Full Transcript: O-Coordinator Al Borges
Question: Thoughts on Denard's improvement this last game?
Al Borges: "We worked on it pretty good and he took it to heart. He was stressing and he wasn't throwing like he could. He's a better passer, I told you that before. Part of it, we had to give him some throws that he could make early and he got into a rhythm and it was lights out. He was feeling good. His fundamentals were so much better other than two throws. There were two throws and both of those were pocket movement throws to his left. He didn't get turned very well and part of that was protection oriented. He got his screws in the ground pretty good and transferred through most of the throws and he was pretty much on the money and touched a few balls nice too. He dropped a couple of balls in. That's the key to passing, it's a finesse art. It's not, you got to be able to drop it in, you got to be able to drill it. You got to be able to lay them out. You got to be able throw it so that guy can catch it and run with it."
Question: How did you come up with that what more do you expect from that formation?
Al Borges: "I'm not going to tell you that. Devin Gardner is a talented kid and we just wanted to give him a chance to kind of feature him a little bit in a couple of deals and Big Ten play…I told you Big Ten play, we'll empty the drawer more as we go now. Our first four games, we're still learning the offense. That's still a work in progress. We're going to have our deals. They're not all going to work. Some are going to be good, some of them aren't, but that was just one of them."
Question: Did you find that somewhere that someone used before or was that literally all you?
Al Borges: "Well, it goes way back. There was a series that the Chargers ran back in I think it was the ‘80s or early ‘90s with Buford Jordan, where he was a quarterback in college and we took a piece of that and then kind of expanded it a little bit to fit. I think Dan Fouts was playing back then. Part of that's kind of old. Ernie Zampese had done that. The other piece is that we just kind of built some stuff off it that they didn't do back then. The option part of it was a piece from the past."
Question: Brady said you guys started talking about it in March or April?
Al Borges: "Oh yeah, yeah, we talked about it a little bit and after spring football…it became apparent Devin was a skilled kid, we just tried to figure out a way we could use him. It's hard without literally giving quarterbacks series, and I know they did that here in the past, I'm just not a fan of breaking the starting quarterback's rhythm by taking him out a series or two for another guy. I don't like that. So either you do that or you find ways to use your other quarterback within the body of the game outside of putting him series by series."
Question: The next one is on grass, is there any special preparation for that other than changing shoes?
Al Borges: "Well other than we're practicing on grass. We've been practicing on grass all the way through. This isn't news. Brady likes practicing on grass. It's easier on kids' legs and as long as the field stays in decent shape, you can do that. I think the big thing about that is just don't make too much of it. It doesn't make that much difference. It's like when you play on grass all the time and go play on turf, if you make too much of it, guys find an excuse to fail. We don't make too much of it."
Question: That Chargers formation is that something that you had tucked away in the back of your mind?
Al Borges: "Well, I've got an archive of football plays. I've been doing this 25 years, and got an archive of football plays that go way back even before I was coordinating. That was before I started coordinating. I think every coach has got it. I'm not unique. You keep things and you pull them out. As soon as you see something that fits your personnel that you have, you tap it and see what it looks like. It may not fit today's football, that was a long time ago, but maybe it does."
Question: Is it better to walk the line between that's got to have a certain amount of time devoted to it in practice but you want all your regular stuff?
Al Borges: "Yeah. That's a delicate balance. You have to justify it, and if you're going to use it, you have to practice it, and if you're going to practice it, you have to use it. We were going to use that in the opening place, so I made sure that it got called. We were going to have X amount of those, not all of those plays but a certain amount of those plays."
Question: Did you have to dig pretty deep to remember that?
Al Borges: "I've got a steel trap (laughter). No, I mean, I don't know. Something occurs to you, and you use it. We used it years ago, and we did it again. I remember being at Auburn when we had Ronnie Brown and we were trying to figure out ways to get Ronnie Brown some fullback plays, because we were using him as a fullback. Boy I went way back on a couple of those. I pulled a few plays out from 15, 20 years ago. You got to figure something out."
Question: Obviously this was the first Big Ten game but was there any specific reason that this Minnesota game was the one you unveiled that?
Al Borges: "No, no particular reason. Just because we thought that would be a nice wrinkle. Nothing more than that."
Question: In recent weeks, we talked about how defenses were playing to stop Denard, was your counter to that running the counter with him and I guess running different misdirection plays?
