Borges Assesses Offense at Midway Point

Michigan offensive coordinator joined GoBlueWolverine's Sam Webb on Sports Talk 1050 Monday to reflect upon the first few weeks of fall camp. Borges shared his thoughts on Saturday's scrimmage, the impressive performances turned in by Chris Bryant and Drake Johnson, the back-up quarterback battle, his philosophy on recruiting quarterbacks, and more.

Sam Webb: You had a scrimmage the other night.  Brady Hoke came on and said he heard football.  He heard it in the trenches.  From an offensive perspective, how did you feel about your guys coming out of Saturday night?

Al Borges:  “Just like any scrimmages, there is some stuff that you get excited about and there is some stuff you don’t.  For the most part, the one thing that was kind of exciting was the fact that we played a very physical style.  The kids treated it like game day.  Not just during the scrimmage, but actually the night before and leading up to.  We came out with the demeanor that we wanted to collide a little bit and it became apparent more and more in the scrimmage – we collided a lot.  Like Brady said, you could hear football the other night.  I think both sides were pretty ambitious.”

Sam Webb:  Brady talked about a guy who wasn’t out there Saturday. A guy who he said you could really, really see coming on this fall and has been playing a really physical brand of football and that is Chris Bryant.  (He said) you could really feel him in the run game.  Have you seen that as much?

Al Borges:  “The funny thing about Chris…Chris has been kind of the forgotten man a little bit unfortunately because of his injury.  When Chris got hurt last year we were in the second week of two-a-days or whenever, and he was really playing good.  He was coming off the football, his weight was down, and he was looking more athletic than I have seen him.  He is a bit of a road grader anyway.  When Chris gets underneath you, you’re going back.  All of a sudden he got hurt and no one knew what the degree of the injury was.  It took him a while to recover.  In terms of depth chart, there was always an uncertainty there.  But how he left us when he played when he got hurt, he was vying for a starting position and probably in position to take one.  So when he came back so all that stuff that he did when we left was starting to expose itself again.  You could see this kid comes off the ball well, he has got good leverage.  He is strong.  His is tough.  His pass protection was a little behind, but that is a little bit natural if you haven’t done it in a while.  He is a guy if he is healthy is going to be a viable option.”

Sam Webb:  Even without him though, the limited clips that we were able to see in that scrimmage, boy it looked like Fitz Toussaint was running the football well…running with authority.

Al Borges:  “Yeah.  I talked to Fred (Jackson) about it before and he said, how much do you want to play Fitz?  I said, run him for a couple of series and make him mad when you take him out (laughter).  That’s kind of what happened.  He carried the ball and it looked like the old Fitz.  He had a couple of open field runs where he beat some people.  He ran inside tough.  He didn’t have a lot of carries, but from what I saw, it looked like the old Fitz.”

Sam Webb:  Another guy that Brady talked about, another tailback, Drake Johnson.  People skip right over him and go to the freshmen.  Sounds like that might be a mistake based on how things are going for some of the returning guys in fall camp, especially Drake.

Al Borges:  “Drake is an explosive guy.  He has incredible lower body strength.  He was a fabulous hurdler in high school.  Some of the schemes we have now, they really fit Drake and they fit Thomas Rawls too.  We’ve changed up a few deals that I think are better for their skill set.  A guy like Drake who can get through the hole and generally falls forward once contact is made and also has some pretty good receiving skills, which we are just beginning to tap.  He is a complete back.”

Sam Webb:   You know what you have in the form of Jeremy Gallon at the receiver, but you guys were effusive in your praise of your young players, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson.  Have you seen them pick up where they left off during the spring?

Al Borges:  “Pretty much.  Amara right away, Jehu was a little slower to come, but now these last three or four days, Jehu has shown the big play ability that he showed in the spring.  Both of them are speed guys.  Jehu is exceptionally fast and both of them are big guys.  So when you add the speed with the range, it gives you the ability not to run by people but to take balls away on jump balls.  We like what we see, but now we’ve got see if we can do it when it counts.”

Sam Webb:  I talked to Coach Hecklinski about it and he said a lot of people didn’t see the thought process behind playing Amara last year, but it gets him used to the magnitude of game day.  He is not coming into this season totally green in that regard.  While he didn’t get a lot of experience actually playing receiver out there at the Big House, he certainly got a feel for what it was like to be on the field on game day.

Al Borges:  “That’s the upside to playing a freshman kid is that they are not complete neophyte when they start playing.  Jehu was not the beneficiary of that, so there probably will be some growing pains on his end.  There will be for Darboh too because he hasn’t played significantly.  I think once both kids get entrenched, once both kids get comfortable in the offense and in dealing with playing in front of 100,000+ people, I think they both will be fine.”

Sam Webb:  Ira and I talked about this, there was this great quote about leadership.  Do you know what quote I’m talking about Ira?

Ira Weintraub: Yeah.  I wish I had it in front of me, but it was basically about the sacrifices that you make that allows the others around you to see that you are willing to just about anything for your kid.  That’s a pretty good summary, pretty good paraphrase about a great quote from one Mr. Al Borges.

Al Borges:  “It must have been somebody incredibly profound to make a statement like that.  It is funny because I don’t like listening to you guys too much, because sometimes stuff comes in (laughter).  But in the offseason I was driving in and I just caught Ira quoting this thing about leadership and I had no idea, I swear to goodness.  I said boy that’s a great description of a leader and I’ll be darn if he says that that came from me (laughter).”

