ask for everybody's input. We got a lot of experts. I wan tot know what everybody thinks. That's an important position. I asked guys when there is a competitive quarterback situation. I obviously have a pretty good vote in it, but I'll ask the line coach what do you think. I may tell him that he is crazy after he answers it, but I'm still interested to know. The running back position can make or break you. It will be a collaborative effort."
Question: Have you guys been able to stay healthy on the offensive side of the ball?
Al Borges: "Yeah, pretty much. Coach won't let me talk about injuries, so anybody that is, I'm simply not going to tell you. It has been pretty good so far."
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