Curtis Painter has graduated (and how was being Mel Kiper’s top QB in the draft class of ’09, Curtis?) and Justin Siller was kicked out of school for academic improprieties (cheating). That leaves Joey Elliott as the lone experienced QB on the Boilermaker roster. Walkon Chris Bennett was forced into action following a rash of injuries last year as well.
|Purdue QBs Passing 2008|
|Purdue QBs Rushing 2008|
Elliott was “meh” in his appearances last year, before he was knocked out for the season in the Northwestern game. He’ll have to improve if the Boilermakers want any chance of a good year in 2009.
Purdue’s leading rusher, Kory Sheets departs. However, that’s not as damaging as it looks, since he was supposed to split time with Jaycen Taylor last year, before Taylor missed the entire season with an injury. Redshirt senior Frank Halliburton will get some carries as well, along with sophomore Ralph Bolden. Incoming freshman Al-Terek McBurse enrolled in the winter semester, but did not participate in spring practice due to an academic issue.
|Purdue RBs Rushing 2008|
|Purdue RBs Receiving 2008|
The dropoff at this position won’t be quite as precipitous as it seems just looking at last year’s yardage, but there still might be a step back. Taylor, despite 5 years in a college system, is still a pretty little guy, so the ball will have to be spread around a bit more. If McBurse’s academic issue is cleared up, he’s expected to contribute to the Boilermakers this year. The remaining players are mostly going to be for depth purposes, however.
Dear lord, did the Boilermakers lose a ton of players here. Desmond Tardy and Greg Orton were the team’s most talented players last year, and both are gone. Brandon Whittington, Jerry Wasikowski, and Joe Whitest all got some legitimate playing time last year, as well. Stepping up to replace all those guys will be Keith Smith and Aaron Valentin, a junior and redshirt senior, respectively. Behind them, it’s anybody’s guess, with the players who have gotten a little action in the past likely to see increased roles this year.
|Purdue Receivers Receiving 2008|
|Jerry Wasikowski (TE)||13||89||0||6.85|
|Colton McKey (TE)||2||9||0||4.50|
|Jeff Lindsay (TE)||1||8||0||8.00|
|Purdue Receivers Rushing 2008|
Tardy and Orton were by far the most talented Boilermakers last year, so losing them is tough.Losing so many other players may not seem like quite as big a deal to Purdue, since new coach Danny Hope is not expected to spread the field as much as Joe Tiller did in Purdue’s heyday. Smith and Valentin are both decent enough players, though I question Valentin’s yards/catch avergae with such a small sample size (he had a 57-yarder against Central Michigan, and a 79-yarder against Indiana – great plays or poor competition?).
Tackle Sean Sester was supposed to be one of the stars of Purdue’s offense, but he was hurt for much of the year, and only played in 9 games. He’s now moved on, as has center Corey Benton. Garret Miller, a part-time player, has also graduated. Ken Plue, who started much of last year as a true freshman, returns at guard. Redshirt senior Zach Jones played at three different positions on the line last year, but will likely play right tackle this year. Redshirt senior Eric Hedstrom will play one of the guard positions. That leaves the tackle spot and center position vacated by Sester and Benton. True sophomore Dennis Kelly played in the last five games in 2008, and will probably start the season at offensive tackle. Junior Justin Pierce will be the other guard.
This is a young line for the Boilermakers. They look to be starting two true sophomores, a true junior, and two redshirt seniors, one of whom is a former walkon. Unless some players can really come through as surprises, this should be a vulnerable unit for the Boilermakers. That doesn’t bode well for a team that was 85th in rushing offense and ceded 2 sacks per game last season, despite two additional senior starters.
It’s hard to know exactly what the offensive scheme will look like under new headman Danny Hope. The conventional wisdom says he won’t spread it out quite as much. With weaknesses at QB, WR and offensive line, it could be a pretty bad year for the Purdue offense. If they still had a dual-threat QB like Siller, they might be able improvise a bit to create offense. As it is, they should be far less able to move the ball. I would say they’ll try to pound it out with a pretty good stable of backs, but a fairly weak offensive line might prevent them from doing that.
