Time to Make Lemonade, Boilers
Hank did a great job summing up the recruiting class yesterday…GULP!
As a guy who used to love signing day because, that’s when the garbage of recruiting goes away and everything becomes real. You know, no more ‘solid verbals’ that back out, no more big programs poaching another program for their prized guy…no more creepy old guys pouring over videos of 18 year old kids/men.
The guys that signed yesterday and the handful of early enrollees are officially Boilermakers. Here’s the thing- you and I might not be super impressed with the individual rankings of these kids or the fact that this class is the lowest-ranked recruiting class that I can remember as a Purdue fan…but if you’re like me, you’re a Boilermaker too…you have no fallback team in the autumn. This is your squad.
Purdue had needs…lots of needs really. But some glaring deficiencies showed themselves as the season ended. Obviously, losing two three year starters in the defensive backfield made DBs a focus and losing two offensive line made the OL an immediate need. Jurasevich, the unheralded, but effective TE also graduated. Behind those guys, Blough is back and Sindelar is ready to compete for the starting job…but Appleby is a Gator. So while I’m good with Blough at QB, depth gets scary if one of those two goes down (kinda like it did last season when Blough’s concussion and Appleby’s knee made it look like Sindelar would have his shirt burned).
Before I get to needs being fulfilled, let’s be frank. The old adage when a football team is bad is- The good news is we return a ton of guys…the bad news is we return a ton of guys. Hazell’s system has yielded an average of two wins/season…just one versus FBS programs. That’s putrid as we’ve all talked about ad nauseum. My question to many away from the site was, “Would Drew Brees be able to lead our Boilers to 6 wins with Hazell at HC and Shoop at OC?”
I dunno…in fact, I don’t know if he’d be the starter since he would have probably been pushed to work outside of the crappy boundaries Purdue’s ex-OC built.
Good news is the coaching staff has been overhauled…and Freeman is still on staff. The bad news is I’m not sure anyone was knocking down the door of these guys that Purdue put in place. What would you expect? Hazell seems like a dead man walking…Many (myself being one of those people) said it was time to cut bait last December, bite the multi-million dollar bullet and move on. Purdue’s lack of success is noteworthy even for a program that hasn’t had a ton of success, historically.
But this band of misfit toys- an ex-HS school coach, a graduate assistant, an old guy who some say is past his prime and the guys who stuck around are leading your Boilermakers under the tutelage of a HC who has one good season at Kent State as the feather in his cap. They’re our people…at least for one season, minimum.
You have a choice as we all do- leave your Saturdays open and enjoy the fall weather elsewhere, or give it a go until you can’t handle it any longer in Ross Ade…As of now, I’m giving it a go. Why not? Right?
So how did this ragtag, short term bunch do when it comes to fulfilling needs? They got bodies in there; that's a start. I’m not going to talk about each player, but I will pick a few guys that stuck out to me…and why they got my attention.
Alex Criddle might take a year to get on the field, but his size suggests that he’s decent out of the box. a 6’4” 309 lb guy with offers from Harvard, Navy, Army and Vanderbilt is not dumb. And as you know, offensive linemen need to be smart, even in the most rudimentary of offenses.
The kicker JD Dellinger is important because Purdue has a need right away. A few young walk-ons, Meadows and Dellinger will compete to start next season. Griggs got in his own head last season, and went from being on watch lists to terrifying Purdue fans each time he’d get ready to line up for anything outside of the 10 yard line last season. There’s opportunity here.
Javonte Ferguson hails from Florida, but his only major offer was Oregon State. He’s a tiny wide receiver- 5’8”…but I hear he’s fast. Think Donald Winston, if you can remember that far back.
Benaiah Franklin may not have discovered electricity, but he chose Purdue over Maryland. The 6’0” WR has the most memorable name of this class.
Purdue beat out IU and Iowa State (among others) to get the services of CB Kamal Hardy. He’s got good size- 6’1”…but is a bit slight and would benefit from a year in the weight room.
