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December 3, 2001
Beeing David Carr

Fresno State QB David Carr has seemingly come from nowhere to mount not only a legitimate Heisman campaign, but also a potentially lucrative trip up the 2002 draft board.

In addition to landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Carr has steered the Bulldogs to both a top 25 finish and a bowl game this year. In 13 starts, the senior hit on 64% of his passes and finished with 42 TD’s and 4,308 yards. Carr ended the regular season Saturday with a 6 TD, 432-yard day againast Utah State.

Of course, while we may have been caught off guard by Carr’s emergence, Marek Warszawski wasn’t. Warszawski covers the Bulldogs for the Fresno Bee, and was recently gracious enough to answer some hard-hitting questions about the likely first quarterback taken in next year’s draft:

HPF: There’s little question Carr is the top senior QB in this year’s draft, but we’ve seen him projected anywhere from late first round to #2 overall pick. Where would you slot him and why?

Warszawski: I’m not an NFL scout, so this is a hard question to answer. I do believe, however, that once NFL people get to spend more time with Dave, poke him with their stethoscopes, test his football acumen and drill him on the practice field, his stock will skyrocket. Frankly, I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t come away thinking the guy is an absolute stud.

HPF: Carr seems to have come from nowhere this year — is his surprise emergence a product of him getting no respect last year, or has he merely made the big leap this year?

Warszawski: The first time I saw Carr practice (spring 1999), I was convinced the guy could be a first-rounder. His talent is that obvious. But Dave had to wait three years for his turn to be a starter, because Fresno State had Billy Volek (Tennessee Titans 3rd stringer). Carr’s first career start came before 97,000 at Ohio Stadium. He threw 4 picks and got hit 23 times but never left the game, a 43-10 Buckeyes blowout. He ended up playing very well last year (25 TDs, 12 INTs), but he lacked experience. This year, he exploded when Fresno State exploded onto the national scene.

HPF: What are David Carr’s strengths? What areas does he need to improve upon?

Warszawski: Strengths? Carr has one of the strongest and most accurate arms you’ll ever see. He also has great touch on timing routes. He really throws a beautiful ball. He is also extremely strong, tough, durable — and more mobile than people realize. He is a mature 22-year-old with a beautiful wife and son. He is religious (but not overly so) and comes from an extremely supportive family.

Weaknesses? Carr needs fine-tuning. He got good coaching at Fresno State, but certainly not NFL-level. He has a tendency to stare down receivers and force passes where they don’t belong, although he’s made great strides in both areas. He’s also not a Donovan McNabb-type runner and doesn’t possess Jeff Garcia-like quickness.

HPF: How do you feel Carr has handled the pressure this year, from the early season upsets to the SI cover to the Heisman race?

Warszawski: Carr is not the reason Fresno State blew its chance for a BCS bowl. He actually handled the swirl around him and the Bulldogs remarkably well. If Dave has a fault, it’s that he’s too nice and too accommodating. He’s also shown a lot of class. The only reason he isn’t a Heisman front-runner is because Fresno State lost those two games. A lot of people would be bitter, but not him.

HPF: Trent Dilfer was also a highly-rated Bulldog QB who’s been a serviceable, but not great NFL QB — did you happen to cover Dilfer, and if so, how does Carr differ?

Warszawski: I didn’t cover Dilfer, but those who did say Carr is the better prospect. Dilfer had a great arm and played in a wide-open vertical offense. He was not, however, anywhere near the athlete of Carr’s caliber. Incidentally, the two are good friends and Trent has graciously gone out of his way to praise Carr as a much better college quarterback than he ever was.

HPF: Would you agree that Fresno State’s coaches have a tendency to get a bit conservative and take the ball out of Carr’s hands at key points in the game, and if so, why do they do that? Is it a reflection on Carr’s abilities, or…?

Warszawski: (Head coach) Pat Hill is an old offensive lineman who would run on every down if he could get away with it. And he wants a ball-control passing game. Whenever you see Fresno State "go conservative," this is the reason. It’s the reason they lost the Boise State and Hawaii games, blowing two-touchdown third-quarter leads in each. It has nothing to do with Carr, except maybe they were protecting him from hits.

HPF: How would you rate both the talent around Carr (does he make everyone around him better, for example), and how would you rate the talent Carr has faced with this year’s schedule — is he playing topflight competition?

Warszawski: Fresno State has two receivers (Bernard Berrian and Rodney Wright) who will probably play in the NFL, and two others who are good college-level types. He has a pretty decent offensive line, but below average running backs. There’s no doubt Carr’s statistics are inflated because he plays in the WAC, land of bad pass defenses. Against Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin (though), he went a combined 64 of 108 for 778 yards, 7 touchdowns and 1 interception.

HPF: What do the coaches at Fresno State think of Carr; his talent, his work ethic?

Warszawski: You don’t hear anything except glowing praise. Carr arrived as a chunky freshman and turned himself into a chiseled athlete. Hill especially respects Carr for paying his dues and waiting his turn. Carr never considered transferring, but it got rocky at times because he’s such a competitor.

HPF: What kind of person is Carr off the field? What kind of impact does his wife and young child have on him?

Warszawski: If character is the Texans’ No. 1 consideration, then Carr is the man. There’s really nothing bad to say about him. The guy is basically treated like a rock star in Fresno (constant photo and autograph requests) and is friendly to all. Melody and Austin (his wife and one-year old son) really seem to have a grounding effect. The future first rounder changes diapers and drives a 1960s Ford pickup given to him by his grandfather.

HPF: Is there any play or game from this year that was a quintessential David Carr moment?

Warszawski: There are a number of throws that come to mind. A laser beam through three Colorado defenders for a key touchdown. A beautiful timing pass in the back of the end zone against Wisconsin. But perhaps the last-second comeback against Colorado State, when he directed the team 57 yards in 32 seconds to set up the tying field goal (with John Elway standing on the sideline) probably wins the prize.

HPF: And lastly, are there other Fresno State seniors we should be keeping an eye on?

Warszawski: A couple mock drafts I’ve seen show defensive tackle Alan Harper(6-2, 285) going in the last first round. He’s said to be a good fit in the "Tampa Bay system," a la Warren Sapp. Rodney Wright, a small (5-9, 175) but lightning quick wide receiver will get a look. So will linebacker Maurice Rodriguez
(6-2, 240, 4.5 in 40) and cornerback Tierre Sams, a 4.3 guy.

I know Texans GM Charley Casserly spent an entire week in Fresno scouting Carr. I got a short interview out of him but he didn’t say much. It doesn’t seem likely Carr will be the top overall pick, but you never know.

Marek Warszawski has covered Fresno State and the WAC conference for three years. We want to thank him for his insightful and well-thought out responses.

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