Fresno State’s Derek Carr may not receive the same hype as his counterparts at bigger schools but he is catching the attention of one group – NFL scouts. Carr is moving up teams’ draft boards as he has led the Bulldogs to a 10-0 record and the cusp of a BCS Bowl birth.
Carr has already thrown for nearly 4000 yards in operating offensive coordinator David Schramm’s no-huddle, spread offense. Schramm‘s offense is effectively a version of the Air Raid and this is what makes projecting a player like Carr to the NFL difficult.
Fresno State operates almost exclusively with 10 personnel (4 wide receiver, 1 RB, 0 TE) from the shotgun. The Bulldogs throw a high percentage of the time, mixing underneath routes with vertical throws. A large part of the Bulldogs’ offense is the wide receiver screen game, which effectively functions as Fresno State’s running attack. The Bulldogs use flash screens, tunnel screens and the like to constrain the defense and take advantage of defensive backs concerned with the down field passing game.
As a schematic matter, the wide receiver screen game is an effective counter for any passing team. NFL offenses increasingly utilize the outside screen game and if they do not, they probably should. Fresno State is extremely efficient with wide receiver screens and it forms a crucial part of the Bulldogs’ offense.
But it does limit evaluation opportunities of Carr when over half his throws are screen passes. That is not to say that Carr is bereft of opportunities to showcase his ability to translate into an NFL offense. Carr has nearly every tool one would look for in an NFL quarterback. At 6’3’’ his height is slightly less than ideal, but he makes up for it with athleticism. Schramm does not often call upon Carr to carry the football, but he is able to gain yards scrambling and, more importantly, extend plays with his legs. He does a nice job keeping his eyes downfield and throwing the football away if need be. He is also effective rolling out of the pocket.
Carr also has a strong arm and is very effective in fitting in throws down the football field. He is able to effectively use his arm because he does a nice job reading the opposing secondary. For instance, below Schramm dials up a smash combination to the top of the field. Smash creates a hi-lo vertical stretch upon the squat corner.
As soon as the corner jumps the hitch route Carr turns to the corner throw. Carr sees the safety hesitate, and immediately delivers the throw.
Carr also has a nice touch on vertical throws. Another preferred Fresno State route is four verticals, and Carr does an excellent job throwing the seam route.
That is not to say that Carr does not have room for improvement. In particular, Carr needs to demonstrate a greater ability to fit throws into tight windows and throw receivers open, particularly on mid-range throws. This is partially a function of the offense, as the Bulldogs generally mix the quick passing game with deep shots. Nonetheless, Carr must make those throws to succeed at the next level. In the meantime, however, Carr is playing at a high level in keeping Fresno State undefeated and setting his sights on a January bowl game.