You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan's biggest worry for its football opener? Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder, coaches say

By Kyle Meinke

The Michigan football team is more talented than Western Michigan at nearly every position, and that’s how it should be when it faces a Mid-American Conference team.

But if there’s one personnel matchup that concerns the Wolverines entering Saturday’s season opener against the Broncos (3:30 p.m., ABC), it’s their secondary squaring off against Western Michigan’s passing game.


Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison thinks Western Michigan's Alex Carder, above, is an NFL-quality quarterback.

Kalamazoo Gazette

Junior quarterback Alex Carder and sixth-year, record-setting receiver Jordan White both return for a Broncos unit that ranked 16th nationally last year in passing. Carder, in particular, has captivated the attention of the Michigan coaching staff.

In fact, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who coached the Baltimore Ravens the past three years, thinks Carder is an NFL talent.

“You’ll find out when you ask me about players that we’re going to play against, I’m always going to be honest,” Mattison said. “I think this guy is special. I think you’re going to see this guy playing on Sundays some day.

“He has got an arm that he can throw it from the hash to the sideline, and the thing that impresses me about him is he is a very, very tough kid.”

Carder is a junior from Shawnee, Kan. He started slowly last year, but came on strong in the final six games. He finished with 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing passes at a 63.1-percent clip.


School: Western Michigan
Position: Quarterback
Size: 6-2, 224 pounds
Year: Junior
Hometown: Shawnee, Kan.

2010 STATS
289-458 (63.1%), 3,334 yards,
30 TDs, 12 INTs
Those are strong numbers for anyone, regardless of conference.

“Last year, I think he probably took too many chances early in the season,” Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said Monday during his weekly teleconference. “I think his interceptions were up, his turnovers were up — and, at the end of the year, I think he threw for (20) touchdowns with three interceptions (in the final six games).

“He was a different guy once he got in the system and understood we don't have to take as many risks. That's the biggest difference I see."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke spent six seasons in the MAC while coaching at Ball State, going 4-2 against Western Michigan and 3-1 against Cubit. He also spent time as an assistant with the Broncos, as well as at Michigan.

He knows the MAC. He knows the Big Ten. He's been on both sides of the talent disparities that exist in these kinds of matchups.

He thinks Calder could play anywhere.

“I think he’s as impressive as anybody that you’ll (watch tape) of for the entire year,” Hoke said. “I’d like to see who’s a better quarterback in the Midwest than that kid."

High praise, coming from a guy who has a Heisman Trophy candidate taking snaps for him at quarterback.

Preseason hyperbole? Gameweek hype? Maybe, but Carder has the numbers to back it. At the very least, Michigan is respecting what he showed in his one season as a starter, when he helped the Broncos set a school record for touchdowns in a season (51) and average 32.3 points per game.

“He can put the ball in tight windows,” said sophomore Thomas Gordon, who was named a starting safety this week. “He’s a real polished quarterback and has experience, but we still can disguise our looks and get him confused, and I think that’ll play to our advantage.”

That will be the key to Michigan’s counterattack.

Senior Troy Woolfolk, out all of last year, and junior J.T. Floyd, who missed the final four games and all of spring, are expected to start at corner after battling injuries. Sophomore Courtney Avery is listed as a co-starter with Floyd and is expected to see snaps, as well.

It’s a talented group, but one with a lot of questions after a season in which Michigan ranked 112th in pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks posted a combined rating of 144.79, 104th in the country. Only Minnesota and Indiana were worse among Big Ten teams.

Applying pressure on the quarterback will be a point of focus, particularly with Western Michigan missing several key players on its offensive line due to injury.

“(Carder) makes them go,” senior defensive end Will Heininger said. “He can really read defenses because he makes a lot of checks. You can see that on film.

“We need to get after him.”

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 6:42 a.m.

It's good that the Michigan Defense will face a talented quarterback and receiver right away. The question of the D unit's ability looms larger than normal. This process of questions raised and questions resolved over the first half of the season has been integral to Michigan fans' experience "since the beginning" but it's more telling than ever this year. In addition to the famous, "It's not over 'til it's over" wisdom, there's also the "It's not answered until it's answered" factor. All I can say is, may Fate have mercy on us and not let us re-experience the last three years of Michigan Football. Go Blue!


