Question: Coach can you know how your quarterbacks have improved in the summer and how they have been working on their own and how they pick things up?
Al Borges: “We know a lot more now than we did when we left spring. I can promise you that. There is still a lot to coach, don’t misunderstand me, but the kids, it is registering faster. We’re coaching less little things, yet we’re still coaching little things. You can tell they worked at it and we’ve made some progress and I’m kind of fired up about it. We’ve not arrived. It is only three days and we’ve got a long way to go, but I’m happy with the dedicated effort that they’ve shown.”
Question: How is Denard’s (Robinson) footwork? He said that was the thing he tried to spend all summer on.
Al Borges: “Much better. Much better. Again, we’re trying to get him to push the pocket a little more and do less bounce and a little more push. It not only allows him to see a little better, but he can threaten run better once he gets underneath the rush and he has worked on that and you can see it today.”
Question: How about the running back position? Obviously, you guys came out of spring not knowing what you had, I know it has only been three days, but is there any separation?
Al Borges: “No because nobody has been tackled yet. You can’t tell anything yet. The kids have worked hard, they’re all in pretty good shape, but until we tackle them, you got to put them in some live situations to see if they can win some open field opportunities and make some people miss and then we want to see some of the freshman too. Until you get to that, it is so hard to tell. The kids from (the standpoint of) understanding our protection schemes are much better. That part of it is improved. Fred Jackson does a great job with that and most kids understand that better. We won’t know the go-to guy until we start tackling them.”
Question: How quickly do you want to know who that is?
Al Borges: “Yesterday if we could. I don’t know. We’re not rushing it, if that’s what you’re asking. We’re going to find out who the best guy is. It may take a couple of scrimmages and quite a few carriers before you really understand exactly what the kids are capable of. You would like every decision ASAP, but you don’t want to make the wrong decision. You want to make the right decision. If that takes a little bit longer then so be it.”
Question: What are the criteria there in order that you’re looking for in the running back position?
Al Borges: “I alluded to it a little bit already. The ability to win in the open field, break tackles, make people miss, understand our protection scheme, receiving skills are part of it too. It is not at the top of the list but it is part of it. A guy that we feel like we can go to that can give us some of the same thing Denard gave them last year and that he is going to give this year.”
Question: How close to you expect that competition to be? Do you expect it to be neck-and-neck for a while?
Al Borges: “Yeah, but before too long we’ll narrow it down probably to a few guys. You can’t get five and six guys carries. You don’t have enough reps. There is a point and we don’t have a timetable for this either, but there is a point that we’re going to narrow it down and start thinking about the guys that are really going to be that guy.”
Question: Fred has said before that there a couple guys on this roster that could be a third down backs, have you ever used a third down back?
Al Borges: “Oh sure. Yeah, but you got to role. Everybody has a role. Sometimes the third down back is the same guy that can play on first down. Sometimes he is not. Some guys are better suited for protection and for routes and those type of things. You’ve seen it in the NFL for years with Ronnie Harmon in the old days and (Darren) Sproles for the Chargers. If there is a guy that suits that role and does it well, we’ll find a way to use him. We’re looking for what every guys brings to the table. If that is what he brings to the table and he is better than the other guy we’re going to find a way to use him.”
Question: If there is not a lot of separation, are you comfortable rotating a few guys or do you really want a go-to guy?
Al Borges: “I don’t like it, never have.”
Question: You don’t like rotating?
Al Borges: “I don’t like rotating, but that being said, if two guys are on an equal plane then we may do it. I’ll never say never, but it has never been my preference.”
Question: How much does this competition make them pay attention more, practice harder?
Al Borges: “They know. Believe me, they know, we’ve made it clear. Fred, myself and Brady (Hoke) have all made it clear to them that we’re looking for a guy and now the window of opportunity is starting to close. There is still time now, we’ve got a few weeks. There is no more spring football. They’ve got to seize the moment when they get that opportunity, they’re all well aware.”
Question: The two freshmen running back at a disadvantage because they haven’t been there in the spring?
Al Borges: “Oh yeah to a degree because there heads are spinning. You got to understand something about running back. You can play a young guy and not ask him to do everything. A weaning process sort of speak if you will forgive that way of putting it, but there may be a few things that he can do until he completely understands what we’re doing. If he has a skill that you need to have in there, you use him as you see fit and don’t abuse him because if he gets in there and you can’t pick somebody up, you can’t pick up a blitz your quarterback is going to get killed. We can bring them around kind of slow and still get them in games if they prove that they deserve to be in games.”
