Michigan Offensive Press Conference Quotes
Offensive Coordinator Al Borges quotes are presented first, selected players quotes follow coaches quotes
An Interview With AL BORGES
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with our Michigan offensive press conference this morning. We’re joined by Offensive Coordinator Al Borges. Coach, opening remarks.
COACH BORGES: This is actually my second trip to the Sugar Bowl. I had an opportunity in 2005 to come here, and ironically enough, we played Virginia Tech, which is kind of cool.
But I can tell you, I’ve been fortunate over the last few years of my career to go to several Bowl games, but the Sugar Bowl is without question at the top of the list with regard to hospitality, accommodations, the whole deal.
They just do a wonderful job. You can tell they’ve been here before. They know exactly what they’re doing. I know our kids are enjoying this experience. The coaches, when they’ve had an opportunity outside our work schedule, to do things, we’ve had a great time so far.
And our preparations have gone real well. Back at Ann Arbor, a precursor to the Bowl game, the kids have practiced hard and stayed pretty focused and it’s carried over these last couple of days of practice.
So we’re looking forward to playing a really, really well‑coached, tough football team in Virginia Tech, a team that I think deserves to be here, having the type of year they had and being the type of team that they are.
You know, Frank Beamer is a proven commodity in this business, and having an opportunity to coach against Bud Foster who coordinates the defense and does now and always has done a great job of coordinating his schemes and style of play that really presents some real issues for us offensively.
So it’s going to be a great challenge for us. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and having an opportunity to win 11 games, as great a tradition as Michigan has, I think it’s only been done about five times. So our team is fired up and can’t wait to get this thing underway.
Q. You talked about Foster. Is that something that you see as like somewhat of a challenge because he’s so well respected and because you guys have a little bit of a history, at least?
COACH BORGES: Yeah. And, again, I don’t have a lot of history other than one football game.
But just knowing Bud and knowing what they do and have an idea what they do. And he’s like we have been offensively. Their defense is ever‑evolving. They’re a little different than the last time we played them, but still some of the base schemes are the same.
But he’s a well‑respected guy because he’s done such a nice job and presents some problems for you. They have a nice pressure package when they need it. They play the run real well. All their numbers, statistically, would bear that out.
Q. How much of an advantage is it, if any, that they haven’t faced a quarterback like Denard Robinson this year?
COACH BORGES: How much have they played a guy like Denard? I don’t think they’ve played a guy like Denard.
Q. How much of an advantage is it for you?
COACH BORGES: I’m not sure. I’m not sure how to answer that question. Denard ‑‑ doesn’t matter who is play against him ‑‑ presents some problems. I don’t think anybody would argue that.
The biggest thing with Denard is if Denard’s throwing the ball well, which he’s been doing of late, then he really adds a new ‑‑ a whole different dimension to having to defend him, because it’s kind of ‑‑ with opportunities, he’s going to run the ball well. He can do that.
You very seldom have slumps running the ball. But passing, you can go into some slumps. But he’s been throwing the ball well lately.
And if we haven’t lost any of our timing, which it doesn’t appear at this point in our practices that we have, I think we’ll be okay. But I think, like I said, they’re going to have answers. They’re not going to make any concessions to us, that’s for sure. And we’re going to have to deal with those as the game progresses.
I don’t know if I answered your question or not, but…
Q. To the end of that question, to what extent does this game come down to identifying early what they’re trying to do to him and reacting to it?
COACH BORGES: It’s always huge, because within the first couple series, you’ll have somewhat of an idea how they’re going to go about defending you. And I have found here at Michigan, with Denard, more so than probably most the quarterbacks I’ve coached in the past, is everybody’s got kind of a different solution to dealing with Denard’s skill level.
So as a coach you have to identify what they’re overdefending and then be able to make the adequate adjustments to take advantage of what they’re defending less. Okay? And now it comes down to whether or not you can exploit that. Sometimes it’s the passing game, like I said before.
And if they’re giving you some opportunities in your passing game and you can take advantage of it, you can have a pretty good day. But if they make you play left‑handed and you can’t take advantage of it, then you could have a long day.
So I think it’s huge, is figuring out how they’re going to go about defending you and then being able to counterpunch.
Q. Does playing indoors change the dynamic of what you do offensively, or how does it affect what you do offensively?
COACH BORGES: It doesn’t really make too much difference to us. I mean, it doesn’t really matter where you play or when you play, it only matters how you play. So, no, I don’t see ‑‑ what’s kind of nice is there’s really going to be no weather issues. So, no, it really doesn’t.
