Al Borges – 11-22-2011 Have you noticed any difference in Brady this week at all?
Not really, no. I mean, it's Ohio, so he's fired about that, but in terms of prep, no. But it is…it's not just another game. But it is pretty much the same preparation.
How has focus been?
Well, we haven't practiced yet. We did a little bit Sunday, but it was off the charts, you know? You can tell that there's a little more pep in the step.
Was last Saturday as complete a performance as you've seen from Denard this year?
I think yeah, it would rank among one of the top ones. We've been encouraging him so much, and this game particularly, to pull the ball down when guys aren't open, you know? And he did that, and that made a difference, you know? So, that helped us keep the drives alive, you know, and we're going to continue to do that, but because of the way they played their defense particularly…we want him to do that all the time, but particularly the way they played defense, he…there were some opportunities to pull down a run, but he did, and when there were open receivers – he did a pretty good job of hitting them. Now, we had a couple throws that might have been ill-advised, but for the most part, he played a pretty solid football game.
What do you think kept him from that…that taking off and running, is he just trying to be conscientious as a quarterback or….?
Yeah, try to…sometimes as a quarterback, and every one I've ever had is like this, is they want to prove that they can throw the ball, but there's a point where you have to use your skills, and we talked about it before, I said ‘you have to use your skills more, you've got great skills, let's make these guys pay for some of this stuff', and he took it to heart. He's…the one thing – here's the delicate balance, is you don't want to turn down open receivers. If you start looking to run every time you drop back, you'll never be…you can't pass a ball, you can't do that. That has to be something that's instinctive or just comes from a result of the receiver being covered. You know what I mean? But you can't drop back and say 'every play's a quarterback draw, and if somebody's open, throw it' and expect to have any kind of passing game. That's absurd. I don't care how good the runner is – running quarterback is. So that being said, where does one start in the other end, you know, so but in this game, we were a little more…the quarterback, was going to be the check down oriented. And we're like that a little bit anyway, like I said, but this game we were more just because of the way they played.
You have a chance to get two 1,000-yard rushers. How important is that, even for vanity purposes?
Well, again, numbers, I'm telling you, I try as much as I can, unlike earlier in my career, to not be so obsessed with numbers, but the thing about it is…what we wanted to do, without putting a number on it before this season – and I think we've accomplished some of this – is balance our offense out a little bit. I mean, everybody wants Denard to run the ball every play. We don't want Denard to run the ball every play. He's not going to make it through the season doing that. So we wanted to find a back. Now, it took us awhile to really find the guy, but Fitz surfaced, and now he's flirting with 1,000 yards. I think that's awesome because it takes pressure off Denard, but his numbers take a hit as a result of it. That's ok, that's ok. We're not interested – and again, we get too obsessed with that stuff, and it keeps us from winning. So, I think it's great, and to answer your question, that we're more balanced with two guys able to run the ball and have those kinds of numbers, and it just presents more of a threat to the defense.
And why do you think it's taken – it took you a little bit of time to find that number two?
Well, no one had surfaced. And we just decided a few games back – it's been a few games balanced – we're just going to keep him in there. Keep him in there, and other than you know, spell him with Vince and some nickel situations that type of deal, just keep him in there and see what he does. He hadn't really been – Fitz had showed some flashes of being a really good back, but he had not really been consistent enough to say ‘ok it's you', you know what I mean? And I think most people would agree with that. You know, he's doing some stuff, but he's not really…well we just said ‘let's keep him in there, let him play, see what happens'. And he got stronger as the game went on, and like so many backs, like I've been pounding the table for since I got here, he's that guy that I think can tote the ball 20 times and get over 100 yards. And it's just helped us so much. I mean, I can't even tell you, it makes such a difference.
With the growth of Denard over the season, and the emergence of Fitz, does it make you like, kind of like ‘wow we can be really explosive in the future'?
Sure, oh yeah, absolutely. Particularly maturing in the offense and having those weapons on top of that. Now some other people are going to have to come to the surface down the road, but yeah, absolutely, you know? It's one of those…and again I don't put a number on those…but some of those we wanted our starting to really show off. I mean, possessing the football; not turning the ball over, you know; winning the turnover battle week in and week out; being able to score, you know, 30 plus points, and hopefully help our defense as much as we possibly can. And defense is playing fantastic, so you know, it results in nine wins. And that's really the goal. The goal is not to go out and get 500 yards a game. If we get 500 yards and that's what it takes to win then we better do it. But the goal is to go out there and take care of that football, rush that football, have some balance, you know, don't depend on one player all the time, you know, and that's our approach, right wrong or indifferent. People get can agree, disagree, whatever they want, but that's how we're going to go about it here until the scenario dictates that we simply can't.