Sam Webb:  It came from you in reference to Devin Gardner and he had talked about learning the significance of sacrifice… sacrificing the immediacy of some of his personal goals.  Like last year he wants to be a quarterback, but he understands that sliding over to receiver helps the team at that time.  What that said to his teammates he is realizing now.  In talking to him in Chicago he said he is realizing now just how much that meant to the rest of the team.  Just how much it showed to you guys, his coaches.

Al Borges:  “No doubt about it.  We put him there for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is he was athletic and we did not have a lot of depth, that was as big a reason as any.  But when you move a guy from quarterback to wide receiver, you have to have a willing participant because sometimes you go out there and if you do not have your heart to playing that position, you won’t play that position very well.  He was a willing participant.  I told him at the time I want you to like doing this, but I don’t want you to love doing this because you’re going right back to quarterback as soon as this over.  He kind of took that to heart and jumped in with both feet and I think it was a great signal to send to the team.  I think it gave him a completely different perspective on playing quarterback.  Understanding that the receiver is at the mercy of the quarterback and the pass protection.  It was healthy for him in so many ways and good for our team and that is why we did that at the end of the day.”

Sam Webb:  He is obviously the starter, but battle for back up.  You’ve got freshman in Shane Morris, you got Brian Cleary competing there; how is that shaping up for the backup spot?

Al Borges:  “It has been good.  I’ll start with Brian, Brian is so much more attuned to what we’re doing offensively.  He does not make the errors, the basic errors that he made in the spring that any (inexperienced) quarterback is going to make.  Brian understands now how our run game works, understands basically how the pass game works.  He has become much more solid.  Brian is an extremely bright young man and has the capacity to learn.  Now he has had enough reps where he can actually develop that.  You can talk until you’re blue in the face in meetings and unless you go out there and do it, it is a little irrelevant.  He has actually had a chance to do it now and he has improved.  Shane, who has been here a short amount of time, but is a smart kid also and has play making ability.  This has been I think the nicest thing about Shane is we knew when we recruited Shane that he had a strong throwing arm.  He had been in our camp.  We watched him.  It felt like he had been on the team for two years even before he got here.  The nicest thing about Shane I think and I’m not going to say it is a surprise, but it is probably a little more than I had anticipated is his athleticism.  He can get out of some jams, throw the ball on the run, create some plays that I can’t say….now I can witness and see rather than just project it.  After watching him in high school, you just didn’t get a feel, I didn’t get a feel for what a good playmaker he was.  I knew he was a good passer.”

Ira Weintraub:  Does anything have to be tweaked at all when you bring in a lefty versus a righty?

Al Borges:  “A little bit, yeah, but not too much.  Our offense conceptually does not change at all.  There are certain things to accommodate a left-handed quarterback more readily than a right-handed quarterback.  I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve coached a lot of left-handed quarterbacks.  I’ve been in this situation before as a coordinator.  There are some things.  Plus the skill set too can be a little different, where Devin is very, very athletic, Shane is athletic, but he is not like Devin.  You have that too, so you have to be mindful of everything they are capable of and where Shane is with regard to the progression of the offense and so there is some tweaking in answering your question.”

Sam Webb:  The guy who hikes him the ball, the center spot, is one of the most contested positions on this year’s team, what about that spot?

Al Borges:  “Well, it continues to be contested.  I think Jack Miller who is another smart kid who quarterbacks the offensive line pretty well and Graham Glasgow, who is also a smart kid but is also competing for another position.  As we get closer and closer, like I’ve been telling the press for the most part that is starting to shore itself up more and more.  Our we ready to cast anything in stone yet, no, but it is approaching that.”

Sam Webb:  Before we let you go, a philosophical recruiting question, we’ve been getting this a ton about what the paradigm for the Michigan quarterback will be going forward.  What will you recruit, will it be pure drop back passers?  Will you recruit guys who have a mobile dual threat element to them?  What is the philosophy moving forward on the recruiting trail as far as the quarterback goes?

Al Borges:  “First I want to say that paradigm is a good word Sam.  Did you get that (laughter)?  I use that word with the kids.  Joe Reynolds is always kidding me, coach, this will be a paradigm route right here.  I said, Joe what is a paradigm and he comes back with a schematic representation of what you expect, but that is Joe Reynolds.  Just hearing you say that word, I’m impressed. (laughter)”

“In today’s day and age, I don’t know if you can have a quarterback who is a great passer, but is just a statue if you know what I mean.  I think in today’s day and age, you have to have a guy who has some mobility to him that can get out of messes.  That doesn’t mean that he necessarily has to rush for 100 yards every game, but he has to be able to create plays – I always talk about the third play all the time.  We all talk about the third play.  The first two plays the system quarterback can make, but the great quarterbacks make the third play and the third play is the one where something break downs, a protection issue, a coverage issue, something.  You have to have a guy who can make something happen on that third play.  When we recruit the quarterback, yes passing is the prerequisite for the job.  If you can’t do that, we’re not interested.  But, that being said, of secondary importance, but still important all the same is his ability to get out of jams and make that third play.  We’re looking for athletic kids who can throw the ball.  They don’t necessarily all have to be listed as dual threat quarterbacks, but that really is the paradigm if you will.”

Sam Webb:  You recruited Russell Bellomy who is a guy that has that mobile element to his game.

Al Borges:  “Same deal, same thing.  Russ was a good passer and could create some plays and did some things that we were looking for.  That’s the direction that we would like to go.”

Sam Webb:  How is Russell on his road to recovery?

Al Borges:  “He’s working his butt off to get back.  I think it kills him not to be here because when he got hurt in the spring he was really playing well.  He is another guy like Brian Cleary who has been the beneficiary of running the offense a little bit now.  So he has a pretty good feel for what we do and he is chomping at the bit to get back.”

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