Borges works to help passing game

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges sees flashes of excellence in his offense. But then he also sees the times when nothing seems to go right.

Denard Robinson has shown both, but it seems the only flashes Borges has seen from him in games have been on the ground.

It's not only Robinson's fault, or Borges'. It's the entire offense.

"If the route is supposed to be 12 yards, then we need to run it at 12 yards, we can't run it at 14 to 10," senior tight end Kevin Koger said. "Because that's going to throw Denard off, because he's expecting us to be at 12 yards. And when we're not there, that's when you see the overthrows or the underthrows."

This season, Robinson is completing less than 50 percent of his passes and has already thrown six interceptions. Last season, he completed more than 60 percent of his passes and threw 11 interceptions in 13 games.

"I think numbers can lie," Robinson said. "I think I grew this year, and I'm better than I was last year."

Coming out of fall camp, all signs pointed to Robinson being more of a dual-threat quarterback for the Wolverines. Coach Brady Hoke had said that Robinson was completing more than 60 percent of his passes and that his ground game looked as good, if not better, than last season.

But Borges maintains that when Robinson is comfortable he is an accurate and efficient passer. He compares it to the situation he had at UCLA with quarterback Cade McNown. In McNown's sophomore year, his first year under Borges, he was near the bottom of the Pac-10 in pass efficiency. But, as a junior, the quarterback led the nation in pass efficiency.

"Is it all of a sudden a magic wand touched you and you're an accurate passer? No," Borges said. "It's understanding the offense, and not just [the quarterback's] understanding, but everybody else's too. It's all the growing pains that go with this."

Borges said it is both mental and physical growing pains. Robinson has been able to rely on his speed to bail him out of situations so far this season, but Borges believes that as the season goes on and as Robinson gets more comfortable, he will have a better feel for both aspects of the game.

"Every great quarterback will tell you this, they'll say, 'As you learn it and understand it, it slows down,' " Borges said.

Borges added that he can improve and be a better playcaller for Robinson, putting him in a position where he'll have the opportunity to complete more passes, which will bring about more confidence in Robinson. That, he hopes, will give him some rhythm on the field, which will make him feel more comfortable.

But as Michigan prepares for Big Ten play, the passing game is where Hoke hopes to see the most improvement. And Borges is looking for synergy and what he calls "meticulous precision" in all parts of the passing game -- Robinson, the receivers and himself.

"There has to be some chemistry in there," Borges said. "There are so many little pieces."

Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at jenningsespn@gmail.com.