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Posted on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges' system can look vastly different, depending on who is running it

By Kyle Meinke


Offensive coordinator Al Borges has altered his pro-style system to fit the personnel at previous stops. He says he'll do so again at Michigan to capitalize on the talents of quarterback Denard Robinson.

Melanie Maxwell |

Note: This is the first story in a three-part series on Michigan's new coaching staff.
Today: Al Borges   |   Saturday: Greg Mattison   |   Sunday: Brady Hoke

After spending 24 of the past 25 years as a college football offensive coordinator, there’s one thing Al Borges knows he’ll never tire of.


“I’m obsessive,” he said of drawing up plays. “The guys tell me I’m a nut job, and I think I am. I just like that part of the game. I like so many parts of the game, but I like the tactics, and I like to scribble.”

Borges is a West Coast guy, by and large. The 55-year-old is from Salinas, Calif., went to California State-Chico and has held jobs from San Diego State to Portland State.


Hometown: Salinas, Calif.
College: Cal State-Chico
Age: 55
Family: Wife, Nikki; son, Cole; daughter, Mady Jo

2009-10: San Diego State (OC)
2004-07: Auburn (OC/QBs)
2002-03: Indiana (OC/QBs)
2000-02: California (OC/QBs)
1996-00: UCLA (OC/QBs)
1995: Oregon (OC/QBs)
1993-94: Boise State (OC/QBs)
1986-92: Portland State (OC/QBs)
1983-85: Diablo Valley (TEs/WRs)
1982: California (assistant)

San Diego State: Poinsettia Bowl (2009); Auburn: Chick-Fil-A Bowl (2007), Cotton Bowl (2007), Capital One Bowl (2006), Sugar Bowl (2005); UCLA: Sun Bowl (2000), Rose Bowl (1999), Cotton Bowl (1998); Oregon, Cotton Bowl (1996).

1995: 50.9% pass / 49.1 % run
1996: 43.6% pass / 56.4% run
1997: 37.6% pass / 62.4 % run
1998: 42.7% pass / 57.3% run
1999: 48.0% pass / 52.0% run
2000: 46.3% pass / 53.7% run
2001: 52.4% pass / 47.6 % run
2002: 51.1% pass / 48.9% run
2003: 37.8% pass / 62.2% run
2004: 36.1% pass / 63.9% run
2005: 41.4% pass / 58.6% run
2006: 37.9% pass / 62.1% run
2007: 39.9% pass / 60.1% run
2009: 58.3% pass / 41.7% run
2010: 49.8% pass / 50.2% run

He now is entering his first season as Michigan’s offensive coordinator after holding that position at Diablo Valley College, Portland State, Boise State, Oregon, UCLA, California, Indiana, Auburn and San Diego State.

One thing that’s always defined him along the way — besides his pro-style offense — has been his passion for drawing up plays.

Even back in Salinas.

“My dad always said as long as I had a pencil and a piece of paper, I was never bored,” recalled Borges, one of seven children. “He said, ‘I envy you. Pencil and a piece of paper, and you’re never bored.’ That’s probably true.

“Maybe some of the stuff I’m drawing is worthless, and I’m sure some of it is. I throw it all away. I don’t keep it very often. Once I write it down, I normally remember it.”

That proclivity surely has been put to use this off-season, when he’s fit quarterback Denard Robinson to his pro-style scheme — and the scheme to Robinson.

How to marry a running quarterback
to a pro-style scheme

Borges has run the West Coast offense -- “God, I hate using that word,” he says -- since he studied legendary coach Bill Walsh in the late 1970s. It emphasizes the power-run game, big receivers, big linemen, tight ends and a pocket quarterback.

In other words: Pretty much the opposite of what Michigan has run the past three years.

The nucleus of the Wolverines’ offense is Robinson, who posted the most prolific offensive season in school history last year running the spread-option. He’s a lightning-fast runner with good instincts and vision.

That’s why he was given 19.7 carries per game last year, a staggering number for a quarterback.

Rather than confine Robinson to the pocket, though, Borges, who will call plays from the press box at Michigan, has said he will adapt his system to fit the junior’s strengths.

“We’ll be ’gunning more than we’ve ever ’gunned,” Borges said. “We’ve used the shotgun before, but we’re just tailoring the gun more to (Robinson’s) skills.

