Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan: Carder is a solid quarterback for Western Michigan and it has been interesting to compare and contrast him with Tim Hiller, the quarterback he replaced for the Broncos. He’s got solid size at 6’2”, 224 pounds and was productive this season with 3,873 yards, a 65.74 completion percentage, 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The game against Purdue was not one of his better games as he finished with four interceptions marking the second game he had thrown more than one all season (he threw three against Ball State). Carder has solid arm strength and accuracy and is more physically gifted than Hiller was because of his ability to extend plays with his feet and to avoid the rush. He isn’t a burner by any means, but he can move when he has to and is somewhat of a threat to run and pick up yardage with his legs. That said, I think at best he is a late round prospect because despite his solid physical tools I don’t think he has the arm strength to make every NFL throw with solid zip and he doesn’t do a good job of reading defenses and making good decisions at all. His four interceptions yesterday were not coincidences and he could have had a couple more if Purdue had not dropped them. He forces throws into coverage more than he should and part of that has to do with how much he throws the ball but part of that is that he simply doesn’t make very good decisions. He has the ability to make nice throws when he can put touch on them as evidenced by the nice throw to Jordan White for their first touchdown and a couple other throws over the top of the coverage. However, when he attempted to make stick throws down the seam he struggled to put the appropriate amount of zip on them and didn’t place them well which limited his offenses potential as Purdue seemed to get comfortable defending their up-tempo offense. Carder is a solid MAC prospect but he won’t get drafted before the 6th or 7th round next year in my opinion.
Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan: White is a beast let me just say that right now. He may not be the fastest guy especially after his knee injury but he is a beast. He has very reliable hands, some of the best in this 2012 class of receivers, and has been insanely productive for Western Michigan both for this season and for his entire career. Now, I don’t expect him to be picked in the first three rounds or anything but I think in the 5th round he warrants some significant consideration. Yes, you’d like to spend those picks on guys with more upside than a guy who probably won’t run much faster than a 4.55 in the 40 yard dash but he’s got solid size at 6’0”, 215 pounds and accumulated 140 receptions, 1,911 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. He also had 222 yards and a 13.06 average per return as a punt returner. He caught nearly every pass that hit him in the hands against Purdue save one possible drop, but he made some difficult catches look routine and made a fantastic one handed snag with his left hand on a pass thrown one or two yards behind him. Had he not somehow made this terrific catch on a deep ball from Carder it certainly looked like it was going to get intercepted by a Purdue defensive back. White may not have insane upside from a physical standpoint but overall I was pretty impressed with his route running and you can see he has improved this over the past couple of years. He showed some solid burst in and out of his breaks and some suddenness to create separation. Personally I would love to have him on my team because you know he’s going to work very hard, he doesn’t have great speed but he runs good routes, he will make catches when your team needs a play, and he is stronger and more physical than you might think and has shown the ability to gain yards after the catch. I think the 5th round is definitely where he has the best shot to come off the board, but something about him makes me want to put a 3rd/4th round grade on him. He’s just too reliable with too good of hands to pass up.
Anthony Parker, OT, Western Michigan: Parker doesn’t have a great build at 6’5”, 321 pounds not because of his height but because he’s got a pretty big belly. He may want to work on that before any All-Star game he might go to or before the combine, but regardless of that I don’t think he will be able to stick at offensive tackle in the NFL. He struggled mightily against an impressive freshman defensive end on Purdue named Ryan Russell and he will continue to struggle at either offensive tackle spot should he be drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent. Personally I think his best bet is to slide inside to guard where his possibly above average first step and size may give him an advantage and it will mask his lack of lateral quickness to mirror defenders off the edge. It was pretty obvious he couldn’t take away Russell’s speed rush whenever he wanted which led to him opening up his hips too early and too often making him very susceptible to inside moves which Russell took advantage of to create significant pressure on Carder all game. Even if he slides inside to guard there is no guarantee he will be drafted or even competed over to be signed as an undrafted free agent, but I think he has a chance to make it into a camp and compete for a practice squad spot as a guard. He will never make it that far as a tackle.