The top two players along the defensive line return in junior end Ryan Kerrigan and redshirt senior tackle Mike Neal. However, end Ryan Baker and tackles Alex Magee (a third round pick in the NFL)nfl and Jermaine Guynn all have graduated from Purdue. Redshirt senior Keyon Brown will likely step up into a pass-rush role for the Boilers, with sophomores Gerald Gooden and Nickaro Golding providing some depth. Nick Mondek and Chris Cooke will likely both get time in the DT rotation.
|Purdue Defensive Line 2008|
Since Purdue recruited so poorly towards the end of the Joe Tiller era, it’s going to be tough to replace a third-round pick on the defensive line. However, Kerrigan and Neal were the top two tacklers and sack masters on the Boilers’ defense. The question will be whether losing Magee in the middle makes the edge rush less easy to come by, especially after losing Ryan Baker as well.
When I originally looked at the NCAA’s stats page, Joe Holland was listed as a defensive back, which would have meant very, very few tackles for the Purdue LB corps. Even still, they didn’t have a ton of them, and nearly half are out the window with the departure of Anthony Heygood. Holland will have to step up as a leader in his sophomore year, and his classmate Chris Carlino will play an expanded role as well.
|Purdue Linebackers 2008|
Yikes, there are practically no bodies here for the first defense under head coach Danny Hope. Perhaps some of the freshmen who redshirted last year will step up, or perhaps a true freshman or two will earn his stripes. Either way, the pickings are super-slim in the LB corps. An injury to Holland or Carlino could be devastating.
Track athlete/football walkon Frank Duong is gone, but he’s the only departure from the Boilers’ secondary. 5th-year Torri Williams will return as a starting safety, fellow redshirt senior Brandon King will be s starting corner once more. David Pender will be the other starter at corner in his senior season. Dwight McClean will likely be the other starter at safety. Royce Adams has switched from corner to offense (I guess the coaches are confident in their corner depth), and Adam Wolf has made a similar move from safety. The depth isn’t hurting despite those position switches, especially at the safety position.
|Purdue Defensive Backs 2008|
The secondary will be the unquestioned strength of Purdue’s team, especially considering it was one of the few above-average units on last year’s team (33rd in opponents’ passing efficiency). With only one player departing, and the coaches confident enough to switch two defensive backs to wideout, expect good things from the secondary.
The secondary should be strong. The front seven – eh, not so much. The gameplan is going to be pounding the ball, as the Boilers’ 93rd-ranked rush defense loses some pretty important pieces at the first two levels. Of course, that will not only allow teams to rack up yardage on the ground, but also open up the passing game. With less pressure on the quarterback and a starting safety gone, maybe opposing signal-callers will still be able to pass a bit.
Senior Chris Summers and Sophomore Carson Wiggs, who split time at both punter and kicker last year, before Summers settled into the punter role and Wiggs as the kicker, both return this fall for Purdue.
|Purdue Kicking 2008|
|Purdue Punting 2008|
Summers started off the year as the placekicker, and single-handedly lost the Oregon game by missing a makeable field goal at the end of regulation (he also missed on in overtime, but the Ducks scored a touchdown to render it moot). Wiggs took over and did a pretty good job, and Summers became the full-time punter. He wasn’t great at that spot either, but much better than he was as a field goal kicker.
Barring a miracle, the Danny Hope era at Purdue does not look like it will be getting off to a sterling start. The offense loses some of its biggest playmakers and a couple important linemen, and the defense’s front lines are decimated. If there’s one strong point of this team, it’s the defensive secondary. However, even they might struggle a bit with opponents able to pick their spots to pass very carefully. If teams can get an early lead on Purdue (and based on the Purdue offense, that shouldn’t be a tough task most times), they should be able to grind out wins.