We were asked by Richie over at MVN.com to contribute a Purdue Preview...so we did so. Ch-Ch-Check it out, yo.
(offense) Curtis Painter (QB), Kory Sheets (RB), Greg Orton (WR), Sean Sester (OL)
(defense) Ryan Baker (DT), Alex Magee (DT), Anthony Heygood (LB)
Joe Tiller (HC), Brock Spack (DC), Ed Zaunbrecher (OC)
Key Returning Players:
(offense) Keith Smith (WR), Jared Zwilling (C)
(defense) David Pender (CB), Torri Williams (S), Mike Neal (DT), Ryan Kerrigan (DE)
Names to learn:
Joey Elliott (QB), Ralph Bolden (RB), Ken Plue (OG)
Jason Werner (LB), Mike Neal (DT), Kawaan Short (DT)
A new era of Purdue football is finally upon us and we're very excited with what Danny Hope might do- From the nature of press conferences to the ad campaign, it seems Coach Hope is the opposite from Coach Tiller in a lot of ways. He doesn't temper his enthusiasm, or "manage expectations" as Tiller did in previous seasons. And most of the Purdue family thought it was time for a change within the program and a high-energy guy with a new perspective was needed. But it wasn't just Coach Tiller that left town at the end of last season. Both coordinators from last season are gone and a bunch of positional coaches are in their first season in West Lafayette as well.
The offensive coordinator, Gary Nord comes to Purdue from FAU...he's also held the same position at UTEP, Oklahoma and Louisville. I think most Purdue fans are looking forward to seeing a 50/50 spread offense that might even use a little fullback at times and relies heavily on the TE, once again. Nord replaces Ed Zaunbrecher, who had only had the job for a year under Tiller...and in '07, had shared the job with Bill Legg. The offense that D-Team play-by-play men still call "Basketball on Grass" was that in reputation only in the last few seasons...and struggled mightily against pretty much everybody except IU, MAC opponents and D-II schools. Nord's fresh looks and schemes, even with an unexperienced quarterback, will produce more points than the offense in '08.
The defensive coordinator is a concern of ours, but not because he's replacing long-time Joe Tiller sidekick, Brock Spack who ended up as the head man at Illinois State. Donn Landholm follows Coach Hope from Eastern Kentucky where he was D-Coordinator there as well. But prior to his four seasons as DC for Hope's old team, he had no coordinator experience...and he's not a young guy in the game either. He's been coaching football for over 20 years, but his only previous BCS coaching experience was as a Grad. Assistant at Arizona State back in the late-80s and early 90s. But we think the defensive personnel might be experienced enough to give him some wiggle room as he gets used to his new position.
This defensive unit boasts of an amazing defensive backfield with four returning starters (Pender, King, Williams and Mclean)...something Purdue fans haven't seen in about five seasons. If I were a betting man, I think I'd put a dollar or two down on two of the four of these guys receiving accolades from the league at the end of the season. In front of them, a couple of experienced linebackers that no one really knows (Carlino & Holland) and a guy who could be the best story in the BT, but I'm not going to mention his name...but Purdue fans know who he is. Throw in highly-touted newcomers Beckford and Higgs, and Purdue has a solid LB corps. The Defensive Ends will be what BT fans have come to expect from Purdue at that position- Kerrigan could be all BT and Gooden and Golding will be solid. In the trenches, the tackles might be the best run-stopping tandem in 5 seasons (Short & Neal)...both are big and both are strong as an ox.
On the offensive side of the ball, Joey Elliott will get the starting nod behind the center. And while Elliott hasn't taken a ton of snaps as Purdue's quarterback, the guys in front of him have...and Danny Hope knows how to get a lot out of an offensive line (he coached the 2000 Purdue line that produced 5 NFL linemen). All of these big uglies have big-time size (they average about 6'6" & right at 300#) and have very good feet...this year you might not see as much cut-blocking, but a bit of pulling. And one of the reasons you'll see a more-active O-Line is because the stable of running backs is full. Jaycen Taylor returns from a torn ACL...just two seasons ago, Taylor split starts with the now-graduated Kory Sheets. The speedy Georgia product, Ralph Bolden, who saw action in '08, will probably rise to the top of the depth chart, at least until Taylor gets confident on his surgically-repaired knee. After him, true Frosh, 4-star recruit, Al-Terek McBurse will surely push the vets and Dan Dierking and FB Frank Halliburton (who averages around 6.0 yds/carry during his career) provide even more options. The TE position is also chocked-full of options, so look for the pass underneath to be used with great regularity. And these tight ends (Adams & Lindsay) are all big and strong-enough to hold their blocks on running plays. Now, the wide-receiver position is a different story. There are plenty of question marks here...and that's not a great thing in an historically pass-first spread offense. Keith Smith is a big-time possession receiver in the slot who could be all BT as he has the size, experience and hands to do big things. After Smith, Aaron Valentin is the only receiver with any experience. Coach Hope has publicly asked his incoming guys to expect to make an impact...and quite frankly, they must for Purdue to succeed. Look for JuCo speedster Keith Carlos to make some noise...and true-Freshmen Eric Williams and Gary Bush both to contribute immediately. Defensive backfield transfer, Royce Adams might fall off the depth chart as the season progresses and the youth movement takes hold.
Purdue's place kicker (Wiggs) and punter (Summers) are both experienced and could contend for all-BT teams as Hope tends to focus on Special Teams quite a bit in practice. Wiggs made a 53-yarder in '08- the longest in school history and one of the longest in the nation, last season.
And don't worry, we've got even more to share in the BS preview coming in the next few weeks. Let us know what you think.