Question: How much better do you like the tight end position now behind Kevin Koger after what you saw after this summer and the guys that you’ve moved over?
Al Borges: “I think Brandon Moore has done a nice job. He is still climbing if you know what I mean. He is getting better every single day and Steve Watson is a solid player. I think we’re pretty deep there. I think we’re pretty deep. Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps. Kevin is quick to pick things up. He’s played a lot, understands football. Him missing a lot of the spring didn’t hurt him quite as much as it might have some other kid.”
Question: Does (Chris) Barnett have a chance to get in the mix there?
Al Borges: “Don’t know yet, too early to say.”
Question: Brady told us unsolicited that Taylor (Lewan) looks much bigger and got to the weight more or less you guys wanted him to. How does he look just kind of moving around?
Al Borges: “Moving around good, yeah. We haven’t really hit anybody yet sort of speak so it is hard to say. He is bigger, stronger, very athletic, explosive, does some neat things. Just got to see how he handles all the stuff that we’re doing. Our line play now has changed so drastically save the shotgun stuff, which is similar to what they have done in the past. But we’re not down in a stance and we’re doing some different things were they get to come off the ball and until we get the opportunity to play some close quarter football, we’re really not going to know where those guys are yet, but I like what I see so far.”
Question: How different is for Denard?
Al Borges: “It is different that he is going to be under center some, but it is the same that he is going to be in the shotgun some. He is still going to be running the football. A lot of stuff you’re going to see, you’re going to say I’ve seen that before. Because we’re trying to get to more of a powerful offense style, we’re trying to take some of the burden off him as a runner and more than anything try to keep him in one piece. The one thing that jumped out at me as I studied tape from last year is that they were a different team when he was not in there. They lost him for at least a short time in several games. We just want to get him to where he can play all the time and not be beat up and improve his passing skills and those types of things.”
Question: It there competition for the QB spot?
Al Borges: “You bet. It is always competitive.”
Question: You don’t have Denard…?
Al Borges: “No, we don’t have a slash quarterback. You bet, it is always competitive now. We don’t hand it to anybody. This kid has proven that he can play and he can do some things and it is our job to see to it that we tap that, but we’re always pressing the issue. Devin Gardner is a competitive kid that is on a daily basis improving himself too.”
Question: How did he (Devin) improve in the offseason, watch a lot of film?
Al Borges: “Yeah. I think all of them did. They did a pretty good job of trying to stay up on what we’re doing. We can’t coach them in the offseason so it is totally up to them and I think they’ve responded. I wasn’t with them every minute, but it looks like just from what I can see in the first three practices that they know so much more now than they did when they left us.”
Question: For your expectations for Denard at this point, is he at where you thought he would be?
Al Borges: “Yeah he probably is.”
Question: Where he needs to be?
Al Borges: “I don’t know that he needs to be. That is two different things. He’s on schedule if that makes any sense. He still has an occasional error. The thing about Denard is because he is so athletic and he can create, in basketball that point guard they always talk about creating. In football, the quarterback does the bulk of the creating. He has that ability. Where now he has to understand and we’re talking to him all the time about creating but yet don’t try to do something that simply is not there. Make plays, don’t make miracles. As long as his judgment is good, he’s deadly. He’s deadly because he can do so many things that you don’t draw on the chalkboard.”
Question: Brady talked about Jerald Robinson as a guy who has matured, what have you seen from him?
Al Borges: “In the first three days, he is like so many of the others ones, he knows what he is doing better and I think he has got a chance somewhere down the line to make a contribution. Again, it is just too early to say guys, judging the players at this point. The only thing that I really got a bead on so far is how much more they know and they do. Do they know enough? No they don’t. We are not anywhere close to game ready but nobody is after three practices. To say that this kid is doing this or this kid, it is way too early to make statements like that particularly young kids.”
Question: Is the cast the (Martavious) Odoms is wearing a soft or hard and has it affected his ability?
Al Borges: “He didn’t look like it to me. He has busted his tail. He is still running pretty fast. I don’t think so.”
Question: With Denard, he averaged about 20 carries a game.
Al Borges: “22.9 I think, that’s about 23. He got hurt in one and I think he only had seven carries in one.”
Question: Where would you like to see his carries not counting sacks?