What's the key to holding on to the football for 41 minutes?
Fundamentals…we got some turnovers, too, which you know was supplied…our special teams played off the charts, they were as good as I've ever…Danny did a great job of game planning…everything we did. We had some turnovers, they lost some possessions, and we ran the football 61 times, you know? And not all of them were beautiful, you know, but some were. And when you can do that and covert on third downs, which we did pretty good – and that's another thing that I had mentioned, but you'd like to be around 45 plus percent third down conversions and we're above that this year, and that keeps moving the chains. If you can…if you're getting stopped on third downs – and I think if you look at the games we lost, that's what's happened is we're not moving the chains, we're not getting more turns. But that's how you possess the ball for 40 minutes – you get turnovers and third down conversions. And even if you don't score points you can still win a low scoring game simply because you have the ball and they don't.
Coach, last week – or for the past two weeks – you said that you've been playing a lot of ten-man football.
Did you see any of that this…?
A little bit, but not like it's been. Our biggest problem in the last couple weeks with ten man football has been the red area. And we did not have but very little of that in this game. I mean, we were five-for-five in the red zone, and a lot of that went away, you know? But that's been…it's not just in the red zone, but it shows up there the most. Those are the ones I remember, the fans remember the most, is when you get down there and you don't score.
There were a couple plays where like a defensive tackle or a defensive end came in unblocked, especially on the first play…
Yeah we had a bust, had a bust on the first play.
Who was supposed to…?
It's not important who, it was a bust, I'm not singling anybody out. You're not going to get me to do that, but yeah we had a bust. And the truth be told, it's a communication problem; it wasn't just one guy.
Ok. And then later on for Denard's interception, was someone…?
That was a fluke – ball got tipped, I mean we had a screen set up beautifully too. I mean…not a fluke, they made a play, jumped up and did it but that happens, that's the...
On the design of that play, is someone supposed to cut him or block him?
Yeah he's supposed to…we're supposed to hit extend, and you know, on the guy and slow him down. We want him close to the quarterback now, otherwise the screen…screens never work unless they're close the quarterback. They have to be, but you know you just have to drop it over the top of him, and he's a big tall guy and you know that happens sometimes, you know? I could throw all the screens out, but that wouldn't be very smart, so you have to – as unfortunate as it is, it's a tough thing to coach too now – tell a guy ‘well you know you want to'….throwing screen passes is either a basketball free throw or a dart, and it's all dependent on how the rush shakes out, ok? It depends on how the lanes are. And he tried to drop it over the top, the guy tipped it, and you know, it happens sometimes.
In January when you first got here, you said one of the most important things in a transition like this is not turning it over, or limiting turnovers as much as possible. Are you happy with the amount or the lack thereof this year, or …
Well I don't know. What's our turnover ratio? Plus six. Most coaches would say they're happy with that. Now I'm not happy with the interceptions. We've had too many interceptions, ok? And again that's growth of the offense a lot, some ill-advised decisions through them, but it's going to happen the first year, but our turnovers have not been so egregious that it's…for the most part hasn't lost us but two football games, and you can always get better. If there's one turnover, that's too many as far as I'm concerned, but that was a huge goal. Because you know and everybody knows, if you can take care of the ball and get more turnovers than you give up, you have a great chance to win. It's one of those statistics that's relevant to winning, which is the most important statistics – total offense is irrelevant really, I don't want to say irrelevant but it's not huge – but turning the ball, holding onto the ball, you know, converting third downs, rushing the football, all those things are things, if you look over the years, they've made a difference in winning and losing, so that is a relevant statistic.
What have you seen from the Ohio State defense?
They are, and I don't say – I'm saying this – this isn't any coach speak here. This team's as good a defensive football team – not the best that we've seen – that's a fact, as far as I'm concerned anyway. They play hard, they play tough, they keep their team in every game. They will be a huge challenge. They're very well coached, ok? They have made their reputation at Ohio State over the years on the defensive side of the ball. I mean it's really been…I mean they've had good offensive teams, don't get me wrong, but, I don't know if they…I don't remember the last time they had a bad defensive team, so – and this follows suit – I have total respect for the years that I had to coach against Ohio State, and they've always played good defense, you know, they possess a package that can pressure you, they can back off and rush four and still get some pressure. They're stout against the run; play with their hands real well. This team is real, defensively.
