Question: How come you guys are perfect in the red zone?
Al Borges: "Why do you say that! Doggone it, it is just like that kiss of death. We're certainly not efficient yet overall, but that part of our game's been pretty good so far, and hopefully we can keep it going. We spend a lot of time working on it, too. It is a point of emphasis. There's nothing more distressing than getting the ball down there and not scoring. And you're not going to score a touchdown every time, but you're not coming away with something. It's point of emphasis, but the kids have done a pretty good job of finishing drives once we get to that point."
Question: But you have scored a touchdown almost every time.
Al Borges: "Yeah. There you go again."
Question: You talk about efficiency, do you feel a smidgeon of pride?
Al Borges: "Oh yeah absolutely. They've done a good job down there. One thing I'll say for this football team, we are not perfect by any means, we are not there, but we've got pretty good will. We have shown over the past four games…we overcame some bad plays in the second half of last game. We overcame tremendous adversity at the Notre Dame game. We started slow in the Eastern (Michigan) game, but the kids have demonstrated some will, and there's something to that, because a lot of times teams don't have a great will and you tend to fold. We've shown no signs of that, not yet, anyway."
Question: Denard talked about the will and desire to get better in terms of the passing. Can you talk about what you kind of moving through there with him?
Al Borges: "Well, it's a work in progress with our offense. That's the thing, in our offense because it's different. Now part of that, too and I'm going to take the rap for that a little bit. I've got to get him some better throws. I've got to put him in position to complete some more balls so he can gain some confidence and gain some rhythm and get in a little bit of a zone. He's a capable passer, but as a play caller, we have to consider everything we're calling with regard to the passing game. This kid really threw the ball well in two-a-days and threw the ball well in spring. He did. All his numbers were better numbers now. I think game situations are different and as he learns about how to do this, you'll see progress. Because he does have a good arm, and he has an accurate arm when he's comfortable. But part of that has got to be my responsibility to get him in better situations to complete some throws."
Question: A year ago he was extremely active through the first four games, I think he was completing like 65% to 70%. Was there anything that you saw from watching him throw last year versus the first four games this as could be why?
Al Borges: "No I haven't. I studied the players, but I didn't really study that end of it. Some of it was that he'd been in the offense more than one year and that helps. You'll see the difference in a year, instantly. I had Cade McNown at UCLA. The first year he was tenth in the conference in passing efficiency. His second year he led the country in passing efficiency. How do you make that much of a quantum leap? Is it all of a sudden a magic wand touched you and you're an accurate passer? No. It's understanding the offense and not just his understanding, but it's everybody else's, too. It's all the growing pains that go with it. With that said, we still have to do better than we're doing. It's not acceptable regarding the passing game."
Question: Do you like how he is targeting receivers and the guys he's going to?
Al Borges: "Not all the time, no. We made a couple of bad decisions in the game, but for the most part over the past four games, he's been pretty much on the right guy, okay. He's still got a couple of deals and most of them, he's pressed a little. When there are people around him and he's got to make the decision quick and maybe he doesn't see the throw as good or just feels a sense of urgency to get rid of the ball. Again, as he gets more comfortable, I can't emphasize that enough, guys, all the quarterbacks I've had, they are all better the second year. Well we're in a microwave here. We've got to get this fast. We're just going to keep working at it and getting better at it, and you'll see by the end of the season, if he stays in one piece, that he will improve his passing. I think most every kid I've had has."
Question: Is the will thing unique to this team, is that common with every team that has this will?
Al Borges: "No. Some teams fold. There's a lot of teams I've coached that never would have won the Notre Dame game, and probably wouldn't have played like we played in other games. We show some flashes of excellence, we do. I see some plays I get excited watching but then we have those little breakdowns, just like we did in the third quarter, where it was a mess. It is one bad play and then another bad play. We fumbled and threw an interception. But in the first half, I'm liking what I see. We've had quarters and halves like that. This time it was more earlier in the game, where in the other games it was later one."
Question: With Denard in terms of the passing game, do you think it is more mental, physical or both?
