Why not Al Borges?

Tennessee's football team appears likely to limp home 6-5 after being ranked No. 3 nationally in preseason. The offense has underachieved. Erratic play by quarterback Erik Ainge and his receivers has kept the passing game from being productive.

Is a quick fix possible? Sure. Al Borges inherited a virtually identical situation at Auburn two years ago and turned things around in one season. Consider:

The 2003 Tigers limped home 8-5 after being ranked No. 3 nationally in preseason. Their offense underachieved. Erratic play by quarterback Jason Campbell and his receivers kept the passing game from being productive.

In Borges' first year as offensive coordinator Campbell went from weak link to first-round NFL Draft pick and Auburn went from 8-5 to 13-0.

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer said this week that his first priority in selecting a coordinator for 2006 is finding someone who is a great quarterbacks coach. Borges certainly qualifies on that score. In his one season playing for Borges, Campbell doubled his touchdown pass total from 10 to 20, completed 69.6 percent of his throws for 2,700 yards and threw just seven interceptions.

Borges is no one-year wonder, though. After losing running backs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams within the first five picks of last April's NFL Draft and losing Campbell later in the round, Auburn's offense was supposed to fall off the face of the Earth this season. It hasn't. Instead, it has flourished. The Tigers lead the SEC in scoring offense (33.4 points per game), rushing offense (206 yards per game) and total offense (436 yards per game).

Brandon Cox, Campbell's successor, is leading the Southeastern Conference in passing efficiency and ranks second in passing yards at 222 per game. Kenny Irons, the successor to Brown and Williams, leads the SEC in rushing at 119.7 yads per game.

There is no doubt that David Cutcliffe is the frontrunner to be Tennessee's offensive coordinator in 2006. Obviously, Cutcliffe's familiarity with Fulmer, his philosophy, his system and his terminology make him an excellent fit. I just think Al Borges might be an even better fit.

Like Fulmer, Borges believes in the running game. Like Fulmer, he strives for offensive balance. Philosophically, they're a good match. The obvious question: Would Borges leave Auburn to coach at Tennessee next year?

I don't know. But I wouldn't hire anyone else until I found out.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories