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Posted on Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Western Michigan's Alex Carder is the best college QB in the state, says Kalamazoo Gazette reporter

By Kyle Meinke


Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder, shown scoring a touchdown during a 44-20 loss at Notre Dame last season, passed for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2010.

Kalamazoo Gazette

Who's the best college quarterback in the state? Michigan's Denard Robinson is as good a bet as any, but Michigan State's Kirk Cousins could play at the next level after this year.

According to the Kalamazoo Gazette's Graham Couch, it's neither.

He's taking Western Michigan’s Alex Carder, whom Michigan will see when it kicks off its 2011 season Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC).

To get a better feel for what to expect from Carder and the Broncos, posed a few questions to Couch, who has covered the team for six seasons and knows it better than just about anyone.

He has some interesting thoughts:

Q. Western Michigan has a lot of talent back this season, particularly at skill positions. I know it can be tough to say before a game's been played, but how good do you think this Broncos team can be?


Graham Couch

Graham Couch: If the offensive line holds up, this could be the best WMU team of the Bill Cubit era, the 9-3 squad in 2008 included. That's a bit of an "if" considering two unproven juco transfers are starting at guard up front and a brutal schedule — WMU faces six bowl teams from a year ago, all on the road, including division rivals Northern Illinois and Toledo. But there's no question there is considerable talent at several positions. I think Alex Carder is the best college quarterback in the state. Denard Robinson is a great athlete, but I'd bet you if Carder were in that program, they'd find a different role (flanker, perhaps) for Robinson. MSU's Kirk Cousins isn't even close.

Jordan White would be an All-Big Ten wideout. He doesn't look fast when you consider his build, but he's an NFL guy. And the Broncos finally have a running back with a chance to be a special player, at least by Mid-American Conference standards, in Tevin Drake.

Defensively, 10 of the starters played a ton last year in what was a pretty good defense at the end of the season. The defensive line, to me, is what separates this WMU team from others. The D-line is usually the biggest difference between mid-major and BCS programs. And, I'd still take Michigan's D-line over WMU's every day. That said, this should be a really strong unit in the Mid-American Conference and one that's not entirely pushed around against Michigan and Illinois.

If I sound overly bullish on the Broncos, I've seen a lot of WMU football over the last six seasons. I've seen bad teams, like in 2009, and good ones, like in '08. This is definitely in the 2008 range, but with a better D-line, which should make a world of difference. Of course, August can be deceiving.

Q. Michigan's Denard Robinson is one of the best running quarterback in NCAA history, but is switching to the pro-style offense. What kind of problems does that pose for Western Michigan, and what do you expect the Broncos will do to try to contain him?


Come back to at noon today to join Kyle Meinke for a live chat. He’ll discuss the latest Wolverines’ news and preview Saturday’s game against Western Michigan. Graham Couch, who covers the Broncos for the Kalamazoo Gazette, will stop by and answer some questions, too.
GC: I think the more pro-style Michigan plays, the better it is for WMU. If Robinson is passing, the Broncos are thrilled. There's been a lot of spin about Robinson's passing ability. I still think he's Juice Williams with wheels. I'm not sure if you blitz eight and make him pass, that he'll hit the open guy or know which is the open guy. WMU's defenders, I think, will try not to over-pursue or leave their feet when charging him. Mostly, WMU wants him to throw, so forcing him to run makes little sense.

Yet, when it comes down to it, Robinson is a freakish athlete with amazing football speed and vision (as a runner). He's going to make some plays. WMU has to wrap up and not let one big run get inside its heads. Because it's going to happen.

Q. Do you see a matchup disadvantage for Michigan somewhere on the field?

GC: If there is one — one that matters, at least — it'll be WMU's passing game against the U-M secondary. The Wolverines were really young and not very good there last year. I'm guessing they'll be better in the back end. But the Broncos can pass with anyone. Carder and White are as good a QB-wideout combo as U-M will see in the Big Ten. If WMU's No. 2 wideout, Chleb Ravenell, plays to his potential only shown to this point in practice, the Broncos could win this matchup. Ravenell is really the only WMU receiver other than White that has the talent to scare Big Ten defenses.