Al Borges: "Yeah it's all of the above. It's understanding what to do and having your brain tell your feet how to move and get yourself in position to make the throws, and the decision-making process. The thing you find with the passing game, and every great quarterback will tell you this, they'll say, as you learn and understand it better, it slows down and there's nothing happening in front of you anymore, it's all happening out here (waves hand). Until you get that comfort level, there's still stuff happening in here, you know what I mean. Particularly an athletic quarterback who feels like he can bail himself out of stuff, which he can, he's very capable of doing. You'll see as he goes and he understands what we're trying to do more, it'll be more of a pseudo seven-on-seven type of situation where he'll feel what's in front of him, yet he'll be always focused on what's going on out beyond the field."
Question: Last week you talked about how teams are really doing different things defending Denard than what you see on film. Is there theme developing of how they are defending Denard?
Al Borges: "I thought there was until this week. Rocky did it a little different. He started the game in some man-to-man coverage, and then we broke an option on him, and they pulled it in a little bit. So it changes. They're adjusting like you're adjusting. Rocky Long is a hell of a football coach. He's not going to keep making the same mistakes and most of the people we play aren't. You've got to see what the battlefield strategy is, and then make your adjustments as you see fit."
Question: What was the theme you saw developing before San Diego State?
Al Borges: "Well most people were locking up our receivers and try to sink a guy in to play Denard so they could play Denard partly with the front and with an extra player on top. And that's a good way to play him if you don't have the weapons, some stuff to exploit that and you're not throwing the ball well."
Question: Brady said he wants to see how Denard gets the offense into a play, what is your observation on that?
Al Borges: "I'm not sure."
Question: How he manages the plays, the game, the offense.
Al Borges: "He's not doing a bad job of that. In terms of getting us, particularly in our running game, in terms of getting us into the right plays, he's had very few mistakes. I believe the option play he broke, he checked. He's done a good job that way. We've just got to get him up on the passing, got to get him comfortable in our passing game. That's a work in progress, but he's a willing student and a capable kid."
Question: What kind of dimension to your offense does that speed option give you?
Al Borges: "You got a guy that can run 4.3 with the ball. I mean that's a little scary to the defense, that kind of ball carrier. Plus it just forces them to defend more. We'd had that play for a while. That's not a new play. We just hadn't sprung it in games. It's just, if you talk to most defensive coaches, the option is a concern. I know way back when I was on defense, it was one of the first things we had to address."
Question: If they are going to play your receivers tight and dare you to throw, that can kind of pin them in when you get to the outside.
Al Borges: "Yeah it helps. In man coverage, you force responsibility to the option. When you're locked up outside and have to come from the inside out, you can have some issues, no question about it. Everybody plays it a little different."
Question: Can you talk about the other end of the passing game in terms of what you're seeing from your receivers that they could do better to help Denard out?
Al Borges: "Oh it's the same deal. We have certain routes called. We're stopping when we should keep going. Some of the adjustments are not clean, you know, and it's screwing him up a little bit too. It's not all Denard, like I said. It's partly play calling, I've got to do a better job of that, our receivers not making the proper adjustments. The passing game, major synergy there, they've got to have some chemistry in there. He's going to be there at this time, and I'm going to give him the ball at this time. If he's not, I'm going to reset and throw up to this guy or blah blah blah. There are so many little pieces that have to be…I call it meticulous precision. I think that's redundant, but you know what I'm saying."
Question: Is that part of why Junior Hemingway maybe is not getting targeted as much in the passing game?
Al Borges: "All of them, it is not just Junior. It's everybody. Roy (Roundtree), Junior, we should be catching more passes and we will. We talk about it everyday, but today it was huge emphasis. We want to take this step with our passing game this week. We really do. If we don't, and we win and we do what we have to do to win then we'll work on it again next week and eventually we'll get where we want to be."
Question: When you say that you want to get Denard into better passing situations to help him get more comfortable in passing. Does that mean giving him easier reads?