And the biggest thing, I think, with our guys, we’ve got to get used to getting in the Super Dome. I found this last time we were here, you have to get in the Super Dome, get used to catching the ball in the lights, because that part of it is a little different. You get practicing in there and you get accustomed to how it is. I don’t see it as any major issue.
Q. Al, you mentioned Denard throwing the ball better lately. What’s gone into that in your mind or what are the factors of him having better days throwing the football? And also can you tell early in the game, two, three throws in, whether he’s got “it” that day?
COACH BORGES: I think it takes more than two or three throws. I’ve had guys start slow and end up playing real well. I don’t think that’s an indicator. Although there’s at times, if a kid gets off fast, the passing is a lot like shooting 3‑point shots: You start feeling it, the hoop gets bigger. What was your first question?
Q. Improvement in passing.
COACH BORGES: That to me, again there’s a lot of factors in answering that question, but I think as much as anything is just basically having a better overall understanding of what we’re trying to do and not forcing throws. Not trying to do too much.
But more than anything, what Denard’s done in really the last three games, the people recognized the last two, but even in the Illinois game before he got injured, he has got a much better feel for what we’re doing with our passing game conceptually, where the first, second, and third read is and when to use his legs, which is huge for Denard, because we talk a lot about using your legs as a check‑down, which is a little different than what I’m accustomed ‑‑ how I’m accustomed to coaching a quarterback.
In the past we look at the first guy, second guy, maybe check in on the third guy if protection would allow. But with Denard, we’ll look at the first guy, second guy, and use your legs as a check‑down. But he’s doing more of that. And he’s keeping drives alive because of it and he’s presenting more problems for the defense.
Q. How has Denard handled being kind of the face or the focal point of the offense this year?
COACH BORGES: I think he’s handled it great. And I mean, I can answer that with all my heart. Because he’s had to make sacrifices. He went from being a 1700‑yard rusher to being an 1100‑something‑yard rusher, I don’t know what exactly it is. I told him from the beginning from day one that he wasn’t going to rush for 70, 80 yards, because we’re going to keep him in one piece if it killed us.
And he accepted that and really worked at developing other phases of his game. Now, in the interim, he took some hits. I mean, figuratively and physically, some scrutiny because he just wasn’t quite ‑‑ didn’t have his feet on the ground. And that figuratively and literally, too.
But once he got to a point, I think, where he got comfortable, you know, he’s done real well. But he has accepted his role in this offense, which is always huge, always huge, but certain phases of what he had done before are not quite as prominent now. And that would be easy for a kid to say: What the heck?
Not him. He’s been a pleasure to coach. And I think that the kids are following his lead like they never have, like they never have. And I think he’s always had some of that to him because of how he’s been. He’s been an exemplary figure in our program, not just in our offense, but I think the kids have really followed his lead and has helped us win ten games. It’s as big a factor as anything as far as I’m concerned from an offensive perspective anyway.
Q. Fitz Toussaint, how well has he progressed this season and how well has he grasped your offense as the season went along?
COACH BORGES: Interesting evolution with Fitz. We started the season off, we played four, five, six games, and no one had really jumped to the forefront of our offense from a running back perspective. So we were using it by committee, okay? And it’s never been my preference. I never liked that.
But we were doing it. We were winning, it was working out okay. But we finally decided ‑‑ I can’t remember what game it was, I think it was Purdue or game before Purdue ‑‑ where I talked to Fred Jackson, running back coach, I told him let’s leave him in there, see what it does, let’s let him carry a few. And he took off.
I mean, he played well, and he kept getting better and better and every phase of Fitz’s game got a little better every week. And I think it’s just from playing more. He went from spring football and he’d run into bodies. His vision was questionable.
He’s always tough, always fast, always explosive but he wasn’t always running where he should run. But once he played more and got a feel for where his help was coming from with regard to our blocking schemes and such, he just blossomed and got better and better. And that’s what you got now.
You’ve got a guy that is another big play dimension, where Denard carried the load of that, I think, for a long time, he doesn’t have to do that anymore.
And what Fitz has done, as much as anything, is he’s kept Denard healthy. I really believe that to be true, because now Denard doesn’t have to carry the ball 24, 25 times every game. We’ll still do that with him occasionally, but he doesn’t have to do it every game.
Q. Jumping back to Denard for a second. You mentioned how much he had to adjust this year, how much did you have to adjust to him and his particular skills that I can’t imagine his skill set’s really exactly what you’ve had for like a pro‑style offense?
COACH BORGES: I’ve made more adjustments with regard to schematics than I ever have. But that’s no endorsement for me. That’s what you should do as a football coach. You have to identify the skill set of your players and then gear what you do schematically to what they’re capable of.