Q. Jordan White is a sixth-year wideout who set the Western Michigan record for receiving yards in a season last year. What does he do so well, and does he have the kind of ability that could exploit Michigan's secondary?

GC: He's deceptively fast and strong and gets out of his cuts very quickly. NFL scouts gave him a draftable grade last year. If he stays healthy, he'll play in the NFL. When Greg Jennings (2005) and Jamarko Simmons (2008) were seniors at WMU, it didn't matter who they faced or that every defense knew the ball was coming their way. They were that good. That's the next step for White. Can he produce when defenses are paying him a ton of attention? He caught 94 passes for a school-record 1,378 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. But he had a formidable sidekick in Juan Nunez and teams hadn't seen much of White in previous seasons. But, to answer the question, yes, he can give just about any secondary trouble.

Q. Western Michigan has beaten BCS programs such as Iowa, Virginia and Illinois in recent years. Michigan should worry about a repeat if ...

GC: WMU is close or ahead after the first 20 minutes. In all of those wins you mentioned, the Broncos started quickly. That's what makes winning these openers so difficult for mid-majors -- they're always on the road, the BCS school is fired up, no matter the foe, because it's the opener (and they have a new coach in this case), and one thing goes badly early and it snowballs. Against Nebraska in the 2008 opener -- a similar situation (new coach, college football mecca, decent BCS opponent) -- WMU played the Cornhuskers fairly even for three quarters. But the Broncos lost the first 15 minutes, 17-0. Game over. If it's close early in the second quarter, WMU's confidence will rise, Michigan will begin to doubt it can pull away and then, this is a WMU team with enough talent to pull an upset. But it would be a significant upset, no question.

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


Macabre Sunset

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

While I agree that WMU has its best team in years, and could conceivably upset Michigan, this guy is a silly homer who really shouldn't be quoted. To say that Kirk Cousins, who has more than a few scouts wondering if he's early-round material, is not even worth mentioning next to Calder... either Couch is blind with some Bronco love, or he's just seeking attention.


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

It looks like the dictionary has been revised! "Homer" is now spelled C-o-u-c-h. Seriously? Better than Cousins or DRob? Seriously?? Fearless prediction for this week: Michigan 34 Western 14 DRob: 150 yds passing, 125 yards rushing in 3 quarters of play. You heard it here first(ish).


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

Good story piece Kyle. It would be nice if you reached out like this throughout the season. I imagine the questions and responses would be quite different dealing between the MAC and Big Ten schools, but it gives some nice regional perspective.

Terrin Bell

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

Graham does preface the article by stating "if the offesnsive line holds up." It should also be noted, passing has not proven to be Denard's strength. Forcier was better there. Denard has made some major blunders when passing. His strength to date has been running the ball. So, I think Graham's view that WMU would prefer Denard to pass is a fair assessment because to date that has been his weakness.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

Any kind of rating comparison is ineffective, because Michigan plays a Big Ten schedule and WMU plays a MAC schedule.

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

Actually, If you pro-rate Carder down to Robinsons' 291 attempts, their stats are virtually identical. Carder's numbers only look as good as they do because he has 458 attempts. His completion percentage is almost identical to DRobs, throws for less yards per attempt, and DRob has a much better overall QB rating.


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

Some started tailgating a little early this year.....


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Carder may be good, but this article doesn't mention WMU's achilles heal - their offensive line pass protection. They have 2 untested guards and a former Michigan offensive lineman (Dann O'Neil) who washed out here, partly due to being too stiff for pass protection. Martin, Van Bergen, and others are going to be in his lap all game long. This QB matchup will be going to Denard.

Terrin Bell

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

He starts the article by stating if WMU's Offensive line holds up.