Drew Nowak, DT, Western Michigan: Nowak had a fantastic season this year with over 20.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two blocked kicks but that won’t guarantee himself a spot in the 2012 NFL Draft. He is listed at 6’4”, 295 pounds but he didn’t look quite 6’4” to me and I wouldn’t be surprised if he measured in as short as 6’2” personally. I also noticed that he seemed to have relatively short arms which led to him getting engulfed by the larger Purdue offensive linemen. He has above average burst off the line of scrimmage and flashed some solid hand usage as he tried to beat the Purdue interior linemen off the snap. However, that didn’t work very often and while he forced Purdue’s left guard to hold once or twice (even though it was uncalled) he didn’t have a very significant impact on the game because of his struggles to keep Purdue’s offensive linemen from engaging him and taking him out of the play. He has solid size, solid athleticism and a pretty good motor but I don’t think he’s going to be anything more than a late round pick or possibly a UDFA if he can’t improve his stock in the offseason.
Freddie Bishop, DE, Western Michigan: Bishop didn’t stick out to me very much but he flashed some solid edge speed when he was in the game. TerBush and Marve threw a combined 20 passes so there weren’t a lot of opportunities to rush the passer, especially because some of those were quick screens designed to get the ball out quickly. Bishop emerged a bit statistically this year and it will be interesting to see how he and Paul Hazel do next year as they will likely be one of the best pass rushing tandems in the MAC.
Paul Hazel, DE, Western Michigan: I hadn’t seen Hazel play much before but I was impressed with him as a pass rusher. He’s got quality height and length at 6’5” and he looks like he has long arms, however he only weighs 210 pounds! He absolutely HAS to get above 225 pounds before next season or his stock is going to drop as his game is dissected. He’s a pretty fluid athlete and while I haven’t seen him drop into coverage a lot he looks like he could be athletic to make that transition. Hopefully WMU lets him stand up more next year. But the most important part of this offseason will be adding weight for Hazel, and it will be very telling if he doesn’t come back bigger and stronger because he needs to.
Johnnie Simon, S, Western Michigan: Simon wasn’t always in on defense from what I could tell but I was very impressed with his run defense, his tackling, and his ability to blitz off the edge. He may have been playing in a “Buc” role where he is like an additional linebacker, but he proved effective versus the run regardless of how he was used. He had a solid stat line as far as pass break-ups and interceptions this year with seven break-ups and two interceptions on the season, so he will be one to watch as he continues to develop as a junior next year.
Caleb TerBush, QB, Purdue: I expected TerBush to throw a bit more than he did but Marve actually threw a comparable amount and was arguably more effective doing it. TerBush has another year left whereas Marve is graduating so it will be interesting to see what he will be able to do with some starting experience under his belt. He’s not much of a NFL Draft prospect at this point, but he has NFL size and a solid arm, so you have to keep an eye on him for that reason. He doesn’t have much pocket poise and doesn’t operate in a NFL offense since he doesn’t make a lot of stick throws downfield, but he has a chance to grow this offseason and during his senior year.
Akeem Shavers, RB, Purdue: Shavers had the best game of his career running 22 times for 149 yards with a long of 44 yards. Shavers has solid size at 5’11”, 203 pounds and displayed pretty good burst, acceleration and speed to rip of nice yardage. He will be competing for touches next year in a relatively crowded backfield and didn’t really have a break-out year this year, so it will be interesting to see if he is the main guy or if Ralph Bolden, the RB he was replacing in the starting line-up in this game, will be the main man. I liked what I saw of Shavers yesterday, but it’s hard for me to project him as anything more than a 7th round pick or a priority free agent at this point.
Akeem Hunt, RB, Purdue: Hunt only had four touches on offense against WMU but he rushed for 38 yards including a 33 yard long. He is only a freshman and should help Purdue establish this run-heavy offensive attack next year. He will likely be the #3 scat back next year barring injury to either Bolden or Shavers, but he is the leading candidate to take over as the feature back in two years as a junior. He’s undersized at 5’9”, but he has good quickness and speed.
Antavian Edison, WR, Purdue: Edison only had one catch on the game but it was a terrific grab for 23 yards. He went up for a deep ball and it was deflected before it got there but he kept his concentration, caught the ball with his hands and held onto it in traffic for the big gain. It was a great catch, but because Purdue was running so much he didn’t see much more action than that against WMU. Hopefully he gets more touches next year because I think he has some upside.
