When Nate Woody arrived in his new position as Army defensive coordinator in early 2020, he had just arrived from Michigan, a program littered with future NFL players, especially in the pass-rush department. Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Kwity Paye, Josh Uche and Michael Danna were all NFL draft picks from this 2019 Wolverines defense.
Army, meanwhile, had produced just two draft picks since 1969, both seventh-rounders. Woody knew what he was walking into and his first impression of Carter was not overwhelming.
“He didn’t stand out from the start,” admitted Woody.
Arriving in 2019 at 225 pounds, Carter was coming off a first season as a scout team during which he focused primarily on bulking up. But once Woody put Carter through some pass-rush drills at the Spring Ball that year, the coach’s impression quickly transformed.
“I had never really seen a 6-7 guy do stunts like that. His hips were so fluid,” Woody said. “I thought, my God, this guy could really be special.”
At the end of that season, Carter got a pass-rush role on Army’s “Cheetah” package when they went nickel or dime on defense. He played well in a win over Georgia Southern, and again in Navy’s 15-0 shutout, then started the bowling game, a 24-21 loss to West Virginia.
In 2021, Carter landed a starting job at rusher spot “Dog” and took the country by storm. Three sacks in Game 1 at Georgia State, 1.5 against Western Kentucky, two more against. Ball State and one in a Wisconsin near-upset — pretty soon, Carter was a household name. He would end his All-America season with a sack, a fourth tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter in a bowl win over Missouri.
Every NFL team made plans to send evaluators to West Point, if they hadn’t already.
“There are professional scouts at our practices every day now, and I mean every day,” Monken said. “The difference (between last season)? Literally the fact that they are here every day. Here to see André.”
Some NFL scouts, after Carter first appeared on their radar, were surprised to find he wasn’t the son of the former 49ers, Washington and Patriots pass rusher of the same name (with similar dimensions, to boot ). But they saw the same loose, smooth turn that Woody did in 2020. They were impressed with the way Carter moved as a 3-4 outside linebacker in a two-point position – sometimes rushing, sometimes falling – and shocked to see such a long specimen do it so easily.
“He has a good change of direction, he can run, he can cover, his ball skills are just great,” Woody said. “That time he’s been on tight end has paid off. Great timing, awareness, acceleration…and that wingspan (81 1/2 inches), man. He doesn’t have to be (next) a guy to bring it down.”
Woody compared Carter favorably to Ojabo, a second-round Ravens pick in 2022 who likely would have been a first-rounder if he hadn’t suffered a torn Achilles before the draft. Monken sees physical similarities to ex-Bengal Michael Johnson, whom Monken coached at Georgia Tech.