AFM RSS Feed Follow Us on Twitter       

   User Name    Password 
      Password Help

Article Categories

AFM Magazine

AFM Magazine

1997 AFM Coordinators of the Year

© More from this issue

Click for Printer Friendly Version          

Chico State '81

What a difference a year makes when shaping the identity of a program. Take, for example, the Bruins of UCLA and offensive coordinator Al Borges, who recently participated in year two of Bob Toledo's tenure.

From the moans and groans of an inaugural 5-6 campaign came the hope for progress in 1997. A young, learning quarterback. Five starters on the offensive line. Experience on both sides of the ball.

"We wanted to improve. Starting out 0-2 scared us a little bit, but I knew we were getting better," Borges said.

UCLA did start out 0-2. But they reeled off a school-record 10 straight wins (done before in 1946) and immediately gave Toledo's program more than legitimacy in Bruin annals, capping the year with a come-from-behind Cotton Bowl victory against Texas A&M. The 1997 team is one of five in school history to record 10 victories.

"Improvement was the goal, to even go 6-5 or 7-4 would have proved we were going in the right direction."

The right direction started, and ended, under center, where junior Cade McNown was the key, turned the ignition and powered the motor from season's beginning to end. The Pac-10's tenth most efficient quarterback in 1996 was the nation's leader in a season overshadowed by Heisman candidates Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning.

UCLA finished third in the country in scoring (40.7 ppg).

"Without question, Cade was the most improved player on our team. He didn't take two steps (forward), he took five. That's unheard of. He always had the ability, it wasn't any great coaching job, it was just his awareness of our offense and what we are trying to do," Borges said.

McNown's adaptability did allow the staff to follow through in executing it's philosophy since arriving on campus, to keep UCLA's strong running tradition intact, but to diversify the passing.

"We wanted to expand our passing game. We wanted to get backs out a little more, we wanted to play-pass. We're still a power running team, like they were before, we're just a better and more efficient passing team," Borges said.

That started up front. The Bruins five offensive linemen were all significant returnees from 1996. Combine an offensive proficiency with an opportunistic defense that often shortened the field for the offense, and UCLA had a recipe for success. Borges' offense scored 12 offensive touchdowns on drives of less than 30 seconds, 16 in less than a minute. The Bruins were second in the country in turnover margin (+1.82).

While the season started with a three-point loss to eventual Pac-10 champion Washington State and a six-point loss to then No. 2-ranked Tennessee, UCLA didn't make many behind the scenes adjustments, other than urging the entire team to be more physical.

"We preached a more all-around physical style after two games. The team seemed to respond to it," Borges said.

Responded, indeed. UCLA pummeled Texas 66-3 in Austin, and the march to Dallas and Cotton was on. "I don't think you can play a perfect game, but that's about as close as you can get," Borges said.

According to Borges, the Bruins work on the running game early in practices, the passing game late. They never budge from the strategy, devoting equal time to both. But, says Borges, he doesn't, in calling a game, pay close attention to statistics for devising a certain run/pass ratio.

"The biggest and most important statistic to me is winning. There's so many ways to do that. I've won games where we've scored 56 points. I've won games where we've scored 10. I just want to be able to run and pass and do both as we see fit and as situations dictate.

Borges, who admits that the visibility and recruitability of UCLA were obvious factors in deciding to relocate after a 9-3 season with Mike Bellotti at Oregon, has ties to all levels and brands of the game. Influenced by a junior college coach, Borges started out as a high school coach running the wishbone. Later influenced by watching the West Coast offense, Borges was part of majoring rebuildings at Portland State and then Boise State with the late Pokey Allen.

Like all UCLA faithful, Borges has enjoyed the rewards the 1997 season brought-namely a renewed enthusiasm and success rate on the national recruiting trails. He's hopeful it will enable the team to move towards it's goals of fighting for a national championship and making a New Year's appearance of its own in Pasadena.

Michigan '83

In memorializing the 1997 season, the Roses were sweet and the rewards many for Michigan first-year defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann.

