Coordinator Full Transcript: Al Borges

Al Borges met with the media for his weekly post practice interview Tuesday evening. The Wolverines' OC discussed his playcalling on the final series of the Iowa game, Denard Robinson's continued development, the decision to use the Devin/Denard formation less, and more.

Do you, looking back on it, have any…"Okay, those last four plays I wish I would have called something differently?" Do you wish you had given him the option of roll out and have the run pass option?
Yeah, you're going struggle rolling out. They were the full blitz. Guys coming out the outside, I mean, you could roll out, but your odds were not very good. Your best, in four straight full blitzes, your best case scenario is work single coverage matchups. We got our hands on three out of four balls, and it just, for whatever reason didn't work out; but not a lot, not a lot of reservation about that. Like it said, rolling out, conceptually, sounds good, but when the edge isn't clean, it doesn't look as good as it sounds, so…

Were there any thoughts of running on first down or didn't have…?
You can't run. No, absolutely not. 16 seconds and no time outs? If you run the football inside of 18 seconds, your odds, if you fail, of getting back lined up to run another play are very, very slim. Not to mention you eliminate probably two calls, so there was absolutely, that would be bad play calling, bad strategy.

Any thought with two second left of running the ball?
Now that's a possibility, that's a possibility, and there was a couple different options we could have used there. We chose the one we chose and it didn't work out, so…I wish it would have, but there was, that's viable. But at three yards, again, if you don't make it you're going look silly, so most play callers are going to…and a lot of people ask, well it's Denard, he can run and all that, but when you've got a seven-man pressure staring you in the eyes, Superman's going to struggle running through that, so.

Has Denard gotten tentative at all you think, running the ball? He looks slower.
I don't think so, I mean, I don't, he doesn't look…I haven't timed him, but he certainly doesn't look any slower to me. So my answer to that is no, I don't think he is. No, not really.

I did notice watching the game that he, on the outside runs, he constantly looks for the cutback…
Well, what's happening on those is that he's got to start cutting out his outside foot. We talked about that. That's happened twice now, and maybe three times, to where we're trying to cut off our inside foot, and he slipped, you know, so we're getting that corrected.

On couple of those outside runs, it looked like the wide receivers weren't blocking as well as they have this year. Was it just aggressive cornerbacks, or…?
Well, we lost some matchups outside, and we won some matchups outside, but you know, it wasn't always the wide receivers, because a couple of times we didn't get the ball to the perimeter. So you know, it's a combination of issues, and one of the issues, and I was just talking before I came in here, it was a game I think unusually enough, we played a lot of ten-man football in this game. Where we had ten executing, and for some reason, one guy, and it was usually was somebody different every play, wasn't getting it done, and it was the—it led to a lot of unsuccessful plays that in the past have been pretty successful plays; so you know, we just got to get that, and it's all usually fundamentals and technique and things like that, but uh, we had a lot of ten-man football.

In that first quarter, Toussaint had I think 39 yards on seven carries. What happened going forward? It seemed like obviously the power running was working and then it just wasn't there the rest of the game.
Well, it wasn't…I think we had 14 plus-four runs during the course of game I believe, and the ten-minute-something mark, can't remember exactly when it was, we went into fast offense. We were down 24 to nine. So the balance of your play calling is skewed based on that. I mean, you lost ten minutes where we were throwing the ball a lot, you know, just to get back in. It worked nicely too, I mean, it got us back in the game. But I think in a game, in a four-quarter game, where you had a balance of play calling that you would have seen, he'd have 20 something carries like he had last week. I don't think he'd have 170-something yards, but he'd have been, you know, he had decent numbers and everything would've worked out fine. But at one point in time, you have to change your strategy, and sometimes that means giving up what your original game plan was to do, and in that case, was to run our spread, run our two back, run our stuff, so…

Coach, would toughness be a word you would use to describe Toussaint's running style?
Oh yeah, I mean one word, yeah, one of them, he's a tough kid. He's a tough blocker, tough runner. He's a tough kid. He does. He runs in there and doesn't make any concessions to the defense, you know? I like kids like that. You know, because they represent the toughness of your team. The guy with the ball is tough, it sends a message to the rest of the players, I think. Have you seen that come along the past couple weeks, more so?
He's always been like that. We just have given him more opportunities. He's always been a tough runner. We're going to keep giving him opportunities, you know?

Coming back to that power running game – Hopkins was really opening up some holes there.
He had a good game, played good, yeah.

