Some of the biggest question marks that we all had coming into camp are slowly being answered.
Who's going to play WR?
We all knew Keith Smith was rock solid...and Aaron Valentin appeared to be as well at the end of the spring...but the drop-off was dramatic after those two.
Now, some other names and newcomers are emerging. JuCo transfers, Keith Carlos and Cortez Smith have both shown they are dangerous with the ball in their hands...but Carlos is still not-quite up to speed on the offensive system. After those two older new faces, true Freshmen, Gary Bush and Coach Hope's newbie favorite, Antavian Edison have been consistent contributors in practice and scrimmages alike.
Two guys I thought would make some noise (Eric Williams & Xavier Reese) now appear to be on a collision course with a redshirt for '09...this is surprising to me because both seemed to be shoe-ins for early playing time in this depleted corps.
A few young vets in the mix are Tommie Thomas, Royce Adams & Waynelle Gravesande. Hope's talked about Adams' physical nature and how he's been able to effectively transition to receiver...but neither Thomas or Gravesande has received a ton of attention; at least in public.
So at this point these guys seem to be on or sniffing around the two-deep:
Will Jaycen Taylor be ready by the Toledo game?
It would seem so.
Coach Hope and Taylor alike just days ago were downplaying optimism about Taylor's surgically-repaired knee and both decided to focus on Jaycen as a leader or a tough guy, but not a running back. That's taken a dramatic turn in the last two days as Hope says Taylor might be the #1 RB in just days...and Taylor is talking less like a guy who's doubting and more like a guy who's starting to believe.
Will ATM have immediate impact?
This one's pretty gray so far to me.
McBurse's vision and quick first step have both been complimented by players and coaches alike, but it sounds like he might be having a tough time at grasping the offense, at least thus far...this might not be the end of the world. RBs get banged up during a season...and if McBurse can come along as the season progresses, he'll surely have a role. But, it appears a few guys have a leg up to play RB.
Jaycen Taylor/Ralph Bolden (co #1)
How different will Camp Hope be?
Publicly, Danny Hope has a lot of visible differences from Tiller. For one thing- he's extremely positive...almost ad nauseum. Perhaps this is part of his plan, but it's pretty difficult to get a ton of info from the man because everybody's doing so great...at least at something. If a guy's not picking up on the system, Hope seems to compliment his athleticism...if a guy's a half-step slow, he thinks the game really well.
Personally, I like this. I've always thought it is generally smarter to talk up the guys who bleed for you and work their arses off for a team/school in public and air grievances behind closed doors.
Is the defensive backfield ready to dominate?
Who knows...but as of now it doesn't appear that way.
Pender and King have both been held out of multiple practices and scrimmages and Mclean might not even be a starter. What looked like a rock solid unit has been pushed by a bunch of guys who have barely broken in their vegas gold helmets...and, by Hope's admission, the thin defensive backfield has been gassed on more than one occasion. Even if the starters are as good as any defensive backfield in America, is the drop-off going to be so dramatic that the ones are forced to stay out on the field for too many plays? Perhaps. One thing that's shocked me a bit out of camp is that really only one newcomer seems to be edging his way onto the depth chart. Josh Johnson has impressed the coaches and might be backing up King by the time Toledo comes to Ross Ade.
Some other questions I hope are answered in the next month:
-Will Rob Henry prove to be as promising as many believe he can be?
(we have yet to hear a word about him from Coach Hope)
-Will Najee Tyler stay at QB?
-Will these coordinators struggle in their first season at Purdue?
-Will Mondek earn his way back into the starting defensive line?