Monday, August 15, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cfm
Borges won't bottle up Robinson's running ability,
By STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Daily Sports Editor
It's what every Michigan fan
has known since Denard Robinson
botched his first snap as a freshman
and practically trotted through the
Western Michigan defense for a
Michigan offensive coordinator
Al Borges just reaffirmed it.
Denard is deadly.
"With the ball under his arm,
anything can happen," Borges told
the media Wednesday. "If you're
going to hook slide him premature-
ly, when he could juke a guy-"
"You coach Denard differ-
ent than you coach (San Diego
State quarterback) Ryan Lindley.
They're different players."
It's safe to say that opposing
defenses can still expect a heavy
dose of Robinson, even under
Borges' pro-style offense. But it's
not going to be quite so heavy.
Robinson led the Wolverines
in 2010 with 1,702 rushing yards.
But it took 256 carries to reach
that mark - an average of nearly
20 attempts per game. And that's a
number Borges aims to shrink.
Borges wouldn't commit to a
number of carries he'd like Robin-
son to have, but said, "It's gonna be
"As a play caller, you go into
games with a plan, but then all of
the sudden things change and they
can't stop (Robinson),"-Borges said.
"Now, 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."
And, as always, he just has one
piece of advice for his junior quar-
"Make plays, don't make mira'
cles," Borges said.
Borges won't be reinventing the
wheel to tailor his offense to fit
Robinson's unique skill set. But it
won't be old hat, either.
"A lot of the stuff you're going
to see, you'll say, 'Oh, I've seen that
before,"' Borges said. "But because
we're going to a power-run style,
we're trying to take some of the
burden off him as a runner - and
more than anything keep him in
one piece. Because the one thing
that jumped out at me as I stud-
ied tape from last year is (Michi-
gan was) a different team when he
wasn't in there." .
To ease the strain on Robinson's
legs, Michigan is committed to
featuring the running backs early,
and often in the first season under
Borges and Michigan coach Brady
Borges intends to cut the race
at tailback down from a handful of
backs to two or three in the near
future. Although he'd name the
starter "yesterday if we could," the
offensive coordinator gave no indi-
cation as to the front-runners in
"Nobody's been tackled yet, so
you can't tell anything yet," Borges
When asked to list his criteria
for a leading candidate at tailback,
Borges's response sounded remi-
niscent of former running back
Mike Hart and some of Michigan's
all-time best backs.
It's not about the size.
"The ability to win in the open
field, break tackles, make people
miss, understand our protection
scheme," Borges said were vital
pieces. "Receiving skills are a part
of it, too - it's not at the top of the
list, but it's part of it.
"It's a vision position. As long
as you give them an opportunity
to see the cuts, they can make the
At 5-foot-6, junior Vincent Smith
has been tabbed as a strong con-
tender for duties at running back,
but is jockeying for the No. 1 job
Junior quarterback Denard Robinson won't be seeing 20 carries pergame in 2011.
alongside redshirt junior Michael
Cox and senior Michael Shaw.
Borges referred to burly soph-
omore Stephen Hopkins as a
"hybrid" back, and possibly a third-
But even with the seemingly
tight race in the backfield with just
over three weeks remaining, Borg-
es doesn't plan to rotate running
backs once Sept. 3 rolls around.
"I don't like rotating guys,"
Borges said. "But that being said, if
two guys are on an equal plane we
may do it. Never say never, but it's
never been my preference."
But, for now, the running backs
are looking to the man at the pin-
nacle of the nation's running game
- No. 16. And Borges wouldn't
mind some Robinson-like runs
from his tailbacks.
"(We want) a guy we feel ... can
give us some of the same things
Denard gave us last year and he'll
give us this year," Borges said.
Michigan defense focusing on effort, technique in camp
By KEVIN RAFTERY
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan defensive coordinator
Greg Mattison thinks Bo Schem-
bechler would be beaming.
"I think he'd be smiling like crazy
right now," Mattison said after
practice on Tuesday, seated inside
Schembechler Hall for a press con-
Mattison was responding after
being asked how he thought Schem-
bechler, Michigan's late head coach,
would react to knowing Michigan
football coach Brady Hoke is now at
But when it comes to his defense,
Mattison aims to do more than just
make Schembechler happy.
"Our mission here is to get play-
ers that make -the University of
Michigan proud," Mattison said.
And Mattison believes that he
has the players to make that hap-
pen. Though the Wolverines have
only had two days of practice thus
far, Mattison was pleased with
what he's seen.
"I'm really, really impressed
and excited about the effort of our
guys," Mattison said. "I think you
saw it starting in the summer. I
think you saw these guys trying to
do the right thing, trying to improve
themselves, and then it just carries
over when they started practice.
"We've got miles and miles to go
to get where we want to be, but as
far as their preparation right now,
I'm very, very excited about it."
Despite the improvements of his
players, Mattison said there's a long
way to go before he finalizes start-
ers for each position. He mentioned
several times that each starting job
is up for grabs and claimed the best
11 players will be the ones on the
Mattison said he is looking
toward the future and cares very
little about last year's disastrous
season and which players held what
positions in 2010 - a season when
Michigan finished 110th in the
nation in total defense.
Instead he chooses to focus on
what he can do to get Michigan
back on track for the upcoming sea-
son, adding he only watched a small
amount of tape on last season's
defensive squad - including parts
of the Notre Dame, Michigan State
and Wisconsin games - because he
opts not to dwell on the past.
While he didn't give any names,
Mattison mentioned that some
players may change positions
But the coordinator, in his first
year back with the Wolverines after
coaching in Ann Arbor from 1992 to
1996, had high praise for this year's
"This group of linebackers, I
would say they probably day to day
have improved more than any other
position," Mattison said. "Now the
thing we gotta find out is, is that
because they weren't very talented
and they're really going now, or
is it because they're really, really
"I happen to think it's because
they're really improving."
He's going to have a tough time
deciding who should start, as he
said most of the linebackers have
similar skill levels, but when look-
ing at the front seven in general, the
task is easy.
"The whole thing is gonna come
down to two things," Mattison said.
"Playing with great technique and
playing with great effort."
Mattison echoed that same phi-
losophy when talking about his
defense as a whole - a defense that
hasn't developed an identity quite
"I can't say right now that we're
a blitz team, I can't say that we're
gonna be a coverage team," Matti-
son said. "The onlything I can say is
we're gonna play with unbelievable
effort. The thing I hope we can say
after this camp is over with is that
this team is gonna play with great
And though Mattison said he
doesn't know 'exactly how his
defense will materialize, he has a
vision for what he wants it to be.
"I want to be a team that nobody
can run the football on, first of all,"
he said. "I want a defense that is
He wants the opposing team's
quarterback to be scared. He wants
his player's technique to be perfect.
But more than anything, Mattison
wants to help give Michigan fans a
reason to be proud.
With a collective effort from
everyone involved with the team
- from players to coaches to admin-
istrators - there's no doubt in Mat-
tison's mind that Michigan will do
"I know in my heart what's about
to happen here," he said. "We're
gonna have a football program that
Bo, (former) coach (Gary) Moeller,
former coach (Lloyd) Carr are
gonna be proud of again, and a pro-
gram that has been built for many,
many years of doing it the way we
are tryingto do it right now.
"I justbelieve in my heart that it's