If you asked Brady Hoke or Greg Mattison, Alex Carder is eight-feet tall and can throw a football more than 400 yards, in the air, against the wind.
To be fair, the Western Michigan quarterback threw for more than 3,300 yards last season and 30 touchdowns. So he’ll be the Michigan defense’s first true test of the season. With him at quarterback, the Broncos won’t go down easily.
“I’d like to see who’s a better quarterback in the Midwest,” Hoke said. “I think Alex, he throws the ball well. He manages the offense well. He’s got great timing. He’s got a quick release. He’s tough and he’s a durable guy. Because when you see him on tape last year, getting hit sometimes and he gets right back up and goes to work.
“He’s as impressive as anybody that you’ll turn tape on the entire year.”
Mattison, the man charged with confusing Carder, echoed Hoke’s comments.
“I think he’s a great quarterback,” Mattison said. “I think this guy’s special. I think you’re going to see this guy playing on Sunday’s some day. He’s got an arm that he can throw it from hash to the sideline. … He’s got mobility. He can run when he has to. This guy’s the real deal.”
Michigan’s defense is supposed to be revamped and refocused, after allowing 450 yards and 35 points per game last season. Mattison has his unit, which has nine returning starters from that porous defense, playing his NFL-like schemes the way he likes. The players say they have got it down. And Mattison is quick to brag about their willingness to get it right.
But none of that offseason buzz matters if Michigan can’t stop Carder, his 63-percent completion rate, and his top wide receiver — senior Jordan White caught 94 passes for more than 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
The secondary that was often criticized a year ago will have an early shot at changing its reputation. Fifth-year senior Troy Woolfolk and redshirt junior J.T. Floyd are back from injuries and redshirt junior safety Jordan Kovacs now has the self-proclaimed ball-hawking Thomas Gordon playing next to him.
Sophomores Courtney Avery and Carvin Johnson surely will see some playing time as well. All of the inexperience and depth issues were cured by last season’s woes.
It’ll be up to Mattison’s blitz schemes and the Michigan front four to make sure Carder doesn’t have enough time to find open receivers. As last season snow balled, lost in the blame on the secondary was how Greg Robinson’s defense rarely got pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Michigan finished the 13-game season with just 18 sacks.
Carder led the nation’s 16th-best passing attack and was under the guide of coach Bill Cubit, a man entering his seventh season with the Broncos, and a man Hoke has tremendous respect for.
“Bill Cubit is a smart man,” Hoke said. “He’s always had good offenses. He uses his personnel well. I think when you’ve got a guy like Carder as your quarterback, I think it’s an advantage for what (Cubit) has in his tool chest.”
Yet, Western Michigan still has to deal with Michigan’s own explosive offense and Denard Robinson’s unique skill set.
A reporter asked Hoke, tongue in cheek, “You’d rank (Robinson) up there with Carder, among the best in the Midwest?”
“Oh, well, you know what,” Hoke said, “I think he’s a pretty daggone good quarterback. I’m glad he’s at Michigan.”