Fresno State defensive end Chris Carter had a career year in 2010, helping a mediocre defensive line improve dramatically. Carter posted a WAC-high 11 sacks -- equaling the total number Fresno State had in all of 2009. He also tied for second in the WAC in tackles for loss with 16.5 and forced four fumbles on the year, which was good enough to make him the WAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Now Carter is preparing to play his final game for the Bulldogs, against Northern Illinois in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl on Saturday in Boise, Idaho. I had a chance to speak to Carter from Boise, and here is a little of what he had to say about this season.
Chris, you equaled the total number of sacks the entire team had in 2009. How did you do that?
Chris Carter: I really just like to give a lot of credit to our defensive line coaches, coach Will Plemons and an assistant coach, [Michael] Kelley. Those two guys are tremendous coaches and are a perfect team together. They are meticulous about every little thing we do. They get on us about the small things. When I was first here, we didn’t have those two guys and we weren’t progressing as a defensive line. Once we brought those guys in, everything changed. We get more excited about practice every day. We work hard and we have a good time doing it.
What specifically worked for you this year to be able to get after the quarterback?
CC: Our defensive tackles have done a tremendous job this year. They’ve gotten a lot of sacks, too -- Logan Harrell, as well. Sometimes our noseguards don’t get a lot of credit. Those guys anchor the quarterbacks, keep them inside, push them back, and allow me to use my speed to capitalize and get sacks. … This summer, everyone came in with a new mentality. We knew how we were getting coached and we got excited about it. Me and Cornell Banks and Chris Lewis took leadership among defensive line.
Every year I’ve been here, our D-line has been kinda bad. It’s one of those things where every offseason you look at clippings, and everybody’s ripping on our D-line. This year, I was able to finish my senior season with a big bang.
How did you feel when you found out you won WAC Defensive Player of the Year?
CC: I don’t even want to take full credit for that. The guys around me did such a tremendous job with that. There were a lot of worthy candidates, [Nevada defensive end] Dontay Moch was coming back. I was fortunate enough to have better stats because of my supporting staff. … I do remember my freshman year, Marcus Riley got it. Even though he’s a linebacker and I play defensive end, I looked up to him. He really mentored me, and I told my parents, "I want to win that award before I leave Fresno State. I promise I’m going to win that award." I was first-team All-Conference last year and I said, "I can do more this year." That was my biggest goal, something I was striving for the whole offseason.
So that is pretty neat you achieved a goal you set out to get your freshman season.
CC: It’s kind of crazy, but it makes it that much more special to me.
Did you change anything in your game to allow you more success this season?
CC: My emphasis on my pass-rushing game is my get-off. That’s where I stand out. After every practice, I work extra on that. My coaches sit out there and critique my get-offs. I work a move at the end of it, and they will tell me the guy you’re going against this week is light on his feet or he’s heavy, he’s a leaner. If I do the extra reps after every practice, I get over 1,000 extra get-offs and reps. That’s one thing I’ve been able to add to my whole game plan every year. I didn’t do that a lot when I first got here. I did the workouts and practiced hard, but it’s the little things that helped set me apart and helped me excel.
You are facing yet another mobile quarterback Saturday in Chandler Harnish. How do you try to contain him?
CC: Our biggest thing is squeeze the pocket. You can’t tackle him right away -- you have to squeeze him and force him to go one way. It’s kind of like squeezing a pimple. Our inside guys really have to come to play. We’re going to have to contain outside and force him to go inside, were there won’t be any room to run.