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2017 NFL Draft Bio: Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan

The four-year starter at CMU looks to impress NFL scouts with intangibles and potential.

NCAA Football: Miami Beach Bowl-Central Michigan vs Tulsa Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper Rush is quite used to adversity.

In his first game appearance, then-redshirt freshman Rush was thrust into action after an injury to starter Cody Kater and ineffective play from Alex Niznak in what was supposed to be a tune-up game against FCS foe New Hampshire.

Rush lead a furious comeback effort against the Wildcats, throwing for 326 yards, three touchdowns and no interception, and led the Chippewas to a game-winning drive that ended in a field goal from true freshman Ron Coluzzi.

He never relinquished the starting role after that game, finishing his career with 12,894 yards, 90 touchdowns and 55 interceptions. Rush holds multiple records and is behind only the great Dan LeFevour in passing yards and school lore. Rush gained national attention with his seven-touchdown performance in the wild and crazy 2014 Bahamas Bowl comeback effort and cemented his legacy with a just-as-effective performance against Oklahoma State on Sept. 10, 2016.

Although the Chippewas never won the division or the conference with Rush under center, Rush was able to keep the Chippewas competitive in the hyper-competitive MAC West all four years he played.

Now, he moves on to the professional level. Just what should we expect from the former Lansing Catholic HS product?


Measurables:

  • Height and weight: 6 feet and 14 inch, 228 lbs.
  • 40-and-90 yard dash splits: 4.93/9.125
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.46*
  • Three-cone drill: 7.28*
  • Broad jump: 8 feet and 11 inches*
  • Vertical jump: 27 inches
  • Bench: no combine or pro day score

(All numbers from Pride of Detroit’s Kent Lee Platte or CMU Athletics, where noted with an asterisk.)


Strengths:

Rush is an extremely cerebral quarterback. An actuarial sciences major with a 3.9 GPA, Rush’s brainy style of play has been the biggest attraction for many NFL scouts, who love players that can adopt quickly to NFL schemes. It also certainly helps that Rush played in a mostly-pro style offense under Mo Watts during both the Enos and Bonamego years.

Rush has been known to be a film room junkie; by his junior year, Rush was making all the reads at the line and wasn’t dependent on the sideline for audible calls.

Rush was extremely effective at spreading the ball around in his final two years. Rush had the hands of Titus Davis to help pad the stats his first two years, but after Davis departed for the NFL, Rush was still able to maintain and even increase his production from a passing standpoint. In 2015, five receivers had 500 yards or more in receiving yards, while 2016 saw three receivers do the same. It could have potentially been four if Jesse Kroll hadn’t have gotten injured before the start of the conference season.

Rush is extremely effective at anticipating routes and defensive coverage, relying on timing and accuracy to make the throws within certain windows. This definitely shows itself well in game film, as he hits his receivers in stride on most of his successful throws. His ability to move the pocket and deliver is also a plus.


Weaknesses:

It’s immediately apparent that Rush’s arm is, how do you say, kind of weak. On that Hail Mary play vs. Oklahoma State, Rush had to put every milligram of energy into the throw and even then, it was nearly under-thrown to Kroll. And that was only a 40-yard pass.

Rush’s mechanics, which are seen as too narrow, is seen as the problem by most. Rush has been working on his mechanics in that respect and it seems to be doing some good for his prospects. Rush recently had a private workout with the Detroit Lions, where it was noted that his throws seem to be a lot faster and traveling farther.

Also working against Rush is his frame. He definitely doesn’t look the part of a quarterback at the pro level, standing at just over 6 feet and weighing 228 lbs. Multiple draft reports have described Rush as “frumpy,” or otherwise less-than-ideal.

Of course, it has to be noted that many NFL scouts have reservations about Rush’s level of competition. One AFC scout asserted that if Rush was an SEC quarterback, a lot of his throws would turn into pick-sixes. This will probably keep a lot of teams away.


Projection:

CBS Sports ranks Rush as the first UDFA available for quarterbacks and the 17th-best prospect overall, six spots ahead of WMU’s Zach Terrell, the other MAC prospect.

This is about what could be expected after a senior season that as down by the standard his junior year established.

However, a team could potentially swipe Rush in a late round (as a sixth or seventh-round pick) if quarterback options start to run dry and they see potential. And that’s the thing with Rush: if he can get the physical qualities up to par with his mental acumen, he has the makings of an NFL starter.


Film:

It’s rather hard to find film of Cooper Rush, which doesn’t particularly come as a surprise, but here’s the best highlight reel I could come up with that wasn’t all 2016 OK State film. (Pardon the music.)