What does he add to that?
Just that, I mean, he's good lead blocker, has tailback type skills, so he has good feet, you know, but has some toughness, can catch the ball. We have to get him more involved in that end of the game too, we do. But he was one of the guys that played better than a lot of the other kids, you know, as we develop more, some of our two-back offense, he's got to be more and more of a factor.

When you transition from a running back to a fullback, it seems like you might take a hit on the old ego, just going from glory back to blocking back, how has he, you know…
So much of it is a buy in. You've got to buy in. If you don't buy into the position, you'll never be any good at playing fullback. It's that simple. We've converted, places I've been, I've converted I don't know how many kids from tailback to fullback. And the ones that did well generally became next level players, ok? But they had to be convinced that that's what they were now. And if you're not convinced that, you're still thinking in the back of your mind you have to be a tailback, you can't play fullback. It just, it doesn't work in our offense, so, it has to start with the mindset.

Does he buy in that that's his…
Oh yeah.

And how big would you like to see him get for next year?
He's big enough right now, to play the position. He's moving people, because he's explosive and he's strong. You can always put maybe a little bit of quality weight on, muscle, but I don't know that he has to be a lot bigger. He's big enough to play the position.

Al, It seems like the formation Denard is most comfortable in is the shotgun, three wide receiver, single back set. Do you feel like that's almost the go-to preferred set with this offense?
No, because in different games it's different. Two weeks ago, we were under center as much as we were in that, and we rushed for 300 and something odd yards, and he was as comfortable as I've seen him all year. So I don't know that that's true. I mean, I think there's certain scenarios I think that's true. I don't think there's any doubt. Certain scenarios when we're going to, you know, we're going to throw it in zone read, he very comfortable. Denard is very comfortable in the center – he'll tell you that. He likes play passing, he likes doing some of that stuff. So as we game plan from game to game, we have a blueprint that we'd like to be; but it changes week to week based on what the defense is doing; and it always accommodates, like I say, the skill set of our quarterback, and trying to feature our tailbacks more so that he can survive through the whole season.

Would you say Saturday he was more comfortable in that? It seemed like the offense got going when you guys moved faster.
That's a little different now, you have to understand at the end of the game, the defense wasn't playing the same way they were earlier in the game, okay? You have a completely different scenario. One of the biggest misconceptions with watching a football game is two-minute offense. And "Why don't they just do that the whole game?" Well some guys are trying to do that the whole game, some are succeeding and some aren't, okay? Well, the mindset of the defense changes when you're ahead 25 to nine, and some completions might be there that weren't there earlier. So you just have to know that situationally, a football game changes series to series. How you approach that, you know, is based on how you plan it, and what you think your quarterback's best at, but at that time, we'd gotten three wides and did what we did. And maybe at another time you try the same and it's not nearly as successful, so…

How is Illinois' defense different from Iowa, what were some of the challenges there?
Well, they're schematically, very different. Illinois is very much a movement team – lacks the pressure with at least one linebacker, you know, and at one time or another whether it's the strong inside, the strong outside, the weak inside, they'll corner blitz you. There's more variation of defense. Where Iowa is more line up one way and do it right, do it sound, and do it consistently. I think Illinois teaches the same things. They want to do it right, but they're willing to do more things to that end, if that makes any sense. So it's more on the chalkboard, more for the kids to digest, more for us to look at, you know, so two different approaches, both very good, you know, its al in what your coordinator's philosophy is, and what he can get taught.

Were you pleased with the offensive line plays or were there…?
Well at times I was, at times I wasn't, when we were still not as complete as we'd like to be, you know, but we did some good things. Our biggest reason that we didn't win this game is because we, from an offensive perspective anyway, is we had no big plays. We had nothing. If you look at the games – the seven games that we've won – almost all of them there's been huge chunks of yardage taken off in certain drives. For whatever reason, whether they were runs or passes or whatever. In this game, we had some nice runs, we had 14 plus four if I'm not mistaken, but we took no chunks. We failed to, you know, to get big bites out of the defense, and it took a toll on our point production. It took a toll on our yardage production. It took a toll on everything. I mean we had, what, 20-something first downs. But that's kind meaningless when you can't score. You got to score more points. You got to score more points from an offensive perspective. And the way you do that is to move the ball incrementally, and to turn around and once in a while take a big bite out of the defense. We did not do the latter and that from an offensive perspective is one of the reasons we did not win the game.

Was that more your doing or more Iowa's doing?
I think a little of both…yeah, a little of both. I mean, you have to give them credit now, they do a nice job and always have, and there were some opportunities that we didn't capitalize on, so it's always a little of both. I mean, we didn't get pushed around. They didn't dominate us, I don't think, but they played good. I think they played darn good, you know, and the combination of them playing well and us not playing as well as we could, you saw the result.