Al Borges: "That's one of them, yeah. We have a part of our offense, within the scope of our offense, where we have plays to exploit overplay on Denard or any other player. But Denard tends to get the most overplay. They'll over defend him, so you have to have a portion of your schematic that is dedicated to defenses that want to overkill stopping him. Certainly if I was coaching defense, I would lean that direction and make the offense play left-handed. Make somebody else beat you."
Question: Roy Roundtree had a lot of success in the slot in the past. Is he struggling to figure out what he needs to do on the outside; how can you get him more touches?
Al Borges: "No, not really. Within the game plan, we have X amount of balls that go to the split receiver. If they go to him, they go to him. There's going to be games you catch some balls, there's going to be games you don't catch very many passes. I told these kids that from the beginning. I don't have any special goal, unless a player is Jerry Rice type, I don't have any special goal to make sure a player catches X amount of balls. I don't and won't ever. Now if you have some phenom, then you owe it to that phenom to see to it that you get him the ball, but as long as we're balanced, and Roy's a heck of a player, but we have a lot of other guys. Jeremy Gallon is a good player and so is Junior Hemingway and some of the other kids. Certain games you're going to catch more. You'll see, Roy will have a bunch of catches one game, and another game he won't have as many. That's just the way it is and the way the offense always has been."
Question: When your deciding to use that Devin and Denard play, do you sit there and think, you want to run just to make sure it works and make sure the wrinkles are ironed out or are you doing it because you want defense coordinators down the road to start thinking what else do they have up their sleeve?
Al Borges: "Yes. Yes. Yes to all of the above. You answered the question. It is exactly what you want."
Question: I can't quote myself, though.
Al Borges: "That's exactly what you're trying to do, you're just trying to… there's so many reasons. You're trying to explore the talents of certain players. You're trying to give the defense another wrinkle, something else to think about, those types of things. It's not to be fancy or cute, I promise you that. I could care less about that. I'm way past that, okay? Twenty years ago, I would have thought that was pretty neat, but today, we're just interested in winning. And if it helps you win, I'm interested. If it doesn't help you win, I ain't interested. I thought that was something that would help us win. I think we ran what, four or five plays? Half of them worked, and half of them didn't."
Question: Northwestern has done a decent job of pressuring quarterbacks this year, what have you seen from their defense?
Al Borges: "They play as hard, if not harder, than anybody we've played, and they play smart. They make very few mistakes. They find themselves in the right position a lot. Their scheme, it is sophisticated within itself, but it's not flamboyant, a bunch of exotic blitzes and all that stuff, but it fits what they do. Their defensive coordinator is an excellent football coach. I've coached against him before. He puts them in good position. Vince Brown, the defensive end, excellent pass rusher and a good playmaker. They run to the ball. They just do all the things that you coach in defense well."
Question: Taylor Lewan is a kid that has had some penalty issues last year but it hasn't been even a factor this year, can you talk about how he has played for you?
Al Borges: "He's taken a lot of pride in not doing that. He really has. I told Taylor before and I heard about it and saw some on the tape that he had some penalties that I'm sure he regrets. I told him that our offense is set up for no penalties, it really is. We make it so that the way our cadence is, the way we snap the ball. I've been fortunate never had a heavy penalized offensive football team and he took that to heart and it is ac credit to him, it really is. He's taken pride in the fact that he hasn't made some things that he would term as stupid penalties. He's been smart, he's played smart and he's getting better and better all the time."
Question: Some of the more creative plays that you run be it the Denard or Devin package or maybe some other things that you have coming; how important is it to have a center that is experienced?
Al Borges: "It helps a lot, and David makes that happen, it really does help. He can handle a lot of things that they do up front. The center is the quarterback of the offensive line. David Molk certainly fits that mold. He's a great athlete, and a smart kid that loves to play football, and he can get us all working in the right direction. To answer your question is very, very important, and we're lucky because we've got one."
Question: When did you first realize he might be a guy that you could lean on?
Al Borges: "Just watching the clips from last year and then talking to him. Smart, smart kid picks things up fast. He's what you're looking for, really is, and he's taken on a leadership role, too. He really has. I'm proud of him. Because he didn't know us. He was picked as a captain, he didn't know us when we came in here, and he's bought into what we want. I think he'd tell you, he's enjoying it."
Question: What have you seen from Mark Huyge?
