Coach, you've talked about how you've seen Denard take strides in every game. I guess, what are you guys seeing on film that he's doing that we can't see maybe off the stat sheet?
Well, the issues with Denard, I think, in the last game, were pretty much some ball security deals. Other than that, he really didn't throw the ball too bad. We didn't throw the ball a lot with him and he got hurt in the game. So you didn't see as much, but he's managing the game pretty well, he's…when he doesn't get the yards, somebody else does, you know? When nobody gets the yards, we've got issues, and that's happened in a couple games and those games, we generally lost you know? But Denard's growing in our offense and nobody wants to hear that. Everybody wants to…you know, we told him from the beginning, I told him he's not going to gain 1700 yards. We're not going to do…we're going to try and get somebody else involved and I think we've done a pretty good job of that. Ok? So, there are certain games he's going to get more than he is in other games, and as long as we're getting productivity from our running game, if it isn't him, that's fine.
How has his role in the offense changed since Fitz emerged, since the defense started playing…?
Hasn't really changed much at all…It really hasn't changed much at all, it's just a matter of who's getting the opportunities, ok? Sometimes they're taking Denard away, you know, and by taking him away, and I think, if you watch the second play of the game, it's probably the best example, we ran a little misdirect divide zone and he carried out the fake and three guys went with him, which gave Fitz an opportunity to run through the middle of a big cavity where there was only a corner or a safety, I don't know what, but, people don't understand the residual effects of Denard. It's not always him running for 200 yards, but him getting someone else to run for big yards and he helps in that respect.
Why has ball security been an issue?
Well, a couple times, we dangled it in the pocket. And he's been doing a good job of it for the most part. We dangled it in the pocket one time, we've got to keep the ball inside the perimeter of your shoulders, so you naturally brace when we get hit, that's one of them, and he got the ball away from his body one time when he was running, but you know, really, he's been pretty good running the ball, taking care of the ball. Now we've had a couple close calls, where I think the ground caused a fumble in a couple games, but that's generally it. You usually fumble when you get fundamentally bad. You don't keep the ball with five pts of pressure and it gets away from your body and somebody strips it.
Is part of it his hand/wrist injury issues? Is that part of it at all?
No, I don't think it has anything to do with it. This game he didn't hurt his hand until later on.
Al, what do you mean, no one wants to hear that he's growing in the offense?
Well, because the productivity numbers wise isn't everything that it was a year ago, so I think, but, first year offense and a completely different offense, you know, I think, sometimes, and, that's what we prefaced before the season is, to think he's going to rush for 1700 yards is absurd. Number one is, they're going to be too conscious of it, number one. It didn't matter what offense he was in and number two is, our goal here is, to feature more players within our offense. We've been able to do that some games, haven't been as much in other games, but, he's accepted his role and is growing as we go, and for the most part, certain phases of the game have improved drastically, particularly some of his footwork issues. There's less and less of that every game. Now, his completion percentage has gotten better and better as he understands what we're trying to do with our passing game.
Is there a common theme to the red zone woes, the recent red zone woes?
Well, we've had…it's back to 10 man football. We had several assignment errors down in the red zone and we a had a bad snap on the 4th down, which hurt us, but that's the theme, and it's been a consistent theme, is we've had a couple busts, where we did not block the right person, you know? And…that's generally what's caused us some problems.
Coach, getting back to Denard for a second, you talked about how you want him to understand what you want to do within the offense better, what is he not getting?
Well, just the overall concept of every little bit and piece that goes into playing the position. This is a complicated position now, and particularly with him, because we ask him to do more than most of the quarterbacks that I've coached. He's featured as a runner in our offense, and will continue to be featured as a runner in our offense, plus, we're asking him to learn, what in essence, is a pro style offense, although we're not complete in that respect, as you probably well know, but our concepts are still that way, and that doesn't come overnight when you've never done it before, but he's getting now where he understands, he can tell you, when he makes a mistake, he understands what that mistake is so he is growing in the offense, whether anyone believes that or not. He definitely is.
This might sound like an odd question, but you still have a year and a couple games left, does he have enough time to really take in everything that you want him to?
Oh yeah, absolutely. That's why I told you…Cade McNown. I used him as an example. He was last in the Pac- 10 in passing efficiency the first year that I had him and first in the country the next year. How do you make that quantum leap? He wasn't…no stronger arm or nothin', he just knew what to do and the people around him knew what to do better. It's not uncommon what's happening. I guess, my question would be, before last year, what were Denard's numbers? HE had to grow in the other offense, right? Well, he's going through the same thing now. You just don't hit the ground running in this style of play. Very few guys do unless you have fantastic people around you, then you have a chance, or if the transition in the offense is not as drastic, like when I was at Auburn and I had Jason Campbell, the transition he had was not drastic, and so his learning curve was not as steep.