“I’m not revealing any trade secrets here, but we’re going to use Denard the best way he can exploit the defense.”

Hoke said that could include 10 to 15 runs per game for Robinson, who so far has been given a “starter set” of passing plays from Borges’ playbook. That includes about 65 to 70 percent of what Borges hopes to run.

"We are smart enough -- which I know people don't usually say about me -- to have elements in our offense which Denard does well from what he did in the spread,” Hoke said recently.

Borges tailors schemes

Still skeptical? Here’s proof that Borges will bend his offenses.


Al Borges on Denard Robinson, above: "I'm not revealing any trade secrets here, but we're going to use Denard the best way he can exploit the defense." file photo

In the past 15 seasons, his offenses have passed 46.7 percent of the time and run 53.3 percent of the time. By comparison, Michigan passed on 43.0, 40.1 and 41.0 percent of its plays the past three years.

But there are outliers.

For example, Borges’ 2004 offense at Auburn passed just 36.1 percent of the time. He also happened to have future pro tailbacks in Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown at his disposal that year.

The result? A 25th-ranked offense that led the Southeastern Conference in scoring. Auburn finished 13-0 that year.

By contrast, Borges’ 2001 offense at California passed on 52.4 percent of its snaps. Why? Future NFL player Kyle Boller was at quarterback.

Borges even had a mobile quarterback in Cade McNown when the pair were at UCLA in the late 1990s. The former turned the latter into a first-round NFL draft pick, and together they guided the Bruins to a top-five finish in 1997 and a Rose Bowl appearance in 1998.

The offenses at UCLA in the late 90s, California in 2001 and Auburn in 2004 were dissimilar in almost every way, except they all ran the same base formation under the same man.

That system can look vastly different, depending upon who is running it.

Most recently, Borges passed 58.3 percent and 49.8 percent of the time the past two years, respectively, at San Diego State. He also had one of the Mountain West Conference’s best quarterbacks in Ryan Lindley, and two 2010 draft picks at receiver in Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson.

Last year, San Diego State ranked 16th in total yards (456.7) and 19th in scoring (35.0).

What does it all mean?

Borges likes the pro-style system, but will bend it to fit his players -- and more often than not, with success.

This year, he will attempt to do the same.

Which version of his past offenses will most resemble this year’s product?

“None,” he said.

The scribbler inside him must be giddy.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

It's very disturbing to see these coaches obviously overweight, not a good role model for any student football player, nor the program in general. Michigan is already high on the list of states suffering from gross obesity, you'd think the flagship University of Michigan would set a better example. Not to mention the thousands of TV viewers who will witness these overweight coaches.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 4:11 a.m.

This is a story about how the offensive philosophy at Uof M has changed this's nopt about how much the coaches weigh.Stay Focused Blue Brains


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 3:21 a.m.

redceder1. . . you seem to have a working knowledge of brasieres? what's that got to do with this article bro? GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

How did this articles comments turn into a weight discussion. Did not hear this outcry about RR staff come on. I thought RR had mental issues with all his crying. Back to football. Coach Borges is a first class coach something that has been sorely lacking in A2 for years. Come on we are 1 week away from the start of a new football season. That's what matters. You can have all the discussions about weight at end of season. The excitement is building. Can hardly wait. Go Blue !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Robert D. Mosley

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 2:30 a.m.

I was worried about Hoke's weight from the start and heard his wife is too. I thought the same thing everyone else did when I finally got a picture of Borges. It is so great to have great coaches, but when you get into your fifties, you are deluding yourself with all the emotional and psychological stress to be overweight. I agree that it is time our coaches were role models in losing the weight and resist the temptation of becoming fat ex-football players we see so often.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

Addidas will start selling a u of m, "Manzier" in sport shops. Brasieres for M coaches.

1st Down

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 2:42 a.m.

naw.... all they need to do is take a trip up to any freshman dorm in East Lansing on a Friday night and pick up all of the bras lying around the hallways...

1st Down

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 11:50 p.m.

Rich Rod had a bunch of fat coaches too btw...Rod Smith, Magee are not exactly what you would call slim.