Gary Bush, WR, Purdue: Bush doesn’t have as good of hands as Edison does and struggled to locate and adjust to a couple deep passes Purdue attempted during this game but he was lethal on screens and took what I believe was a bubble screen for a 33 yard touchdown in the 2nd half. He doesn’t have great size at 6’0”, 175 pounds and he looks very skinny on film but he has some speed and decent hands. He’s a fringe draftable prospect at this point but his speed may warrant some interest.
Ryan Russell, DE, Purdue: Russell may very well have been the most impressive player not only on Purdue’s defense but on their whole team against Western Michigan in my opinion. That might sound like high praise for someone who, as far as I’m aware, had one tackle, sack and forced fumble. The sack and forced fumble was an important one though, as it led to a fumble recovery by his fellow defensive lineman Bruce Gaston. He didn’t register a lot of tackles or sacks but he was applying consistent pressure by beating both offensive tackles for Western Michigan when he wanted to. At 6’4”, 264 pounds as a freshman he has fantastic size for someone so young and has a ton of upside. Purdue has churned out some quality defensive lineman recently in Ryan Kerrigan, Mike Neal and now Kawann Short, Bruce Gaston and hopefully Ryan Russell. His motor seemed to wane on one of WMU’s longer drives and he was letting himself remain blocked and wasn’t fighting through blocks. That’s concerning, but he has plenty of upside and should really start to take off on the stat sheet over the next year or two as he comes into his own and continues to develop. Keep an eye on this kid.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue: Short was widely considered the top draft eligible prospect in this game but I was not impressed. He had a limited impact and seemed to show his frustration from not making plays or getting to the quarterback when he hit Carder after he threw late in the game which drew a flag. It was one of the few times he was in the quarterback’s face against WMU and he didn’t impress me much. Based on that game there’s no way I could give him a 2nd round grade, and it was disappointing since I was excited to watch him more and add to my notes on him. Though he did have a great season and could declare for the NFL Draft if he wanted to after that performance in the bowl game I think it would make more sense to come back for his senior year. He has room to grow if that performance is even a slight indication of what he needs to work on.
Bruce Gaston, DT, Purdue: Gaston is a solidly built sophomore DT and he was solid against WMU. I hope Short comes back because a defensive line of Short, Gaston and Russell would be pretty potent even in a conference with quality offensive linemen. Gaston flashed some ability yesterday by stuffing a play or two at the line of scrimmage as well as getting his hand up into passing lanes at times. He’s got solid upside but I want to see how he continues to develop.
Dwayne Beckford, LB, Purdue: Beckford was one guy I was looking forward to watching in this game but he was suspended for it. I imagine it was a response to Beckford being arrested on the suspicion of drunk driving just a couple weeks before the bowl game. He was also ejected from Purdue’s game against Iowa this year for throwing a punch, so this is unfortunately becoming a bit of a pattern of bad behavior for Beckford. That’s too bad because he was one of Purdue’s best players this year on defense. He’s got maturity concerns without a doubt, so it will be interesting to see if he grows up at all or if he will continue to waste his talent with stupid mistakes.
Joe Holland, LB, Purdue: Holland was one of the pleasant surprises of the night for me. He’s not a freak athlete as he is 6’1”, 229 pounds but he was one of the best tacklers on the field if not THE best and while I don’t think he has starting upside in the NFL I think he could definitely make a career of being a long-term back-up and special teams ace. I expect he will go undrafted but guys that tackle like he does have a place in the NFL on special teams, so look for him on coverage units in the future.
Will Lucas, LB, Purdue: Lucas is an undersized linebacker at only 5’11”, 226 pounds but he makes up for it with his athleticism. He will have to step up as the team is losing Holland to graduation, but he had 74 total tackles this year (43 solo) and 8.5 TFL so he is ready to take the next step in my opinion. He intrigues me as a WLB and on one play he shocked Carder on an option play because he SHOT into the gap and wrapped Carder up for a loss near the goal line. I wrote down that he “looked like a little missile.” So look out for him next year!