Were there points at which you thought he was overwhelmed this year?
No, not really,
In terms of, you said it's a lot to learn…
It is a lot to learn, but I've never seen him as overwhelmed and we've not given him every bell and whistle either, we've tried to spoon feed this, as best we can, knowing that he does have other responsibilities with the offense rather than throw the ball, so.
Coach, the mechanical issues you were talking about earlier in the season…how are…I mean, have they been fixed? We talked last week about the long ball too, are things coming back?
I think, for the most part. You can see…how many times, like, we had one ball in this game. He fell back and the guy dropped an interception. It was a fundamentally flawed play obviously, but for the most part, he made some nice throws, did some good stuff, you know. He just, he only made ten throws, I think he hit six of them. That's not bad, and because of the wind, you understand this too, because of the wind, we, in the first quarter were going to feature our run game until they had to stop it, because it was gusting much more than I anticipated, and when I came in after warm-ups, and we did not…we had the ball first drive and we were against the wind, we were going to wait until we had a good opportunity to throw the ball, so he could be successful throwing the ball and we gave him a couple nice, high percentage throws in the beginning, and we ran the ball pretty well.
Any thoughts on Nebraska's defense? What'd you see on film?
Good, well coached…you know, I've had an opportunity to coach against Coach Pellini when I was at Auburn. They do a great job with their four match zone, where they take your guys away now, they cover you. They're one of those defenses, like a couple we played this year, that really take it all away. They don't want the ball checked down, they don't want the ball thrown down the field, they want to take away the run, no bend but don't break in their style and they know what they're doing and they know how to coach it.
Al, I know we've talked a lot about receivers this year, but Roy's production is…he's still only caught under 20 passes for the entire year, is there something going on there? Is he just not…?
No, he's just splittin' time with Jeremy Gallon and Jeremy Gallon's been productive and when you do that, again, we're not in four wides all the time like we were before, you're splittin' time, your numbers aren't going to be as good. That's really it. Roy's done a good job with the things we've asked him to do. He really is, but he wasn't going to catch seventy something passes, because, he's playing and other guys are playing his position too, so.
Is that a tough sell on a kid who seemed so close to having a really large, break out year last year and now he's…?
You'd probably have to ask him that. I don't know, but I just know we want our kids to fit within the role of our own offense and that's who ---- that's a better question for him.
But as a coach, is that a tough thing to tell a kid that's went from feature guy almost to …?
Well, I didn't tell him that. I just told him he's going to have to work within the role of the offense. I don't know…you know, I don't know any other way to say that. I tell the kids, some games you're going to catch a lot of passes, some games you're not going to catch as many passes. Sometimes we throw more. We threw 15 passes last game, nobody was going to catch a lot of passes that game. What happens, is, and I think guys in my position do this somewhat is, we get too enamored with numbers and you get away from what's really important and that's winning football games. There's gonna be games where you have to throw more to win the game. That happened with Notre Dame? Ok. There are going to be games where you have to run more to win the game. That happened last week and if you don't get caught up in keeping these beautifully balanced this numbers and this guy's happy and this guy's happy…the hell with that. We don't coach that way. We coach to win the football games and however it falls, that's how it falls.
What do you like about Gallon when he's not catching the football?
He's a great blocker. One very explosive kid. You can see it in the punt returns and such, how explosive he can be. He's got stats and talent, you know? He…the thing about Jeremy is, he plays bigger than he is. He's not very tall, but he takes the ball…jump balls. He's very competitive you know.
Is that something you had to coach or is that something…?
No, I think that's something he had. We coach it, but I think it's something he had a bit more. You know, he…he came with that. He did just kind of get more opportunities.
Getting that high on jump balls, is that at technique thing or…?
I think it's a skill and it's timing. Some guys, you know it's funny, is, I've had tall guys that couldn't win jump balls, because they don't have a good feel for how to time the throw, you know, and I've had little guys that were great at it, you know? I'm not, you know, I'm not sure what it is. Some really good receivers are not good jump ball receivers. Yet they can catch it, you know what I mean? So, I'm not sure what it is and you just practice it, but it is a little bit God given or just instinctive I guess, would be a better word.
Tay had one go just over his fingertips. Is that a bad throw? I mean, throw over a linebacker…?