Al Borges: "Not necessarily easier reads, work within the offense but throwing in situations that aren't necessarily passing situations, which we've done some of. But giving him some throws that he can complete, and not forcing them. Because people are up on us with regard to stopping the run, you've got to take some balls down the field. You have to. Well that does not cater to high percentage throwing, and I tell him, if you throw the ball down the field, if you hit half of them that's pretty good, that's not bad. Now what about the other throws. The throws that are underneath the defense that give you a chance to do some run after the catch, a little pitch and catch stuff, and sometimes they don't even give you that. Against Notre Dame, that was going to be hard to do because they were all crowded in there and you weren't going to pluck at them. But certain teams you can pluck at them a little bit. Those ones that will allow us to do that we have to take advantage of it."
Question: When you sense that Denard is not comfortable, is there anything you can say to him in game or anything just to try and calm him down, just little things that you can try to point out to make him ore comfortable?
Al Borges: "Every time that he's done, he comes to the sideline, he goes straight to the headset, and we talk about the last series and what we did, any mistakes, any things that were done well, you know. He's a little bit of an unflappable kid, now. He got frustrated because he's competitive, but I don't get the sense that he gets shaken or rattled. That's not really much in his demeanor. Everybody has times where you're not feeling good about the way things are going, but I don't see Denard Robinson turning into jello. I don't sense it on the headset. I don't sense it in my everyday interactions with him. He's a pretty cool kid."
Question: Did you think you'd be running option more often than you have up to this point?
Al Borges: "No. We've done it the way we've planned it and there's more. Like I said, we're in the Big Ten now, and there's going to be more stuff that we haven't done."
Question: You said on his touchdown run, he changed the play to the option?
Al Borges: "No he checked the play. He decided which way it should be run. We give him that flexibility, too. He can do that. He has that ability."
Question: With the play calling, do you feel like you have to get Denard going in rhythm passing and running, are those two separate things that play off each other at all?
Al Borges: "A little bit of both. You have to do them both. He is a great running quarterback. He's going to do that. If you give him the chances, if you block for him, he goes to do that. But to be a great passing quarterback, it takes rhythm. Rhythm, feeling it a little bit. I talked about the three-point shooter that gets hot and the rim gets bigger. There's just something to that. The guy starts feeling it. I do not care, I can throw a ball throw a knot hole at 50 yards right now. I'm just feeling good about it and it doesn't happen right away."
Question: Do you want to be a head coach one day?
Al Borges: "No comment."
Question: Have you heard that your name has been thrown out there?
Al Borges: "I've heard of nothing about that and I can't think of anything further from my mind right now."
Question: Anything about Fitz Toussaint, is he your lead tailback?
Al Borges: "Well you know what, if we can do what we're doing. I told you, and I'm sticking with it, I still prefer a guy that can tote it and go. But if we can produce over a hundred yards rushing from our tailbacks between two guys, I can live with that. As long as there's productivity at the position, and we're get into a little of that now, I'm not going to complain about it, but it's just not my preference."
Question: So you see it as Fitz and Vincent Smith?
Al Borges: "Well it was last game, and until somebody else steps to the forefront, it's going to continue to be. Both those kids have done a pretty good job the last couple of weeks. Both those kids have…our tailback play has been pretty decent. Because Denard's such a featured runner in our offense, I don't know if the tailbacks are ever going to get huge numbers until we just jump into the I formation and start doing that every play, which we're not doing as long as Denard's the quarterback, not every play anyway. If we can get that kind of productivity every week, that'd be pretty darn good."
Full Transcript: O-Coordinator Al Borges
The Michigan Insider Top Stories
WATCH: Kelly-Powell Updates RecruitmentDetroit (Mich.) Cass Tech's Jaylen Kelly-Powell updates his recruitment, the latest with Michigan, his decision timeline and more.
The Michigan Insider8:37 AM
Wheatley Jr. “Excited” For Big Test At MSUMichigan tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. discusses his first career catch and touchdown vs. Illinois, thoughts on the rivalry against the Spartans, and more.
The Michigan Insider8:19 AM
Don Brown: Michigan building defensive depthMichigan defensive coordinator Don Brown says as good as the first string as been he's excited about the young players.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 11:58 PM
Brown would be "happy" if U-M last stopMichigan's Don Brown is having a "blast" in his first year as U-M's defensive coordinator, no plans of leaving anytime soon.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 5:36 PM