So, yeah, this offense is completely different than what had been run, what I’ve done here in the past. But that’s what you should do. So we’ve had to think a little more out of the box as an offense. It hasn’t just been me, it’s been everybody.
All the guys in my room all make significant contributions to how we go about doing this thing. And we’re constantly hammering stuff out trying to find the best way to explore our talent and keep our quarterback healthy. It’s required some adjustments on our part but we’re not beating our chest. It’s something as a football coach you’re not a good football coach if you don’t figure out a way to do that. I said when I took this job is they said well the talent is not pro‑style offense. And my next question is, is there talent? And the answer was, yes, there is talent.
Well, enough said. We gotta figure out a way to use the talent. If there’s no talent then you’ve got issues. Doesn’t matter what offense you’re in.
Q. Can you talk about how complex a defense Bud Foster runs and how pro‑style that is in terms of its attacking nature?
COACH BORGES: Well, without getting into all the stuff, they just ‑‑ what they do is he has the ability to crowd the box to stop the run, particularly in certain situational groups, depending on who you put on the field. Plus he has the ability by down and distance to play pass and still get pressure in your quarterback. They’ve got several kids, several sacks, and they can blitz you and they can cover you.
And he has enough flexibility ‑‑ you’ve got to understand this. He’s been there a long time. And that system, although he’s got some young players, you know, that system that he has is kind of ‑‑ they know it, you know what I mean?
Once you’ve run the same offense, the same defense for a long time, your kids can actually start teaching the new kids as much as the coaches do, you know? And it just becomes easier and easier.
You’ll see with us, as we run our offense more and more, and it evolves more and more, it gets easier for the kids to understand, simply because they’ve just done it more. And you’re not teaching ever little tiny thing, you know what I mean? They understand some of the tiny things and you can start dealing more with nuance and things like that. And I think Bud’s at that point because he’s been there so long.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Michigan Offensive Press Conference Players Quotes
Marriott Convention Center, December 30, 2011
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
(On watching Michael Vick growing up) “That was one of the guys I used to watch all the time. When he played for Atlanta (Falcons), that’s when I watched him most. He is so exciting and can throw the ball well.”
(On considering Virginia Tech when deciding on a school) “They never offered me. I never got an offer from Virginia Tech, so I can’t say that I did.”
(On his sense of Virginia Tech’s defensive game plan) “They are going to try to get after me a lot. They have great athletes and can play in space. We just have to be prepared for whatever they throw at us.”
(On being similar to Michael Vick) “Yes; he is a great runner and a great passer. Those are the things that I strive to be, just like him.”
(On what part of Michael Vick’s game jumps out at him) “The game comes easy for him. He is relaxed in the pocket and can make guys miss, no problem.”
(On if he watched Michael Vick in the National Championship in the Superdome) “I don’t remember him playing in the Superdome, but I do remember him playing in Georgia…in Atlanta. That was the biggest time that I have watched him. I was just like, “Man, I want to be like this guy some day.”
(On what grade he is looking for from the draft committee) “That is something that I am not even focused on. I am focused on the bowl game, being here with my teammates and having fun.”
(On the uniqueness of Virginia Tech’s defense) “It is a challenge. They have some unique defenses and great athletes. It’s going to be a challenge throughout the whole game. We just have to be prepared for it. We have to do what we have to do to be prepared on the third.”
(On Virginia Tech’s history of sending defensive backs to the NFL) “They have some great players on their team. They have great players at cornerback, safety, linebackers, and defensive linemen. We just have to be prepared to play against them. We have to play our best, play focused and no turnovers.”
(On the emergence of RB Fitzgerald Toussaint) “Fitz carrying the ball and taking the load off does a lot. I am not taking as many carries as I am used to doing and I am enjoying it. I love see other guys shine and do their thing. I love seeing Fitz run down the field and score touchdowns. I love seeing “Big-Play” [Junior] Hemingway catch the ball. I enjoy seeing people do things.”
(On the stage) “We actually didn’t get in to the [Mercedes-Benz] Superdome yet. I am ready to go see it and it’s going to be a great day.”
(On the adjustment of having a new coach and offense) “It was a process all season just understanding the offense, being around different coaches and seeing personnel. We all clicked, got on the same page and kept going from there. We kept learning. It’s a learning process.”
(On the toughest part of adjusting to the new staff) “Now, that’s one thing about me, I am going to buy into it. It’s a great system, so I bought into it without question. No problems.”
(On the differences in offensive game plans) “It’s different because you have to take different drops in the gun. In the gun, you take a three-step instead of a five-step from under center. There are some different things.”
