Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell enjoyed the best season of his college career -- and maybe the best season of his entire football career -- when Al Borges, now Michigan's offensive coordinator, was his offensive coordinator in 2004 at Auburn.
Campbell was a first-round pick by the Washington Redskins in the 2005 draft and currently is a backup with Cleveland. His best NFL season came in 2009, but in a lot of ways, it wasn't as good as his '04 season with Auburn.
Borges told reporters earlier this week that Campbell's situation reminds him of Devin Gardner's at Michigan. Gardner, a junior, committed 10 turnovers in Michigan's first four games of the season, but he was turnover-free last week in a rout of Minnesota.
"When I coached Jason and I came in there, everyone wanted to replace him," Borges told reporters about the 2004 season. " ... With Jason, I told him, 'I want you to go out there and let it rip and I will correct your errors. If you make a few mistakes, we'll just fix the mistakes. But I don't want you to be scared. I want you to use good fundamentals; I want you to use good judgment.' These are all things I told Devin Gardner."
Further, Borges said, showing confidence in Campbell paid off. He said the same goes with Gardner, who is a lot like Campbell in size (Gardner is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds; Campbell was 6-5 and 220 as a college senior).
"There's got to be that delicate balance between keeping him aggressive but using good judgment, making sure he understands what you want, with not turning the ball over being at the top of the priority list," Borges said.
Borges made some slight tweaks to the offense last week, with the biggest being a change at center, and Gardner responded with a solid outing, throwing for 235 yards and a touchdown and also rushing for a score.
"If a guy throws a few interceptions, people start having their doubts," Borges told reporters. "But if the guy coaching him is the same way, or starts scaring him into it, he'll go out there and play so guarded that you won't get anything out of him."
Campbell had better surrounding skill-position talent at Auburn than Gardner does at Michigan. In 2004, Campbell was able to hand off to Ronnie Brown and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, both of whom were selected in the top six of the '05 draft. Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers also was a first-round pick that year. The only likely first-round pick on this season's Michigan team is senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.