Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Michigan coach Brady Hoke, coming off a 7-6 record in his third season as head coach, has made a significant change to his offensive staff.
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Al Borges, who came to Michigan in 2011 with Hoke from San Diego State, was fired Wednesday. Hoke met individually with members of the offensive coaching staff Wednesday afternoon, a source said, and informed Borges at the meeting.
“Decisions like these are never easy,” Hoke said in a statement. “I have a great amount of respect for Al as a football coach and more importantly as a person. I appreciate everything he has done for Michigan football these past three seasons.”
The move comes about a month after Hoke told reporters he anticipated his staff would return intact for the 2014 season. At the time, he added he would evaluate the team before and after the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Michigan lost to Kansas State, 31-14, gained 261 yards of offense and was 4-of-11 on third down. Michigan’s running backs rushed for 13 yards in that game.
The Wolverines struggled to establish a balanced, consistent offensive performance during the most recent season and saw little improvement in key areas, particularly the interior of the offensive line, which featured three new starters. Michigan started five different offensive line combinations during the season.
Michigan finished the season ranked poorly nationally in several key offensive areas.
The Wolverines ranked 102nd in rushing, averaging 125.7 yards, the program’s second-worst output since 1962. In four of their final six games, they had minus-48 rushing yards, minus-21, 60 and 65 in the bowl game.
They were 86th in total offense (373.5 yards), 73rd in third-down percentage average, 105th (of 123) in sacks allowed and 121st in tackles for loss allowed.
“Every coach at the end of the year, if they’re honest with themselves, they evaluate themselves — What did I do right? What did I do wrong? How can I get better?” Chris Spielman, ESPN college football analyst, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “The head coach has a responsibility to evaluate this staff — what areas did they do well? What did they not do well, and why? If Hoke feels the offense digressed, why did it digress?
“If he feels the best way to fix it is to let coach Borges go, he has to do whatever he has to do to get Michigan back to Michigan, which I’m waiting for, coach Hoke is waiting for and Michigan fans are waiting for. I wasn’t surprised (by the Borges firing) because (the offense) was inconsistent. Al Borges is a good football coach, but for whatever reasons, it wasn’t working.
“The offensive line, by their own admission and by watching it, was inconsistent. If the offense is not working with what we’re doing, let’s find a way to make it work. I think coach Hoke needs to define who Michigan is, what they’re running and run it.”
Borges, 58, has had a long coaching career, beginning as a high school coach before moving on to programs like UCLA, California, Indiana and Auburn. He was offensive coordinator at San Diego State under Hoke from 2009-2010.
He made $350,000 his first season at Michigan, and after his name was linked as a candidate for several coaching jobs, he earned a pay raise that bumped him to $658,300 his second season and $709,300 during the most recent season, making him the ninth highest-paid assistant coach in the country.
Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who joined Hoke’s staff from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, is the nation’s fourth-highest paid assistant coach. Mattison made $851,400 last season.
The Wolverines, behind quarterback Devin Gardner, had few signs of offensive explosiveness, however, this season. After struggling through four games in November, the Wolverines finished the regular season with a 42-41 loss to Ohio State, failing to convert a two-point conversion at the end of the game.
Gardner, who injured his left foot late in the third quarter, played admirably while leading the Wolverines to 603 total yards, including 451 passing. Gardner was held out of the bowl game because of the injury.
“We executed,” Borges said after the Ohio State game, when asked why Michigan was able to be so productive offensively against OSU but not during most of the season. “It’s that simple. We executed. Simple. Everything was different. What did I tell you the last time we met (at a news conference)? I said there’s a good offense there somewhere. When is it going to come out? I’m not sure. It hadn’t for a while, and all of a sudden, we caught the ball when we threw it to us, we made some big plays in the open field, we made some nice runs.
“We executed. That’s the difference. Nothing more, nothing less. Not game plan, not play-calling. We executed.”
The problem was, Michigan didn’t show that kind of offense each week, and there was considerable head-scratching after the Ohio State game, with most wondering where that offense was on a consistent basis.
This is Hoke’s first big staff decision and change at Michigan. He is 26-13 in three seasons with Michigan, including an 11-2 record and BCS bowl victory in the Sugar Bowl in his first year and 8-5 in his second. The Wolverines were 6-2 in the Big Ten in both seasons but finished 3-5 this past fall.
Michigan in 2013 NCAA final statistics
(123 teams ranked)
|Total offense||86||373.5 ypg|
|Rush offense||102||125.7 ypg|
|Pass offense||51||247.8 ypg|
|Scoring offense||46||32.2 ppg|
|Third-down conversion %||73||.392|
|Tackles for loss allowed||121||114|