Herrmann, in his first season as coordinator, didn't just get the job done. Expected in preseason to put together a defense that would give Michigan a chance to stay in ball games while a young offense matured, Herrmann did more than that. The orchestration in Ann Arbor, throughout the Big Ten and ultimately the Rose Bowl was one of the sweetest defensive songs in the history of NCAA football. One might even say perfect, as Michigan completed an undefeated 12-0 season for the first time ever in school history.

And while it didn't end on the defensive side of the ball as the offensive line matured and the offense became respectable under the maturity of Brian Griese, Herrmann's troops provided the foundation for the success of the 1997 football season.

"Right from the very beginning, our defense set the pace. They gave our offense time to mature, because they were so outstanding early in the season. We had a lot of young guys on offense, particularly in the line, and the defense's play gave them time to get better and better. The offense eventually gained some confidence, and we became a pretty good football team," said head coach Lloyd Carr.

Others agreed. "This is as good a defense as I've seen since I've been here," said Bo Schembechler, a 30-plus year veteran of coaching who knows more than a thing or two about Michigan football.

Name the opponent, list the knockdown. Time and time again. Michigan's composite numbers easily eclipsed those of most programs-across the board. Statistics truly tell the tale-No. 1 in scoring defense (8.9 points per game), total defense (206.9 yards per game), pass efficiency defense (75.8 rating) and yards allowed per catch (8.8).

A true masterpiece of work for a former Michigan player who bleeds Michigan blue-from his playing days under the venerable Schembechler to his years as a graduate assistant and then an assistant under Schembechler, Gary Moeller and current stalwart Carr.

Together, Colorado, Baylor, Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota and Penn State scored 30 points against the Wolverines. Not each. Together.

Herrmann insists the Michigan formula is simple. The premise is to put great athlete's in a basic 4-3 scheme-a formula Schembechler brought to campus in 1969-and let them do their jobs. Today's package includes basic blitzes here and there-not being afraid to attack even late in the game.

The combination of old and new paid unparalleled dividends in 1997. While the 1996 team was subject to several disappointing letdowns, the 1997 Wolverines were untouchable late.

"It's something as a staff we've tried to emphasize. Where we failed a year ago was in the fourth quarter and in sudden-change situations," Herrmann said. Michigan's defensive performance gains even more credibility when you consider that between September and October, the team lost two starters to season-ending knee injuries.

But the team remained a reflection of Herrmann's philosophy and personality. "I hope somebody when people ask about Jim Herrmann's defense, I'm able to say, 'They're fundamentally sound. They're aggressive. They get to the ball. And they tackle.' That's my philosophy in terms of defense," he said.

"I really believe in what I've been brought up on, in terms of playing defense," Herrmann said. "Michigan defense has always been 11 guys who play together. They play sound, aggressive football."

No question that Herrmann is a true Michigan man. Recruited by Schembechler, Herrmann hung around the program as a student assistant and then a graduate assistant after an injury prematurely ended his playing career. He left to become a high school assistant, against the wishes of Schembechler, who said he would be back and would have to climb the rungs as a GA again.

Schembechler was right, as Herrmann returned to Ann Arbor in 1986. He spent two more seasons as a GA and two additional as a volunteer coach before Gary Moeller appointed him a full-time assistant in 1990. He coached linebackers and special teams in 1995 and '96 under Carr, and was named coordinator in the Outback Bowl after the '96 season.

"He has a passion for this game, a passion for Michigan," Carr said. "All he lacked was an opportunity to show it, and that's what we're seeing."

Other Winners
Division I-AA

J.D. Sollars,
Eastern Washington
•1st Total Offense
•6th Scoring Offense
Division II
Kevin Keefe,
Emporia State
•1st Total Offense
•2nd Scoring Offense
Division III
Larry Kehres,
Mount Union
•1st Scoring Offense
•3rd Total Offense
Jae Sim,
Sioux Falls
•2nd Total Offense
•8th Rushing Offense

Mark Harriman,
•2nd Scoring Defense
•5th Rushing Defense
Gilbert Wiggins,
•1st Total Defense
•1st Rushing Defense
Al Thomas,
Western Maryland
•2nd Total Defense
•3rd Scoring Defense
Bob Gregory,
•1st Total Offense
•3rd Rushing Offense


AFM Videos Streaming Memberships Now Available Digital Download - 304 Pages of Football Forms for the Winning Coach


Copyright 2024,
All Rights Reserved