If it’s good enough for Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, it should be good enough for the Michigan Wolverines.
While San Francisco 49er head coach Bill Walsh was credited with developing the West Coast offense, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has been teaching it for years. A few of his successful students include Kyle Boller (Cal), Cade McNown (UCLA) and Jason Campbell (Auburn).
Borges, who co-authored the book entitled, Coaching the West Coast Quarterback, will most likely supply Michigan signal-caller Devin Gardner and his teammates with several copies when spring practice begins in March.
At 6’4”, 203 pounds, Gardner showed late in the 2012 season why he might be cast in the lead role when Borges sells the movie rights. Gardner happens to be blessed with a strong arm, plenty of poise in the pocket and a more-than-accurate short passing game.
The West Coast passing attack features three-step drops, play-action passes and a variety of roll-out options. Borges, who's made nine stops in a 25-year coaching career, also sees the offense as a vehicle to finding Michigan's best players in space.
"You've got to gear everything you do to giving these guys opportunities in the open field," Borges told the San Francisco Chronicle, according to Bruce Adams.
Whether it’s hitting tight end Devin Funchess on a crossing pattern, Jeremy Gallon on a seam route or Drew Dileo in the flat, the West Coast is all about moving the chains. It uses a horizontal passing attack to set up the downfield bomb.
Add this passing scheme to a potential high-powered rushing attack and Michigan just might have something.
Wolverine fans would have seen the offense sooner, but Michigan was content to run the read-option with All-American quarterback Denard Robinson during the last two seasons.
Michigan got an extended look at the potential leading man when Robinson went down in the Nebraska game. Gardner, who took advantage of the opportunity by completing 75 of 126 passes in his five late-season starts, should be the Michigan starter for the next two seasons.
The Wolverines hope Gardner will be granted a medical redshirt for the 2010 season, since he played in only three games.
Without a receiver with blazing straight-line speed, Michigan can take advantage of its numerous "possession" pass-catchers.
Neither Gallon, Dileo and even Jeremy Jackson will win many foot races. Justice Hayes and Dennis Norfleet have the most speed, but neither will be an every-down receiver. Hayes will occasionally come out of the backfield while Norfleet might be too short to be a legitimate deep threat.
Time will tell how quick Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and the group of 2013 recruits really are. There aren't many "40" times listed on the recruiting sites.
Michigan will once again feature a rebuilt offensive line, but it will be the deepest in years. Thanks to outstanding recruiting classes in both 2012 and 2013, the unit will be one of the best in the conference by midseason.
By that time, running backs Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith might be running the ball well enough to get second billing.