What does Denard have to do to complete those down field passes? He's done pretty well with the jump balls, but he overthrows a lot of receivers on …
Yeah, and you know, the difference is – and we went back to basics on this Sunday a little bit – is earlier in the season, we were doing a really nice job of giving our receivers an opportunity to make plays down the field, ok? And our philosophy is make sure receiver touches the ball, because we have some good rangy receivers than can make jump balls, take balls away, and we just went back, we said ok, now if we're going to, we can miss a little short, but give him that opportunity, because that's what's happened of late. It wasn't really happening that much earlier in the season is we've been overthrowing guys, so we went back and worked on that, and in fact, I think you're going see some results there. And two things I think we talked about is that, number one, and then number two is using skills more on improv. There's going to always be, you know, any play caller, whether they want to admit it or not, is probably going to call anywhere from five to seven plays during the course of a game where there's going to be coverage – there's going be someone that's not open. You know, you call too many of those and you call a bad game. You know what I mean? But, it's going to happen, you know, the best play callers ever…but now what's going to happen those five plays where there's nobody open? And in those instances your quarterback has to create, and we're going to…we've emphasized that more, is the ability to create and what we're going to do when we create, so.

Following up on that, it ended up being a touchdown…
I'm sorry?

It ended up being a touchdown to Fitz Toussaint.
Exactly.

Is that one of those things where you want to see Denard run…?
Exactly, exactly, great example, great example. That was covered. They did a nice job. We ran a little goal line zone beat off a play action pass, and the safety came out and took Hopkins, and the corner squeezed the pop, and there's nobody open. They did a nice job on it. But he bought enough time to let people move around, you know, and all of a sudden, you can't cover him forever now, I don't care who you are, and somebody broke free, Fitz broke free, and we complete a pass, you know. There has to be a portion of your offense that there is some improve involved and I don't like too much, then it becomes street ball, which you can't win doing that, but the greatest quarterbacks ever, and I'm not just talking about the scramblers, I'm talking about the guys that can buy the extra beat to get the ball off just by moving their feet a little bit, make that third play I'm talking about that third play where the guy's covered, and they create something, and Denard's capable of doing that, as well as anybody I've ever coached. We just have to work on it more, and get good at it, and be willing to do it in certain situations.

Is he maybe, and maybe this is exactly what you were talking about, is he too hesitant now to take off?
I don't think so – here's the deal ok? This is a delicate balance between turning down open receivers to run, ok, and running when nobody's open. Alright? Just in all the research I did over the years, particularly in west coast offense – and there's that word again – Steve young, for example, became a great, great player. But Steve became a great passer and a great quarterback when he found where that balance was. I think even Steve will tell you that early in his career, he probably ran when he probably shouldn't have been. But when he knew when to run – nobody's open, take off, improve, do all that, he became a better quarterback, and I think Denard's learning that as you go, because he possesses the same type of skills, he does. But that's growth, man, that's learning how to play the position. That takes a while. And when you add to that your pass offense, learning a new pass offense, and still going through the progressions and all that stuff, there's a lot to learn that way, you know. And he's not unlike so many quarterbacks that I've had the same situation.

Iowa really sniffed out that Devin package pretty well. Was it lack of execution, or did they just have a good game plan against that?
Well, breaking down the plays, we didn't really use it as much of it as we have in the past, because we had, we kind of started slow. We had two three and outs to start the game, which is just painful. That's a horrible way to start the game. So we didn't get into the flow of the package very much. You got to understand something about that package is, not every play's going to work in that package. The plays build off plays build off other plays, and they change week to week, and sometimes they'll shut down a facet of that, and won't shut down another facet of it. So the residuals will get you something. Well, we never really got into the second part of the package. We just tapped into it a little bit, and never really got into it. I didn't call the deuce plays I've called in every other game simply because of the way the game went, so I don't know, maybe they did defended it well, but we never really did run it in its totality in this game, where, a week ago, we ran the heck out of it.

What goes into calling one of those plays when you do, because it's seemed like some of them kind of stalled drives a little bit?
No, I don't…you call it as you feel it, and sometimes, I don't know if they stall drives or not, I didn't, but we don't use them on third down that often, so I don't know if that's a big factor, but it's all so much play call as you feel. When you put them in there, when you feel like it's going to work the best, you know. The week before we put him in there, we had some great pops. this week we didn't have great pops, so people are going to perceive it as drives are stalling, so, but you can't give up on it. There are certain things you can't say, well it didn't work this week, let's not do it anymore. That's panic, and that's bad, and that's getting away from what got you to where you are.


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