Two seasons into his time as offensive coordinator at Michigan, Al Borges has worked with parts he didn’t purchase, including an engine running it all in Denard Robinson that was more suited for a V-8 Mustang as opposed to a Ford F-650. With the terrific zero to 60 speed Robinson off pursuing a career in the NFL, the Wolverines will tweak their attack offensively, instead of looking for a brand new model.
“We’re transforming our offense, we’re not completely changing our offense,” said Borges. “You saw a closer version of it towards the end of the season but we’re going to stay up with the times. There’s things people are doing now with mobile quarterbacks that we’re going to keep -- we’re not going to get rid of.”
Quarterback Devin Gardner will be the centerpiece to the continually changing formal table, and if the final five games of the 2012 season were any indication (1300 total yards, 18 total touchdowns, and just five interceptions), the Wolverines should be in very capable hands.
Let’s play “sic’em”
In front of Gardner will stand more inexperience than any football coach would prefer at the offensive line position, but at the same time a group of meaty, muscular, angry maulers that will need to grow up quickly.
Bringing in a class of six offensive linemen, Michigan’s depth at the position continues to rise, totaling 10 in the last two classes alone. Adding the likes of Pat Kugler (6-4. 285), David Dawson (6-4, 290), Dan Samuelson (6-5, 280), Chris Fox (6-5, 285) as well as the early enrolling Logan Tuley-Tillman (6-7, 295) and Kyle Bosch (6-5, 280), the Wolverines have size and talent but also a little bit of mean coming in.
“We got a couple of guys like that in 2012 but we’re trying to get to a sic’em mentality,” said Borges. “We want to come off and attack with our run game in particular and the things that come off that. So, you have to recruit to that.
That’s kind of the approach we went. We wanted guys, offensive line wise, that I think a lot of coaches (say) with a defensive mentality that will mix it up and play through the whistle.”
As physical as Michigan will be looking to block up front, without tough, playmaking tailbacks finding their way through holes, an offense won’t be moving the ball very successfully. With that in mind, the Wolverines were able to sign two very similar backs in size, style and make-up in Derrick Green (5-11, 220) and DeVeon Smith (5-11, 210), two guys who may need to contribute right away based on their talent but also on the gruesome injury suffered by junior running back Fitz Toussaint.
“Derrick and DeVeon are make no concessions type runners, which means you’re going to have to tackle them they’re not going to just go down,” said Borges. “They have the ability in the open field to beat people and they have the ability in the open field to juke people.”
“Between DeVeon and Derrick, you’ve got what you’re looking for with regard to how we want to represent our team with toughness and how we want to represent our team offensively.”
Skill position shift
Heading into the 2012 season, little was expected out of the tight end position in Ann Arbor. Spot duty by redshirt senior Brandon Moore wasn’t enough proof that he could be the blocker and receiver Kevin Koger had been in 2011.
Insert freshmen A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess. Williams, a big, offensive tackle like figure, carved out a role as the teams sixth blocker while Funchess, a more receiver like tight end, exposed his superior athleticism, bursting onto the scene with some highlight reel touchdown receptions.
Williams and Funchess now have an entire off-season and spring practice to continue their development, along with early enrollee and freshman tight end, Jake Butt.
“Even with A.J. and Devin, we’d like to take the next step with what they don’t do as well,” said Borges. “For example, A.J., getting him more receptions -- to go a whole year and not catch a pass isn’t good. He should still be catching some balls. Devin as a blocker. And then develop Jake as we go. We’re lucky with Jake cause we’ve got 15 days of spring practice to work with him.”
Set to be on campus in June is Detroit East English Village (Mich.) tight end Khalid Hill, adding yet another unique skillset to the offensive attack.
“And then we have Khalid Hill coming in in the fall, who’s another good receiving tight end, who’s a tough guy and has some big play dimensions,” said Borges. “I think once all of them reach a point where they’re comfortable in our offense, they are multi-faceted -- I think we’ll have what we want.”
Depth at the receiver position is scarce heading into spring practice, but the body count will see a welcomed increase come summertime once freshmen Da’Mario Jones, Jaron Dukes, and Csont’e York hit Ann Arbor. While the depth is nice, the size and style of the three pass catchers fit a growing trend in college football.
“They all bring a little something different even though they’re all big,” said Borges. “Da’Mario Jones is a flyer -- he can run real fast. He’s not as tall as Jaron or Csont’e, but he’s got the straight-line speed that you look for. The other two are range guys.
Today, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to watch receivers run by corners. You don’t see it as much as you used to where the guy ran by you, you throw a bomb, and he beat you. So often the ball is thrown short, ball is thrown inside or outside, and the guy goes and gets the ball whether it’s high, low or stop and adjust to it. The bigger the guy, the better shot you’ve got at that.”