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

Well we can all speculate about who is better at this position or that position, but ultimately the only true measurement will be based on head to head competition. I realize that after Michigan beats WMU, you can hypothetically argue that Carder was a better pocket passer, had more yards passing, etc, etc but in the end it will be DR 2 - AC 0. So if WMU fans need some consolation, they can go on thinking AC is the best QB in Michigan but that won't get them any victories against Michigan.


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

Pre-game chatter to keep new content on the web page. New stuff means more eyeballs and clicks, which means more advertising revenue. Carder is no doubt good. But as DVB says, there's a case to be made for Kirk Cousins. Hoke has been singing the praises of Carder of late ... which is good strategy ... take no opponent for granted. There are Davids lurking in a room of Goliaths.

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

Doesn't it kind of remind you of Lou Holtz, back when Notre Dame was a legit contender? He would always downplay his team's talent level, while at the same time talking up his opponent to make you think the game might be closer than expected, and then he would smash them.

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Yeah...Not only is Denard a better QB, its not often I give any praise to MSU, but Kirk Cousins would mop the floor with Calder too. This is just homerism, plain and simple.

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

Not at all, but since Mr. Couch said the best QB in the state, I kinda figured that included everyone, including MSU... It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Calder's gaudy stats are the product of 458 passing attempts in a pass happy offense playing against vastly inferior competition. I actually crunched the numbers (as seen on MLive), I pro-rated both Kirk Cousins and Denard Robinsons passing stats if they had the same attempts as Calder, and then went the reverse, and calculated Calder's passing stats if he only had the same number of attempts Cousins or Robinson have. Turns out that both Cousins and Robinson would end up with about 400 more passing yards each, compared to Calder. Given equal opportunity, both Cousins and Denard have overall better stats, which would also account for their better QB ratings in comparison. Then, when you consider the level of each QB's competition, its not close. There is no way that Calder would be nearly as good if he was playing Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio State or MSU defenses, and what would the stats look like if either Cousins or Robinson had the meat of their schedule be Temple, Akron, Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green? Forget about it. Cousins would have 4,000 passing yards, and Denard Robinson would probably have 3,200 passing yards along with 2,000 rushing yards. Some might call me a homer, but the fact remains, both Kirk Cousins and Denard Robinson are playing much tougher defenses than Alex Carder faces, and that HAS to be accounted for.


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

What?!! Have you become an MSU homey now? :-)

John Bretzloff

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

I am certain this may endear him to the local Broncos fans but being a homer in sports journalism won't get you promoted out of a tiny market like Kalamazoo. If Calder is that talented why is he at a middle of the pack MAC school? I am sure he is a good quarterback and could turn out to be the next Big Ben (minus the off-season indiscretions), but a better QB than Denard? or Cousins?? Puhhhhleeeeze!!

Kyle Meinke

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

John, I'm not close to the WMU program and can't speak directly to Alex Carder's abilities ... but in Graham's defense, I will say that, this week, Greg Mattison called Carder a future NFL QB (remember, he coached there the past three years) and Brady Hoke called him one of the best QBs in the Midwest. Now, I know coaches aren't going to talk badly about a guy they're about to face, but Mattison seemed to genuinely mean Carder has next-level ability. At the very least, Michigan is respecting what Carder can do. I don't agree with Graham, but I also don't think he's being a homer for what he's said. Michigan coaches have said essentially the same thing all week. This kid is legit.


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 11:40 a.m.

In all fairness, I am sure Carder is and will be an excellent QB for the Broncos. He will be an inpact player. It will be difficult to really know, unless he guides WMU to a MAC title and wins a Bowl game. In track, a miler who can run 3:55 is better than someone else who can run 4:00 no matter what school or college division. Let's see how well Denard does this year.


Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

"... unless he guides WMU to a MAC title and wins a Bowl game." Exactly. Football is a team sport and the QB position is but one spot on the roster. Still, I think the basic measure has to be the ability of a QB and the team to win the competition at the conference level. Failing that, it's hard to argue for greatness if you can't get the job done that's right in front of you.