Al Borges proud of 'spread-West Coast' offense, but 'we've still got a ways to go'
The Michigan football team had the Big Ten's second-best offense this season.
They did it with a partial playbook in what proved to be a one-of-a-kind scheme.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges reflected Tuesday on his first season with the Wolverines, and he acknowledged that, despite the progress made this year, there's a lot he left off the table.
"We've still got a ways to go," he said. "This was a beautiful season, as far as 10-2. The kids have done a great job. But, we have not arrived. We've got a lot more to put in, a lot more to find."
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Borges has been scrutinized this year while he ditched the spread-option offense for which his players were recruited and implemented his preferred pro-style sets. There was skepticism regarding how well players such as quarterback Denard Robinson would adapt, but Borges, true to his word, modified his playbook to fit the skill-sets he inherited.
He said it was "without question" the biggest adaptation he has made to personnel in his 25-year, nine-stop career. The end result was a hybrid of the two offenses he referred to as the "spread-West coast" that actually was more successful than last year's offense.
Michigan averaged 34.2 points this year, up from 32.8 last year. Most impressively, it averaged 29.5 points against ranked teams, a drastic improvement from 16.5 last season.
And, they did it with what Borges at first referred to as a "starter's set" — meaning, a skeleton playbook — although later said that was too strong of a characterization. He didn't put a percentage on it, but was clear there was a lot he stripped from the playbook this year.
Still, by the end of the year, the Wolverines' offense was humming at an elite level. They scored 85 points in the final two games against Nebraska and Ohio State, and will try to replicate those results Jan. 3 in a Sugar Bowl matchup against Virginia Tech (8:30 p.m., ESPN).
Borges said he leaned on colleagues in coaching circles — many of whom have backgrounds in the spread — to help him forge this year's offense.
"We are constantly trying to enrich ourselves in the development of our offense and defense — (putting) our egos on the shelf," Borges said. "If we think somebody can help us, I'll make a call here or call there. We're going to do whatever it takes to get it taught."
He also accepted input from players. Sort of.
"It's always going to be somewhat of a dictatorship," Borges said. "It's always going to be that way — that's just the nature of coaching. But, it's a benevolent dictatorship. We're not so closed-minded we're not going to listen to what's best for the kids."
Borges said there are a couple of finer points he wish he would have done differently this year, but, structurally, he's happy with the way things unfolded.
Most of his second-guessing came after the team's losses to Michigan State and Iowa. He drew heat for some of his play calls in both games, and was equally hard on himself.
"Every time you lose a game is when you start second-guessing yourself because, believe me, as much as the fans want to second-guess the offensive coordinator, in my mind, I’m always taking educated second guesses," Borges said.
"(I'm) saying, ‘OK, look at the tape. Was this the best way to approach this?’ I do that all the time. Win, lose or draw I do that, but when you lose (you do it more) because it has more impact.
"You say, ‘Well, doggone it, we lost, and we lost for a reason.’ And it’s not all the players’ fault."
Good thing for him the Wolverines lost just twice.
The spread-West Coast was a big reason why.