(On his favorite moment this season) “There are a lot of moments, so I can’t name one. I would look back on it and I loved it.”
Michigan RB Fitzgerald Toussaint
(On New Orleans and last name references) “No, I’m not from here. My father is from Haiti; not from New Orleans, but I am looking to get well acquainted with [New Orleans] before we leave. Hopefully I will have some time to explore. It is a place that I have always wanted to come.”
(On not being to play against Notre Dame) “There was an injury involved; shoulder injury to be exact. No setbacks, I’m at 100 percent.”
(On grasping the offense in spring football) “It was just the process of me taking my time and adjusting to learn the system. We have a lot of great leaders, a lot of good technicians that give everyone a lot of feedback, which is why we had a lot of success this year.”
(On Coach Borges’ comment on helping keep Denard Robinson healthy) “I just stay focused and do whatever it is that I have to do to help our team get better and to help us win. We have put an emphasis on working hard and finishing strong all season and take every game one play at a time.”
(On Virginia Tech’s defense) “They are very athletic at every position and play every play with maximum effort.”
(On overcoming adversity this season to be in the Sugar Bowl) “I think this is a big step for all of us; 11-2 sounds really good to end this season. I feel we have worked hard and overcame some challenges to be here and this is a big opportunity. This is a big step for all of us.”
(On running behind Michigan’s offensive line) “The guys that all of us run behind take care of us and we take care of them; we have great chemistry with one another, which is another reason why we have had success this season.”
Michigan TE Kevin Koger
(On the cohesion of the first-year coaches and their growth this season) “I think our success can be attributed to them. It definitely rubs off on the senior class because they came in and are all on the same page. They imposed that on the seniors and we [the seniors] took the same mindset and I think that’s a big part of why we’ve been so successful this year.”
(On the success the team has had this year) “I think the biggest thing with having success in the [coaches’] first season is everyone buying in, especially the seniors. If the seniors don’t buy in then the underclassmen won’t buy in and it becomes a bad situation.”
(On his first memories of Offensive Coordinator Al Borges) “One of his main focuses was when we started a drill he wanted us to make sure we started right. First play you didn’t want anyone lining up wrong, we didn’t want any fumbled snaps. The kind of stuff that didn’t really make sense to me at first but did as the season went along.”
(On his New Orleans experience) “It’s been a lot of fun…lot of good food. I actually had an alligator po-boy last night which was phenomenal. I’ll definitely try it again.”
Michigan WR Junior Hemingway
(On his nickname: “Big Play Hemingway”) “I didn’t even know about the nickname until Denard [Robinson] said it one day. Pretty sweet.”
(On Virginia Tech’s cornerbacks) “It’s going to be a challenge for us to go out there and give them our best game…[to] go out there with our “A” game. They’re athletic; they’re great corners; they’re going to make plays and we’re just going to have to bring our “A” game.”
(On Virginia Tech’s defense) “It will be an opportunity and a challenge to see some different things. It will be a challenge to us to go out there and be able to make plays, when it is our opportunity to make plays, and try to exploit some of those things they are throwing at us.”
(On playing final game in the Sugar Bowl) “With it being my fifth year and to be able to go out like this, it’s a great feeling.”
(On being a threat to help Denard Robinson/offense be successful) “What’s going to help Denard is us going out there and making plays, making guys miss and catching every deep ball Denard throws to us. That’s going to help him and Fitz run the ball. That takes a lot of pressure off of them. We just gotta go out there and play our “A” game and do what receivers do.”
Michigan OL David Molk
(On being a senior in this game) “Your last game at Michigan is the game you will remember forever. It’s the end of college football. It’s the end of all your friends and all you know. It is special to go out with a win.”
(On making up for the past couple of years) “It will make up for the past. Going into the season we did not know what to expect. We had a new staff, new defense and a new offense. We had no idea what to expect. We tried to control this team as best we could.”
(On the difference this year) “There are differences in coaching and there are differences in leadership. The senior class, especially the captains, had more power. We were able to connect to the team in a way we never could before. We were able to help the coaches lead. I thought that was really productive.”
(On turning point this season) “The Illinois game was a big turning point. That pre-game was absolutely terrible. Nobody was ready and nobody was focused. We underestimated Illinois and what they could do. They were a great team with great athletes. But, we took our offense to the side and spoke with them. It just needed to happen. We played great that game and we played great the rest of the season. It led to great performances by the offense for the rest of the season.”
(On Michigan struggling in high profile games) “I don’t really think about that. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. It is about what that team did. I think about what my team is going to do. I will do everything in my power to help my team win this game.”