Yeah, it think it was a corner. You know what's funny is, I think there was a bust in the coverage and he had a comeback on and he…I told him that doggone it, I don't want you to abort the comeback. Stay on the comeback. I didn't anticipate that the guy was not going to cover…you know, that he was going to let him run by him. We have a deal where, you run by him, you throw your hand out, but he kind of got caught in-between and Denard kind of, oh my goodness, it's open and they both were a little bit perplexed by what happened. And so, Denard threw it over his head a little bit, but it's so funny, I just talked to him about it right before we'd left and he says, coach, he told not to abort the comeback and I wanted to do what you told me to do. I knew you'd get mad at me, but that's on me more than him I think, because it was there. It was a touchdown.
You mentioned you only threw 15 passes, so obviously, you were going to rely more heavily on the run game. Coming into the game, Illinois had the number one rush defense in the Big Ten, were you…you know, was that one of the best rushing performances that you've seen this year? What were you able to or what did you see that…?
It was one of the better ones. Yeah, it was one of the better ones. I thought our offensive line did a nice job of providing some holes…giving Fitz particularly a chance to go. You know, Fitz has got some speed and quickness and if you can give him…get him started. You know, get him started. By get him started, it means, he gets the ball and he's not hit as soon as he gets the ball, he's pretty good. He's really kind of matured and grown up here and become a pretty good back, so you know.
To what extent do you when your defense is playing as well as it was on Saturday, play to the defense…?
You've got to do some of that. You've got to do some of that and that's another thing. You've got to put your ego on the shelf sometimes as a coordinator and sometimes it means sacrificing numbers, but it also means guys not catching as many passes, you know? They couldn't move the ball on us and there's only one way to lose that game, you know what it was? Screw it up. Fumble the ball. Do something, you know, in which case, now you've got to sell, ok now we don't want to pull our horns in, but you don't need to keep your guns blazing either because now you put your defense in a bad situation just like bad teams do. That's why I saw what I say is, as the game goes, just like in war, the battle changes, ok? And as the battle changes, your ability to adjust to the battle and make good battlefield decisions that may be sacrificial in nature will dictate whether you win football games. I really believe that. In 36 years of coaching, I've seen guys not do that and they say, we're not holding up our end of this thing, we've got to score more points and then they end up messing it up and losing the football game, so, and this comes from the top. Brady's like this and I think he hired guys like this. Our goal is to win games. Whatever we've got to do to win games. If that means one game gaining 500 yards, if that's what it takes, that's what we've got to do. If another game, meaning 250 yards but not turning the ball over, and winning 14-10, but oh, everybody's going to criticize the offense…but we won! So whatever it takes to win, that's what you've got to do and if you lose sight of that, I think you lose sight of what the most important thing is.
So Brady has a different approach than some other guys you've worked with?
Oh no, I think, pretty much, but Brady preaches it from day one, you know what I mean? He does. He does. Most of the guys I worked for think the same way, but, you know, the problem is, we become a little protected and territorial and we start thinking, ok…you want to hold up your end of the…if you're an offensive coach or defensive coach, you want to hold up your end of the deal, but sometimes holding up your end of the deal is taking care of the ball and doing things smart and I think we did that in the Illinois game. I think we did even though it wasn't as exciting as games I've coached in from an offensive perspective but it worked at the end of the day.
How much ego have you put on the shelf personally? You said putting ego on the shelf, have you had to do much of that?
I can't answer that question. I don't really know. I don't know how much, I just try to help us win games. That's all. I don't have a meter of ego. Whatever it takes to win games.
Whose decision was it to not put Denard back in, was that all Brady, was that you…?
Both of us talked, but my biggest concern was fumbled snaps, because his wrist. I would have put him back in a minute. At one point, I think he was good to go, but we just, again, I go back to the same thing, how you gonna lose a game? You fumble a snap. You give them an easy opportunity. That was really the reason, otherwise he would have gone back in a minute.
I have a schematic question.
No, read option actually. A couple times during the game, the way you were lining up, Koger, I think was the H-Back and Denard ended up handing it off to Toussaint a couple times and Toussaint didn't get to many yards, but what happened was the defensive end was crashing into the line and Koger looked like he was coming across to take whatever linebacker was….
Right. Divide zone. Right.
So, what was the read on that with…did he execute that the right way?
For the most part, that one…the first long run, was that play.
So, was that a designed handoff, or was that…?
No, it's a zone read.
And who was he reading exactly?
The end…or the edge, basically the edge, the end in that case. There's a lot of nuances now that I could go into and you don't have the time and inclination to do it, but, simply spoken, if the edge is clean, he can pull the ball out. If the edge is not clean, he gives the ball.
Would you like to see him pull the ball a couple…?
He did actually, a couple times, but with the results, most of those plays, I think, he made pretty good decisions, cause he got through there several times on variations of that play the whole game, so.
Full Transcript: OC Al Borges
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