You've obviously coached in a lot of big rivalries across the country, but is there something compelling about the opportunity to coach this…
Oh yeah, this is awesome. This is…oh my goodness. I mean, I'm going to have…this is going to be cool, because I was in the Auburn-Alabama Iron Bowl four years, and they're always arguing over there, who's…you know, whether Michigan State, or Michigan, I should say, Michigan and Ohio State is bigger than Auburn-Alabama. Now firsthand, after I go through it, and I want to go through a couple years before I'm going to draw any conclusions, I can find out, but I'm starting to feel what it's all about just this week, but this is…this is why you coach. This is why you play. This is why you write.
Where have you seen Kevin Koger grow in your offense throughout this season?
Countless ways. Kevin Koger's a solid football player. Good blocker; very fundamentally sound; coachable. I think Coach Brady will tell you that he will try to do everything that you tell him to do. We've thrown him the ball, he's basically caught it, I mean, and with very few drops. He is what a coach is looking for – a guy you can count on. If you say ‘this is your assignment, get the assignment done', there is a very very good chance the assignment's going to get done. And as he's grown more and understood what we're doing, he's gotten better and better. We wish we had him another year, because you would see even more productivity on our passing game.
Is he the type of tight end going forward in your program that you want in this offense?
Yes, yes, exactly, I would say yes. No question. He can move, he can play stationary, he can do it all. He's a good kid – good leader too.
Denard said that he can be a little excitable earlier in the games.
How do you keep him toned down for a big rivalry like this?
I'm not going to throw water on him, but in a sense you kind of have to let Denard be Denard, you know? I really believe that with players. As long as they're focused, focused. That's key. If they're focused, you have to let them kind of be themselves, and as long as they don't do anything embarrassing to the team, and he never does that, so, let Denard be Denard, let him prepare how he prepares. And if he gets too excited I'll know it in warm-ups and I'll talk to him. I've done that before, but don't put the fire out, you know?
What games did you talk to him beforehand?
Oh, I don't even remember anymore. It hasn't been recently, it was probably earlier in the year.
What kind if indicators did you see from him that he's too jacked during warm ups?
Well you know, it's just little deals, you know, but you know, I can't put my finger on exactly what it is. I can't say exactly what it is, but as a coach, I watch the team prepare, and if something seems a little out of whack then I mention it. But you don't want to be so analytical that you read into something that's not there, you know? So I don't – unless I think there's an issue, I don't. Let the kids prepare how they prepare. Some guys like to put their head through lockers. Some guys don't say a word, you know, and I don't know.
Has David Molk put his head through a locker?
I haven't seen him do that, no; I haven't seen him do that.
Coach, was there a natural progression where you had to tell Denard stay in the pocket, and now he won't leave the pocket, and I guess is it something that you have to learn innately, or is that something he already had down?
Well your footwork kind of tells you how to do that, you know what I mean? And you drop back with the intent that you're going to throw a pass, ok? You have certain mechanical issues with your feet, and you can always tell what the guy's thinking by his feet. His feet will tell you exactly what he's thinking. That you have to go through – they're all fundamental issues. From what – then at one point everything's trumped by your instincts. So if you don't see the throw, you don't like the throw, we have structure, that we have, within the improv we have structure, but sometimes I coach that structure and some quarterbacks can't get out of those messes. But he – his instincts have to tell him ‘ok it's not there, this is my next move'. And there's only so much of that you can coach, too, because he does some things that – as I've said many times, that I don't coach or anybody else has coached, so.
You've worked with a lot of different quarterbacks over the years, and one of the things you said when you took this job is…square peg round hole – you wouldn't force it. Has it been a challenge for you with Denard?
A little bit, a little bit. You know, here's the deal. When you coach what is in essence a prototypical drop-back passer, there's a certain style of play that goes with that, you know? But I haven't had all prototypical drop back passers. Not all of them, now. Some of them were – none of them like Denard, not as fast – but some of them had the same traits. So when you're coaching a kid like that, you want to…you don't want him, A, to be too robotic, because that…that'll…you know, you try and get them, ‘ok it has to look exactly like this, and the ball's thrown exactly at this time'. Well certain routes yes, certain routes, yeah, you have to time the throw – you always want to time your throws, and, well, with a kid like Denard, and a couple other kids I've had is…we've spoke more about him being the check down rather than a receiver being the check down, you know, because they do possess some skills that other quarterbacks don't. So you kind of have to revert back to that thinking; and yes, it can be a little bit challenging if you've played with the same type of quarterback for a while. But I knew coming in that he was a different kind of a kid and was going to have to be approached a little bit different, so you know, I hope I answered your question.
Coordinator Full-Transcript: Al Borges
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