January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (12) runs out of the pocket as South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Devin Taylor (98) rushes during the second half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. South Carolina won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — Spring Practice — Coach Borges’ Tough Two-Headed Task


Posted at 6:00am — 3/9/2013

Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — Spring Practice — Coach Borges’ Tough Two-Headed Task

The 2013 season will present Coach Borges with a clear set of difficult challenges. Michigan’s success on offense will hinge on three factors: (1) how well the young interior offensive line achieves the needed competency to solidify an offense; (2) how well Devin Gardner improves his skills and knowledge of the quarterback position, and (3) how well the team transitions to the long-awaited West Coast Modified Offense. Coach Funk will be going full go to build a good interior offensive line and Coach Borges will hold responsibility for the last two challenges stated above.

Bill Walsh would not relish all the tasks Coach Borges must accomplish for the Michigan offense to move forward in 2013. Many teams have coaching breakdowns that would split the quarterback development and offensive coordination. Coach Borges has both responsibilities, and that is the way it will be.

Devin Gardner certainly has quite a bit of talent. Late last year he excelled against average teams and marginally held his own against Ohio State and South Carolina. But in those two games he showed some toughness and promise. In the easy games he showed talent. Devin has talent, cancel the debate on that potential question, he is a near physical specimen, and has gone through a semi-bizarre metamorphosis (to state this kindly) in his ascension to starting quarterback for Michigan. He was a spectator a few years ago, and then he was a back-up quarterback that also had a special package prepared to get on the field with Denard Robinson. This package, to the casual observer, was much ado about nothing. Devin then went on to start at wide receiver, again to see the field, but also to fill an area of need for the Wolverines. The move looked to be successful until an injury at Notre Dame and tougher defensive competition hit the field.

So, Coach Borges is really working with an almost new quarterback in an almost new offensive scheme. Now add to this mini-dilemma a need to accomplish two primary offensive tasks to get this West Coast Offense (or most offenses) on solid ground and the defense honest: (1) find a running back that can not only carry the load but also produce big numbers, and (2) stretch the field vertically enough to back the safeties out of the box. The West Coast offense needs room to maneuver and create the space to take advantage of any identified defensive mismatch

Coach Borges can help with game preparation, film watching, and technique, but the best help will be Devin Gardner going into overdrive, being possessed as one could say.

Devin was great in freshman spring practices in the pocket and clearly was the best pocket passer Michigan had. Granted the Michigan pass rush at that time was not exactly elite. Tate Forcier looked good enough to win a few more games than the previous low mark of three wins, and that is what happened, a few more wins. Devin looked like the future of the program, and Denard was not yet on campus.

January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (12) drops back against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the second half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Michigan Wolverines 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Devin can do much on instinct and talent, but his number one mission will be to understand the offense at a high level. This cuts down mistakes. There will be only so much time to work on the famous quarterback footwork and other common fundamentals. Devin’s fundamentals are not bad, but do not look for him on training films just yet. There are a ton of little things in fundamentals that if achieved could raise some eyebrows among quarterback evaluators. His little things do not discount his talent enough to be an either or deal as with Denard.

Coach Borges will probably plan on attacking the quarterback development assignment this spring and summer. The fall practice season will have daily, basic quarterback skill sessions, but the implementation of the offense will be by far the paramount task.

Coach Borges will probably take a part of the Devin hybrid offense package used late last year and add basic West Coast options. Part of Michigan’s problem was having two distinct offenses that were hybrids of what Michigan eventually wants to accomplish scheme wise. Necessity sometimes precludes the best choice.

The second task of final immersion to a new scheme will be equally challenging. Coach Funk will be Coach Borges’ best ally. If the running game is sufficient to finally control the line and provide true play action possibilities, and provide opportunities for diversity, the troubles will not be as pressing. The line must improve from last year, and even being young, that outcome is certainly possible. The backs must be more physical, convert on short yardage situations, and carry the load. The 2013 Wolverine offense will not feature a running quarterback carrying the offense.

January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines tight end Devin Funchess (19) runs with the ball as South Carolina Gamecocks safety D.J. Swearinger (36) attempts to tackle during the first half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Borges needs two tight ends to play at a high level and another two that can be competent. In the past Michigan has had trouble moving past the number one. This statement counts Funchess and his hybrid possibilities. Williams must step up, and at least one more tight end must get to the level that UM would have no fear of playing a number three. An H-back may be used as an alternative, depending on the personnel decisions Coach Borges and staff will make.

Michigan will use safe patterns next year, many of the same, common options viewers saw last year with Denard. The difference is Coach Borges will need Devin to hit those safe passes at a much higher clip. Michigan will not forsake the deep ball if the proper situations occur.

What may have to wait is Coach Borges’ wish to use the backs more in the passing game. It is an automatic that backs in a pro system start with blocking when discussing the passing game. Johnson, Fitz, and even Houma may give Coach Borges some hope for throwing to the backs. Michigan could solve a lot of problems making defenses pay with a good swing and screen passing game.

Coach Borges has a tough assignment. To succeed many parts will need to fall into place. Coach Borges can control some parts of the equation and some cannot.

This is an offense still in the metamorphosis stage, even in the third year of the program. No fault is to be assigned; it is just that things fell this way.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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