Al Borges: "Mark has been as consistent has any offensive lineman we've had. He's another one. He's a lot like David. He's smart. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He's got good range, he's a good pass protector, few to no mental errors. You count on him. As a football coach, I just appreciate guys who do what you tell them to do and they're consistent doing it even if they're not the greatest athletes. Mark's not a bad athlete, but all we ask as coaches is to do what we coach you to do the best you can. I know that eventually they're going to improve. You don't go out on your own program or spaz out when the game starts, which some kids do sometimes. I haven't seen a lot of that here, but it happens. Mark is one of those guys that has fit in so nicely to what we want to do."
Question: The more you work with the (Fitz) Toussaint and Vincent Smith combo are you getting more comfortable with what you get from each guy?
Al Borges: "Yeah I am. You guys know where I stand on that and we're using Vince Smith exactly, really the way we said we were going or thought we were going to. Fitz has come around. Fitz is really running the ball hard and tough, as is Mike Shaw. He's done a pretty good job. Our combination of backs is working out at this point anyway. I may change my mind in three weeks. At this point pretty good, I see no reason at this point to change how we're going about it. I'm going to say it again, I'd prefer the other way where there's ‘A' guy."
Question: Can you see the advantage of having the multiple backs?
Al Borges: "There definitely is. You have change-up backs. You have guys that bring something different to the table and you don't beat the hell out of them, which is huge. Yeah there's an advantage."
Question: It seems like the passing game is much more focused on short to intermediate routes, is that something that fits Denard's skill set better?
Al Borges: "Well part of it, part of it was getting him off. Getting him off and getting him some completions, but you can't play quarterback in today's football just throwing short routes all the time. They won't let you do it. Certain teams are not going to allow you to do it. There's a point where you're going to have to take the ball down the field. Particularly because we're running the ball pretty well now, it becomes more critical that you be able to take those bites. So yeah that's part of it. We're going to throw the short and intermediate throws, but we can't depend on that every single down knowing that there's a point when they're crowding the line of scrimmage, the ball's got to go over somebody's head."
Question: The fact that Denard can run like he can, does that make short and intermediate routes that you last longer before…?
Al Borges: "Oh yeah, he can buy us some time that always helps. That's good stuff when he can do some stuff you don't draw up on the board. God knows he does more than quarterback I've ever coached in terms of things that I don't draw on the board and buying time for passing is at the top of that list."
Question: I mean with in-game transitions where teams will try to take away short to intermediate quicker, do they not do it as much because of Denard's ability to run?
Al Borges: "I don't think so. A lot of times people are taking away your short game because they're stopping your run because they're close to the line of scrimmage. So the residual of stopping the run is being able to stop the short passing game. That's why you have to at one point and time be able to take the ball and throw the ball over somebody's head. Whether it is the underneath coverage or the deep coverage."
Question: You talked about Denard's throwing improving this week, was there something different in practice that you saw with him, you talk about timing? Also what can you replicate from this game moving forward?
Al Borges: "Well just build on what we've done. Look at the few throws that weren't very good and see if we can't cure that. But he's a prideful guy and he takes pride in his ability to throw. He does. A lot of people don't probably think that he does because he's such a good runner, and a lot of times that's taken for granted, but he takes pride in his ability to pass. I told him when I came here, we're going to see what we can do. And I knew there was going to be some developmental pain here because it's so different the way we coach a quarterback, but as he gets his feet on the ground literally and figuratively, you're going to see I think he'll make more and more headway as we go."
Question: You had Vince Smith throw the touchdown pass, do you audition your different running backs?
Al Borges: "Yeah, and they get fired fast. They do. Last year at San Diego State, I fired Ronnie Hillman after one throw. He told me, coach, that's too much pressure, just one pass. I go that's tough. It's like Donald Trump, man, you're out. Vince threw a good ball the first time, said okay, you get to throw one more. He threw another good one, and he won. But we actually have a couple guys who can throw pretty good."
Question: In terms of looking at Northwestern and how to attack them, do you look at Illinois because they have a mobile quarterback and things that worked for them?
Al Borges: "No, no. I didn't not really. I didn't study Illinois, not that they probably would be good to study because they do probably some similar things.
Question: You talked about Denard wanting to get his passing right when you came, do you talk about the NFL and getting ready for the next level is that something that you talk with him?
Al Borges: "A little bit, but not too much. I think you beat that stuff up too much. You lose perspective on what's straight ahead of you. NFL is the residual effect of being a good college player. That's what you get when you're good, so you make him as good a college player and let the chips fall as they may. But I don't want to talk too much about that. That'll happen if it's supposed to happen."
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