1st Down

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

Al was one of the top 2 hires of coordinators in college football this year, Mattison being the other. One thing about Coach Hoke is that he hires great coaches and lets them do their jobs. Im very excited to see this offenses explode this year AND control the ball AND not finish dead last in the BT in turn overs, as we have the past 3 seasons. Go Blue.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 12:13 a.m.

Don't forget that D.Brandon had a HUGE checkbook for Coach Hoke. Something no other Michigan coach has had.....


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10:30 p.m.

Not so much a comment on the article ... but a comment on the videos over at ... a) I like Borges ... the guy is no dummy ... he's also no stranger to transitioning offenses. I think he'll over-perform this year. b) The position coaches all seem focused like lasers ... this is a cohesive coaching unit ... not a hint of inner strife c) Kevin Koger seems like a terrific young man ... just terrific ... what a joy to see young men of such character on this team

Lorain Steelmen

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

DonAZ. I understand that Koger made a trip back to Toldeo to talk to this year's Whitmer squad. Nothing but postive comments coming form the HC & team. You are right, he seems to be a great kid. I wish him well as he grows into a leadership role on this 2011 UM team.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

Great article! It's worth noting that "fans" started calling for just this kind of judicious flexibility after the first two seasons of "one flavor pleases all" RR football. It does seem that both Coach Hoke and Coach Borges are not working with each other - by accident. I truly appreciate the professional thoroughness of these two men. As I've said before: if Michigan somehow fails to prove itself to be on the comeback, it won't be due to the lack of coaching ability (this time). But it all looks good so far, I think Michigan is definitely on the right track with the right coaches and players. With the sincerest best wishes, I'll add: I agree that the current coaching staff (with notable exceptions like Coach Jackson) "fit the same profile" in another, worrisome way. My brother had a heart attack last week: he survived but now faces that new, higher probability of another heart attack. He too "fits" that profile which worries many here. Offering: 40 years ago, I was 55 pounds overweight. I started getting chest pains, which a cardiogram showed was over-stress of the heart. I lost all of those pounds - and by keeping to a moderate exercise routine, I've remained well below that previous weight. Oh - and I stay away from: potato chips! Nothing put on weight like those tasty little crisps.

1st Down

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 11:53 p.m.

Id like to see Hoke, Borges and Mattison get some work on the treadmill and cut their diets down... someone should email Dave Brandon and ask him to make that suggestion... it is for their health.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

a) Good for you losing the weight! b) Potato chips are *evil* ... just evil c) I'm more worried about the coaches health than the role model ... I'd rather have a smart and effective overweight coach than a trim and buffed coach who can't achieve player success.

Megan Greene

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

All the coaches look painfully slow and out of shape. Horrible role models. Compare with Northwestern and OSU coaches for example. Practice what you preach, walk the talk. It's alarming that a sports talk show today on 1050am said Michigan defense would be slow.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

Did UCLA play in the '99 Rose Bowl? It says '98, but that's when Michigan beat Wazzu.

Bernie Klein

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

The coach`s weight is noticable... a real rumble coming out of the tunnel on game day. That said, my biggest wqish is that he doesn`t take the most exciting QB we`ve ever had and turn him into a John Navarre. Run Denard, run !!


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:38 p.m.

genetracy and Lorain, I agree with both of you. I always find it hard to believe that grossly overweight coaches don't lose credibility with their teams as regards proper playing weight levels. Each of the three coaches you mentioned looks like he's one helping of lasagna away from a massive coronary (knock on wood). Not good role models at all in this regard.

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:19 p.m.

genetracy.... Occch! But I think your comment is actually very important! I also noticed from the jump, that Messers, Hoke, Mattison, and Borges were all obese...not over weight...obese! I support Hoke and his staff, but this business is 24/7/365. If they don't take care of themselves, they pay a huge price in their personal health. Guys wake up! I recall the night before the 1970 Rose Bowl, when Bo had his first heart attack... WE ALL UNDERSTAND, THAT AS COACHES, THESE GUYS GET PASSIONATE, AND THERE IS A NEVER ENDING SENSE OF careful. We all hope these guys remeber that, and begin to drop the weight, to avoid a replay of that ....I thiknk this is a great staff, and want to keep them a round for wheile.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

I believe the technical and medical term is 'morbid obesity'