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Friday Focus: Al Borges, Your Time is Now

Matt Parker Profile PicA Lot of MICHIGAN fans have different opinions on if Al Borges is a good fit at Michigan or not. Borges has had some success already here at Michigan. He also has had some games where you can’t help but ask yourself is he the right person for the job. I for one think in time Borges will silence all the doubters.

To understand who Al Borges is today and what we really should expect of his offense, let’s take a quick look back at his time before Michigan.

Borges started his career a long while back. He got his first job as an assistant coach at Salinas High School in 1975. His first college coaching career was at California where he was a part-time assistant. His first full-time job was at Diablo Valley College from 1983 — the year I was born lol — until 1985. From there Borges was the offensive coordinator for Division II at little known Portland State University from 1986-1992.

In 1993 Borges moved up the ranks to Boise State where he led that offense to the Division 1 AA championship game in 1994. Borges then became the offensive coordinator at Oregon in 1995. His team lead the Pac 10 in passing offense with 263 yards per game. The quarterback that ran his show was Tony Graziani who led the Pac-10 in both total offense and also passing.

Al Borges moved on to become the UCLA offensive coordinator from 1996-2000. His head coach was Bob Toledo. During that time under Borges UCLA averaged 31.9 points a game. They also averaged 40 points a game in 1997. Borges was given plenty of praise for helping groom quarterback Cade McNown. Before Borges got to UCLA McNown was seen as an average quarterback. Under the guidance of Al Borges, McNown grew into a first team AP All-American and first-round NFL pick.

In January 2001 Borges got a 50,000 dollar pay raise and he left UCLA for California. His time there didn’t go so well and after a losing season the entire coaching staff at California was replaced. Borges accepted the offensive coordinator position at Indiana where he coached for a couple of seasons to varied success. After that Al left to be the offensive coordinator at Auburn.

Borges had a great run at Auburn. The four seasons under Borges as offensive coordinator Auburn went 41-9. Under Borges Auburn was the only SEC team to finish ranked. The 2004 Auburn team went 13-0. Borges was given most of the credit for that team going undefeated. He had two great running backs that season to help boost his offense. Borges resigned from Auburn in 2007.

In 2008 Borges worked under coach Brady Hoke at San Diego State and helped that team to a 9-4 record. The offense scored 35 points per game. Brady Hoke was hired in January of 2011 to become the head coach at MICHIGAN and Hoke brought Borges with him to become the offensive coordinator at Michigan. The first season was a great success as Borges and quarterback Denard Robinson helped lead MICHIGAN to 11-2 season and a win over Ohio State and a BCS Sugar Bowl championship.

In 2012 things took a step back as the season started with a blowout loss to Alabama. It also had crushing defeats to Notre Dame and a very tough loss at Ohio where MICHIGAN had plenty of chances to win.

Al has received criticism that his offense is too conservative at times and that the play calling has become predictable. The prevailing thought was that once Denard Robinson left, Borges would finally be able to install his “pro-style” offense that most Wolverine fans are used to watching.

In 2013, that plan  got off to a good start vs Western Michigan and then Notre Dame. But the performances in the games against  Akron and UConn left some fans doubting him once again. And in those games, it was actually quarterback Devin Gardner’s legs that save the day for the Wolverines. The four overtime loss to Penn State had fans very upset and the apparent conservative play calling to close the game and in OT put Borges under fire. But just in time for MSU, confidence in Al rebounded and was aided by a Wolverine record-setting performance against Minnesota where Michigan set records for total yards in a game as well as individuals wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and quarterback Devin Gardner set school records for receiving and passing yardage respectively.

Michigan has a very important game Saturday against Michigan State. It is being viewed as a defining moment for not only Al Borges but for Brady Hoke and his program. Borges has to be on his A game when it comes to the play calling.The Wolverine offense must utilize the skill-sets of its players to the best of their ability.

If Borges puts Michigan in plays that can be successful more often than not, Michigan wins…Providing the defense does its job too! And after last week, as confident as some Blue supporters are about what the offense might do this week, there is some concern about which Wolverine defense will show up too. Regardless, we don’t have long to wait to find out. And that is great!


Matt Parker

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