At 6’7” and 265, Grant Hermanns sounds like a power forward more than an O tackle…but that didn’t stop Iowa State, Texas Tech and Wassu from giving him a scholarship offer. I’m sure he’s a year away from the field…but he’ll find the field in a year or two.
The pick of the crop of wide receivers is probably Terrance Landers. He chose to play for Coach Hazell over Iowa and the quickly-rising Pitt program. He’s 6’4”, but needs to fill out a bit. That said, he could find the field early.
Brian Lankford-Johnson is a 6’1” 188 lb RB who needs to get a bit bigger to run between the tackles in the B1G…but Hazell wasn’t the only coach who liked him- He chose Purdue over Cincy, Louisville and South Florida. He says he’s a 4.4 guy…while he might not be quite that, he’s got great open field speed.
Jalen Neal is a 6’7” 310 lb Offensive tackle JuCo transfer. His size and age makes him a candidate to find the two-deeps quickly.
DTackle, Lorenzo Neal, son of a guy with the same name, comes from Houston, TX. at 6’2” 302 lbs, he’s got size to be a run stopper. He chose Purdue over Boise State and Oregon State, among others.
Brandon Shuman might be the steal of the class for Coach Haze. This 5’11” shutdown corner is small, but changes direction well. He had offers from EVERYBODY…most noteworthy, Pitt, Wisconsin, Clemson, Cincy, Cal…and Alabama all tried to earn the services of the Miami, FL product. Like anyone who’s a bit undersized and is good at a sport, he’s got a chip on his shoulder- loves playing bump coverage and helping in run support. He is slight though- around 150 pounds.
Simeon Smiley looks like the best safety of this year’s crop. He’s 6’0” and 195 pounds…offers from Louisville, Minnesota and Wisconsin got my attention. He’s a ball hawking free safety that hits hard and loves it when teams challenge him. He also returns punts…could be on the field from game one in many roles.
Wouldn’t bet against:
Jackson Anthrop. The Anthrop family is the antithesis of the Plumlee family. They’re undersized, quick, love Purdue and seem like a humble bunch. Dru and Danny’s little brother also attended one of the mills of small school football talent, Lafayette Central Catholic. Like Danny, he’s nifty in traffic, but can fly when he’s in the open field and his strides are deceptively long. He’ll play slot at Purdue, but was a great HB in HS. Also like his brother, he returns kicks and punts. He’s a bit shorter than his brother…and he’ll use his grayshirt year to fill out a bit…this will benefit him; wish his bro would have had the same option.
13 states are represented in this class, but Florida was the state with the most signees (six). Some of us skeptics out there might say that Hazell gave offers to guys who didn't deserve a power conference offer. You might be right, but as 'commits' drop like flies late in the game, what's a beleaguered coach to do to fill a roster???
There’s a slew of other guys that I didn’t talk about because they didn’t really get my attention. In star rankings, videos, offers and height/weight listings, you only see a fraction of the player. Is there a Craig Terrell, Ryan Kerrigan or Taylor Stubblefield in this group? Who knows. The right guy, with the right work ethic and the right fit can do big things.
At this point, my best option is to hope for a diamond in the rough or an odds-defying player to set the world on fire for my Boilers. Maybe David Blough looks like Brees in Malone’s system…Maybe Markell Jones takes another step and resembles a Wisconsin RB in 2016.
Perhaps Els bringing back the 4-3 will sprout the growth of the next, long awaited member of the Den of D Ends…Antoine Miles is my favorite candidate for this scenario.
Five starters on offense will be Seniors…Five starters on defense will be as well. In spite of what Morgy tells you, this Purdue team has some experienced starters. Depth was and will continue to be a huge question mark though.
This coaching staff and these ragtag players have a chance to extend their head coach’s time in West Lafayette…while it’s not impossible, it surely looks like a longshot for these guys to win more than 4 games (lofty goal), let alone become bowl eligible. I was optimistic last season that things might change…now I’m merely hoping for a longshot.
It’ll take some defying of the odds for our Boilers to surprise anyone.