Al Borges: “I’m not committing to anything because then all of a sudden I’ll say there is this many and then you’ll say, we’ll he is carrying…I don’t know. I’m trying to take a little bit off him, less, but we’ve already made that clear. It is going to be less, but as a play caller. You go into the game with a plan and all of a sudden things change and they can’t stop him. I was born at night, but I wasn’t born last night. Call his number, give him a chance but try not to beat him up. Where is that delicate balance, where is that fine line, I’m not sure. I’m not committing to how many times he is going to carry the ball, because I am not sure how things are going to go in the course of a football game. I’m not exactly sure how everybody is going to defend us. We’ll save that thought and see what happens.”
Question: When you say you don’t want him to get beat up, does that change the plays that you call for him or do you tell, hey go out of bounds?
Al Borges: “At times yeah, you don’t want him to take unnecessary hits. The quarterback is a two-fold problem, it affects not only his ability to run because he is getting hit in the legs and such, but also you’re taking shots in the passing game. So the more you run him, the more he gets beat up and the more it effects your passing game every bit as much or at least it affects your passing game as much as your running game. There are times when there is a good time to cut and run. They invented the hook slide for a reason for quarterbacks. I’m not sure that Denard is going to do a lot of that. There are some times when I think we can avoid taking some punishment and give him a chance to get up and run another play.”
Question: Will you work on sliding, because he didn’t do it or he was coached not to?
Al Borges: “No I don’t think we’re going to do a lot of sliding with Denard. I have in the past. With the ball under his arms, anything can happen and you got to hook slide prematurely when he could juke a guide. You coach Denard different than you coach Ryan Lindley, a different player where he is hook sliding left and right. I don’t know how much hook sliding you want to do with him because he could make a big play when you would have never guessed he would have. Right now that is not a high priority.”
Question: Do you think you have some downfield threats?
Al Borges: “Yeah and I think you guys know. Basically, they are the same guys who played here a year ago, Junior Hemingway can go get it and Roy (Roundtree) can go get it, Odoms can go get it, (Kelvin) Grady. We got some speed guys. I like the position. They’ve got to learn how to play it the way we want it because it is different, but I like the position. I think if we can deliver that thing accurately, we can get a little run after catch too.”
Question: What is the biggest adjustment that those receivers have to make?
Al Borges: “It is just more defined cuts. We’re doing more break in, break out, comeback. They were a little more vertical here in the past, which fit their offense perfectly, exactly what they should have done. We’re a little more plants, or roll out of cuts those types of things. It is a little different passing game. It is all in what fits what you’re trying to get accomplished and that’s just the way.”
Question: What is Odoms injury?
Al Borges: “I can’t address injuries that is Coach Hoke. I do not even exactly know.”
Question: (John) McColgan, how has he looked and what else do you have at that position?
Al Borges: “We’ve got a couple of young guys and we’ve got Stephen Hopkins is kind of a hybrid. He can play in there too. John is a consistent a player as we have on our offense. He is not going to bring you out of your seat with a lot of plays because of the position that he plays, but he is a reliable guy in there. He is going to do what he supposed to do and he is going to do it with some consistency and do it with some toughness and that’s what we want. We want a guy who is going to give his best effort and play tough. John fits that mold.”
Question: Are there some running backs behind a fullback as opposed just a single set?
Al Borges: “I think so. I do, but a good one is a good one. If you guys remember Barry Sanders, you guys really remember I’m sure. He played in the run-and-shoot behind nobody and later on they put in front and it made no difference. He was gaining yard. If there is a back there fine, if not, but I think some guys probably do but good ones are good ones. It doesn’t make that much difference. It is a vision position. So much a vision position and as long as you give them an opportunity to see the cuts, they can usually make the cuts.”
Question: Does the offensive lines cohesion and the fact that they know each other so well does that help them?
Al Borges: “Yeah and having David (Molk) back. David is a good player, having Taylor. Taylor only played a couple of days of spring football. Having both of them back and Kevin Koger, who I consider part of that, all helps, get those guys in there that have played and are proven and just get them to where they can learn what you want them to do. More often than not, they’ll do some of the same things that they did with the last guy.”
Question: What are you going to look for on Friday when you go full pads for the first time?
Al Borges: “Physicality, toughness, who is that back, have we gotten closer, maybe we will, maybe we won’t get closer to finding who that running back is. How much have we improved from the last time when we got in full pads, did we do better of have we gotten better; those types of things. Who is going to rise to the occasion. I heard Freddie Jackson go, he has an interesting way of putting it, some guys are State Street players and some guys are Main Street players. We’ll find out hopefully we’ll get a little closer to who the Main Street players are.”