Offensive coordinator Al Borges came to Michigan in 2011 with his pro-style offense. It was what had worked for him during his career. But at Michigan, he was given Denard Robinson, a quarterback who had been in the shotgun formation nearly his entire career.
For many coaches, it would be a nightmare to change their playbook after 20-plus years and create a new offense, but Borges said the experience has actually made him a better coach.
"It has professionally enriched me," Borges said recently at the annual Mott Takeover radiothon fundraiser. "It has forced not just myself but everybody in that room to think a little more out of the box, do a little more research."
However, last season wasn't the first time Borges had to think outside of the box and research a spread offense. During his one-year hiatus (between stints at Auburn and San Diego State) he spent time studying the spread. He spoke with coordinators and examined nuances of the system.
Those studies helped prepare him for the quasi-spread offense that he and Hoke created for Michigan and Robinson.
"When you have a player that dynamic, you make what you are work," Borges said. "If that doesn't mean running your prototypical West Coast offense, well then it doesn't mean that. And that's fine."
And with an 11-2 season in 2011, Borges felt more than fine about it. To him, it doesn't matter what offense the team is running or what type of offensive coordinator he's classified as, as long as the team performs on the field.
"This is not an identity. This isn't about me," Borges said. "This is about our team and trying to do what's best to win."
Fresh(man) faces on line
The offensive line is a position group where there's a strong possibility of seeing freshmen get playing time. And while offensive line coach Darrell Funk considers it a "developmental position," meaning it requires more time for a freshman to be both physically and mentally ready for game play, Borges hasn't ruled anyone out.
"[A freshman] has to block all those different defenses and know what our number system is, what our rules are -- that's a monster for a young guy," Borges said. "Some handle it better than others. And obviously the ones that do are the ones that play faster."
However, the Michigan coaches have established that the best player will play regardless of age. And developmental position or not, players such as Kyle Kalis (Lakewood, Ohio/Saint Edward) and Erik Magnuson (Carlsbad, Calif./La Costa Canyon) have a shot to play early because of the lack of depth on the line.
"If we recruited a kid and he comes in and shows that he can make a contribution, we're going to give him a chance to make a contribution," Borges said. "But there's no sense of entitlement. We're trying to win football games, and we're going to get guys on the field that give us that best opportunity."
With the recent surge of attention given to football players' safety, it's no surprise that Michigan coaches are discussing what can be done to keep players protected.
Borges believes the rules are enough to keep players safe, but it's more a matter of discouraging leniency away from those rules during competition.
"Make the rules, enforce the rules, and it's fine by me. And make the players' safety of the utmost importance," Borges said. "I have complete faith in the rules committee and the people involved to do that."
Borges said he doesn't think anyone is purposefully allowing the game to get out of hand, but he does hope the rules become more strictly enforced.
"I think everybody's trying to and everybody sees things differently, and we can question judgment calls forever," Borges said. "As long as you make the rules and do your darndest to enforce the rules with the idea that the players safety is at the top of the list, what else can you ask for?"