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

"The point is, our defense played it's best games because they were fresh and knew what to do out there. The tackling was very good compared to the rest of the respective seasons." So, by your logic, after playing 4-5 games, they simply forgot what to do and how to tackle? I'm sorry, but you're a bit off. Our defense's best games were against inferior opposing offenses. It makes no sense that you'd get all that practice, then forget everything you learned once the competition starting getting tougher. No... our defense has been bad because the coaching staff didn't know how to coach and were ill-prepared for what they'd see in the Big Ten. All that changes tomorrow at 3:30.

Terrin Bell

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

That and the offense and special teams keep screwing things up placing the defense on the field for more time then a defense should be on the field.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 5 p.m.

I tend to agree with "umgoblue47" ... Michigan's defense will play above expectations. I think they'll get decent pressure on Carder and probably record a few sacks. I think the secondary will provide adequate coverage. I think the offense will also play above expectations -- by that I mean the expectations of those who think Borges will hamper the offense of last year. I think we'll see 50% from the shotgun; I think we'll see Robinson do his thing a time or two; and I think we'll see better moving of the chains than we saw last year. Hoke, Borges and Mattison aren't going to show their full hand in this game. Just enough to win convincingly but not enough to give Notre Dame more than they need to know.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Off topic, but is there going to be a live chat tomorrow during the game?


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

I might try here then, it's pretty useless on mlive during games, mostly meaningless drivel.

Kyle Meinke

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

BorninA2, yes, there will be a live chat here.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

michigan defense imo will surprise and carder may be scrambling for his life! a score of 38-10 would be nice with DG getting in most of the 4th/qtr. GO BLUE!!!

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

Fortunately for UM, they only have to play one team at a time. Tomorrow, its' the Broncos. And Um only has to outscore them by one point! What a country! .........I love it. I'll be there..of course. This will be my 47th team, since I started back in '65. Would rather be there than anywhere else in the world...rain or no rain. Go Blue, lets' get the 'Hoke era' started on the right note, and begin the campaign for title number 43!!!!!!


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

I'll throw another name into the "who's the best QB in the midwest" discussion. Wisconsin's Russel Wilson. This guy looked like a Heisman candidate in his first game for the Badgers last night. Granted, it was against UNLV's defense, but this guy is the real deal. He threw a couple of frozen ropes while scrambling out of the pocket....just flicked his wrist and threw a 20 yard bullet on the money. Wisconsin looked solid in every aspect of the game...that matchup with Nebraska is gonna be very interesting...will probably decide who's the big daddy in the B10 this year. Don't count Denard out of the discussion jet yet....I have a feeling he's going to excel at what ever the coaches ask him to do. Can't wait until 3:30 Sat...GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

rightmind, UM doesn't play Wisky this year. I gotta admit I am kinda grateful for that. That is unless the two teams meet in the championship game, which in that case I would LOVE to see but am not holding my breath for.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

Wilson definately adds a new demnsion to the badgers, because he is a threat to run. When he had to throw the ball over 20 yards, he missed wide open receivers. If you can stack the box and play man to man, Wiscy could have trouble. UNLV didn't have that talent. Wisky is going to be a very tuff match-up for this UM defense.

Nathan Steffes

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

I agree with almost everything you said, except about Wisconsin looking good in all facets of the game. I think they actually looked like they struggled on Defense. Granted, it was only the first game of the year, but at times Wisconsin let UNLV run all over them.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 11:40 a.m.

A lot of our players were around for the previous two season's opening games. The point is, our defense played it's best games because they were fresh and knew what to do out there. The tackling was very good compared to the rest of the respective seasons. And that was under Rich Rod. We won 31-7 in '09 vs Western and 30-10 in '10 vs U-Conn. My hope and expectation is our defense will look especially sharp again tomorrow. They will put lots of prressure on him (QB Carder). It will be up to Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd to cover their recievers. If we can do that, we'll turn Western into a one diminenshional team. This still sounds like a lot of pre-game coach-speak. But I would rather us show a lot of respect for our oppenent. It also sounds like Hoke and Wolverines will be ready when the bell answers. GO BLUE!!