Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Al Borges interview: Goodbye spread offense

So remember how Brady Hoke was hired and immediately started talking about adjusting his schemes to the personnel he had? The local media went bonkers for it and starting comparing this edict to Rich Rodriguez's approach of Complete System Overhaul when he came to Ann Arbor. Yeah well, that may not have been entirely accurate, and was certainly before offensive coordinator Al Borges had his say:
I was once told: A great coach makes the kids do what he wants them to do. They've got to come with us. They've got to do what we want them to do... At the end of the day, they're going to appreciate what this staff brings to the table because there's a lot of experience and a lot of guys that know what they're doing.
Caveats about this being the first part of a two-part interview--the second half will invariably talk about Denard--but this sounds exactly like the mindset of Rodriguez when he came to Michigan, except that it's being delivered the friend of a Michigan Man. Also, Borges had just finished talking about execution and making sure players can do everything well, but regardless, this sounds like a man pretty firmly set in his ways.

Other disconcerting comments (emphasis mine):
I'm on the Brady Hoke page and always have been. I think toughness is critical. You have to start with that. This game is not for the faint of heart. Particularly in this conference because there are a lot of people coming off the ball and forcing the issue. And we're going to try and do that same thing.
Borges is clearly not a man that is going to mess around with zone blocking schemes, the zone-read, or a bevy of quarterback runs. He's been running his system for over two decades and is not going to be swayed to change it significantly now.

I agree wholeheartedly with MGoBlog's recent post about Borges' offensive system and how it gels with Michigan's current talent pool: it doesn't really. I've seemingly been the only one advocating that Denard is not necessarily a lock to take the starting QB position next year, and this just feels like more fuel to that fire. It's still early in the process and unfair to condemn anyone yet, but this should squash any thoughts of Hoke and Borges et al are any different than Rodriguez when it comes to rethinking your offensive strategy to accommodate the players you inherit. Let's hope Greg Mattison can do something with this defense.


Anonymous said...

Rodriguez made the right move. You coach what you know and you certainly don't change your entire offense for Steven Threet. Borges decision is less clear because Denard is a special talent.

My question: is this news? Didn't we already know the spread was gone? All we're hoping for is that Borges can adapt his playbook to make better use of Denard's skills. Its not like Denard was an expert at the Zone-Read like Pat White. Quarterback draws, roll-outs, waggles, etc. You can run with a QB outside of the spread formation. And nearly everyone agreed Denard shouldn't be running 30 times a game anyway.

You're far from the only one questioning how Denard will fit and openly commenting (again) on a position change. The issue I have is - lets give Borges a chance to incorporate Denard. Lets let Gardner beat out Robinson before we anoint him QB.

Also, lets remember that most of Denards big running plays came against weak defenses. Maybe Denard won't run for 120 yards on 25 carries next year, but if he runs 10 times for 65 yards and the rest of the offense is more effective, maybe we can all live with that.

There is no way Denard will put up the same numbers next year. He won't have the same chances because the D will be better and the pace of play will be slower. But, removing sacks, his YPC could be bigger, his health could be better, and his passing accuracy may improve without all the hits he took.

The guy is a still-raw sophomore. Lets not bench him or banish him to WR just yet.


Chris Gaerig said...

It's not so much that the spread is gone as it is that we're not going to see much (or any) adaptation to the personnel on campus.

I don't consider roll outs to be an adequate utilization of Denard's skillset. Chad Henne ran roll outs. It's a staple of pro offenses. He didn't present the threat that Denard did, but that doesn't mean that an offense is being molded to our existing personnel.

It also adds to my mounting hatred for the media and fanbase that pissed and moaned about Rodriguez overhauling the system in spite of the existing roster.

Anonymous said...

Holy shit. I used to read this blog often.
Now you take any shred of "evidence" or quote and use it as an excuse to piss and moan about OMG how UNFAIR everyone was to RR!!



Anonymous said...

The question Karsh asked was about "Big 10 football", which is code for physical play. I don't think Borges quotes fall far outside of what any coach would say. Players do what coaches say - thats called coaching. I think you're reading too much into his wording.

A minute earlier, Borges talks about going "multiple" and "best groups" and "multiplicity" "based on the talented players". He admits the coaching staff has to learn. That doesn't sound inflexible to me.

I'm bitter about the RR treatment too, but that doesn't mean we have to fire back at Hoke's staff. I think you're being unfair (and are wrong) when you say "we're not going to see much (or any) adaptation to the personnel on campus". You're parsing a few quotes and ignoring the ones that explicitly say they WILL adjust to personnel.

Look, I support your hypothesis that the offense will regress. Its hard not to when changing staffs and when you're already a top 10 team. I also think both of our QBs face a major challenge. That said, the real test for most fans opinion of the offense will come October 15th and November 26th. Scoring 17 points against MSU and 7 against OSU aren't hard benchmarks to surpass. 28 against Notre Dame and Iowa don't seem out of the question. While we can safely say we won't see 67 against Illinois again, and total yardage and ypc probably won't look so flashy. BUT, hopefully we will see fewer turnovers and better red zone production.


Why would a roll out not utilize Denard's skills? It puts pressure on the perimeter of a defense and it opens up potential running lanes for Denard to run through. Last year Denards runs opened up our pass game. It wouldnt be bad if our RB runs or passing game returned the favor in 2011.

Chris Gaerig said...

Rollouts utilize his skills but aren't something specific to Denard, is what I'm saying. Nearly every pro system uses rollouts, regardless of their quarterback. Properly utilizing Denard's skills is using his running ability (though not necessarily to the extent RR did) to open up the passing game.

Obviously, we'll see how it shakes out as the season approaches, but all of the comments I hear--from Borges to Denard talking about the offense--strike me as a pretty ominous. I guess my concern is this: We all expect the offense to take a step back next year (hell, it might have if RR was still in town), but from what I'm hearing, I'm expecting it to take a significant step back.

We'll see. Again, I'm willing (and trying, I think successfully) to give the whole coaching staff their fair shake, but I'm bothered that we have a talent of Denard's stature and we're going to relegate him to I-formation rollouts. *Knocks on wood*

Anonymous said...

"Rollouts utilize his skills but aren't something specific to Denard"

It doesn't have to be some unique play call that only works for Denard. The run doesn't have to open up the pass. It can work the other way around or one type of run can open another. It really doesn't matter. In playcalling, when you do something, and how often you do it, matters as much as what you do. What matters is that it works - that the offense is effective.

We WANT the offense to be less dependent on Denard's running, and so does the new staff.
With less frequent utilization Denard's effectiveness can improve. Maybe instead of running on first down for 5 yards every other time, he can be used to run only occasionally, to get key third downs and move the chain. Sort of like another meh passer who can run (down in that school in Ohio).

If the staff can improve the ypc from the running backs, cut back on turnovers, and improve 3rd down conversion %, it won't much matter what Denard's rushing yardage total is.

This is obviously the optimistic view. If Denards accuracy doesn't improve, and the running backs remain ineffective, there won't be much to fall back on. In that case, you could be right about "a significant step back"...but it's a total unknown right now. Things will be different, but not necessarily worse. And...whats "a significant step back" from 7 points against OSU and 17 against MSU look like?

Anyway, I doubt rollouts will be it. I'll be shocked if there aren't QB draws, run/pass option bootlegs, trick plays with Denard as a WR, and other playcalls that force defenses to respect Denard running the ball and open up the WR to 1 on 1 coverage - which any offense can exploit, pro-style or spread.


Anonymous said...

Borges sucks. Has everywhere he's been. He's the Greg Robinson of offense.

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