Michigan Football: Al Borges Is Not to Blame for Wolverines' Offensive Woes
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It seems as if every article about the Michigan Wolverines' offensive struggles in 2012 is littered with comments from Maize and Blue fans criticizing the play calling of second-year coordinator Al Borges, but all of the negativity towards him is unwarranted given the current state of the team.
The Wolverines are simply not as good as they were a year ago along the offensive line, have a group of average wide receivers and the only reason Michigan's offense has been impressive in their five wins is solely because of senior quarterback Denard Robinson, who has racked up 2,265 total yards and 15 touchdowns through eight games.
Michigan's offense has been kept out of the end zone in three games this season, including their most recent loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and overly predictable play calling has made Borges a popular target among the frustrated Maize and Blue faithful.
Robinson's second quarter elbow injury did not help matters either as Michigan fans were forced to watch second-string signal caller Russell Bellomy complete only 3-of-16 pass attempts against the Cornhuskers, while converted wide receiver Devin Gardner did not take a single snap under center.
The coaching staff's decision to leave a struggling Bellomy in the game instead of inserting Gardner came under fire in the post-game press conferences.
Although Gardner was recruited as a quarterback and had been Michigan's No. 2 for the past two seasons before moving out to receiver, the staff made the right call by leaving Bellomy in the game despite three interceptions.
Head coach Brady Hoke and Borges decided that the Wolverines needed more of a boost at wide receiver than they did at quarterback prior to the start of the 2012 campaign, so Gardner began working out exclusively at wideout and had not taken any reps at quarterback since summer workouts.
"He hasn't taken a rep at quarterback in a long time," Borges said, according to John Borton of TheWolverine.com. "That would not be a smart move."
The staff recently decided to have Garnder take reps at quarterback this week to prepare for another disaster scenario, but fans have to realize that there is no way the former Inkster High School standout would have been ready to call the shots for the Wolverines against the Cornhuskers.
"You can't rep three quarterbacks and prepare (Gardner) to play wide receiver, too," Borges said. "There are not enough plays in practice."
"We wanted him to play wide receiver. We look at the reps and see where we can fit him. We see how the health of our quarterback holds up. He's got to play quarterback now, because you don't know what's going to happen...I would prefer to keep it the way it is, but we're just not afforded that luxury right now."
Another luxury the Wolverines' quarterbacks have not been afforded this season is a consistent rushing attack to keep opposing defenses honest.
Even I can agree that the staff has been reluctant to give Thomas Rawls or Justice Hayes a legitimate chance to get some significant carries instead of sticking with Toussaint through thick and thin, but the offensive line is not blocking well enough for any of Michigan's running backs to be effective.
"Fitz ran hard," Hoke said in a post-game press conference according to Chris Balas of TheWolverine.com.
"He took on 'backers, safeties. I was happy how he played. I know one thing - we've got to block better. We didn't finish the blocks the way we had the week before...That's disappointing."
Balas has also attributed much of the blame to a wealth of factors, and does not believe the weight of the blame should be shouldered by Borges.
"It's a combination of everything," Balas said in an interview on The Huge Show earlier this week.
"The play-calling, I think it's a quarterback that's never going to be a great passer, I think it's an offensive line that's just not physical enough and you've got wide receivers that can't get any separation...Add it all up and you've got a mediocre offense."
Unfortunately for Michigan fans, all of this should have been expected, and this is proof that the Wolverines are still recovering from the Rich Rodriguez era.
I tried to warn the Maize and Blue faithful after the Sugar Bowl and in the months leading up to the season about how difficult it would be to replace All-American center David Molk and right tackle Mark Huyge, in addition to losing Robinson's go-to wide receiver Junior Hemingway.
Borges and the Michigan coaches are making due with Rich Rod's players and lost some of the more talented prospects from those recruiting classes last year. This is not an excuse. It is simply the reality of the situation in Ann Arbor right now.
Does Al Borges deserve the brunt of the blame for Michigan's offensive woes?
As far as the concerns about Borges' play calling, what exactly are Michigan fans looking for out of this offense?
Borges took plenty of heat after Michigan's losses to the Alabama Crimson Tide and Notre Dame Fighting Irish for throwing the ball too much, so now the coaches are trying to run the ball with Robinson more often in order to limit turnovers and play to the only strength in their offense right now.
Michigan is going to have to rely on winning the turnover battle and outstanding play from their defense in order to win the last four games of the season.
If Michigan fans think this season is bad right now, what will all of them be saying next year when Robinson can no longer mask the Wolverines' problems on offense and the team will be replacing three starters on the offensive line?
I am not trying to absolve Borges entirely, but to say he is holding the Wolverines back and that Hoke needs to find a new offensive coordinator is utterly ridiculous.
Fans need to be patient with Hoke and the staff and realize Michigan will not be a legitimate contender on the national stage until 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @ZachDirlam_SSN
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