I've got a brother who is a pretty smart guy...he also watches a ton of college football. Since he's generally-cerebral, he thinks a lot about what makes a team good or bad, why they're succeeding and why they're not. One of his best statements or observations on bad football teams is that they never come of age. At the same time, it seems that good teams have guys on the roster for 6 or 7* seasons that competitors just can't wait to see graduate. Granted, a guy like Gary Nord wouldn't care what my brother has to say about Purdue's football team...but hey, you win some, you lose some.
This idea of perpetual youth...and always being a year away, seems to be a fact of life right now in God's country...and it's odd since there seem to be so many veterans in key roles on the roster this season.
When Hope took over, Joey Elliott took over at QB. And while Elliott did exactly what was asked, I think many viewed him as a gapstop until Hope could get his guy in at the helm. The next season, Robert Marve transferred in...and many, ourselves included, thought he would be able to start for Purdue for three seasons and would be great, not good, once he got healthy (as he was coming off of a knee surgery). Those plans were quickly quashed as he tore his ACL yet again...and Henry and Robinson, two true Freshman were thrust into action. Neither set the world on fire, but many Purdue fans loved what they saw out of Henry's leadership style even though he wasn't a great passer.
Now after a few more injuries and a season and one-half later, this season isn't going as we had hoped and the QB position is one which we're forced to look to the future. I like the prospect of Austin Appleby or Danny Etling running the show for the gold and black...both have big arms, seem smart and seem like Purdue-type guys...So next year, Purdue will start to find its way at QB, right?
Purdue's offensive line, the guys who protect the QBs have had a similar road- When Elliott was the QB, ex-DT Jared Zwilling anchored a solid, but under-talented Oline. Next, Nick Mondek moved across the ball to try to shore up the Oline...but the unit couldn't quite get into rhythm. Now, Kitchens and Pamphile came across the ball to make an impact...and they've both become important parts of the rotation...but injuries have plagued this unit in key parts. The good news is, they've got a crop of offensive line talent that is legit...but they're all Freshman. So after a redshirt year, these guys will be ready to plug and play. Plus, this is Coach Hope's expertise as he is an old OLine coach, so we should trust his plan.
The running back position has been pretty solid for Purdue, right? In Hope's first season, I was excited to watch a healthy Ralph Bolden tear up opponents...and he did just that as he gashed Toledo for over 200 yards rushing in his first game as a starter back in 2009. But as the year wore on, he was nicked up and lost some productivity...it happens when guys are injured. Rising special teams star, Al-Terek McBurse played a few solid games as a Freshman after Bolden was injured again...but we knew McBurse would be tough to stop once he got a grasp of the offense and added a few pounds. McBurse transferred at the end of his Sophomore season to Florida A&M...and Bolden came back and split carries with JuCo transfer, Akeem Shavers. But we saw a glimpse of the youth movement- Cottom, Hunt, Mostert, Pegram and company all showed us that Purdue would be great in the backfield in the next few years. It looked like Pegram would be the guy in '12 following his big performance in the Little Pizza Bowl...but Pegram transferred. Mostert hasn't been given a ton of carries and Hunt has thrived when given the chances. Hunt and Cottom are going to be a great one-two punch next season...no doubt about that after Shavers' time in the metallic beige and black is over.
At WR, Bush, Edison and Ross are all pretty solid, but their growth as players has been hampered by inconsistent QB play and the fact that there's no big go-to receiver at the moment. If only these speedy WRs would have had the chance to play with Siller, Smith and Valentin a couple season ago (*sigh*). When Appleby and Etling are running things, Anthrop, Macarthy, Mikesky and co. will do big things. Speaking of big targets, is it me or is there just a ton of good talent on the roster at TE- It's too bad Wright graduates after this season, but Holmes would be killing it this year if he could find a bit of consistency and Marve, TerBush and Henry looked for him...but he'd better watch his back- Carvajal will be breathing down his neck next season when he gets healthy!
On the defensive side of the ball, it's been tough for Purdue to find a DE to continue the Den of Defensive Ends...But after a few years of searching and trying to find an identity, Ryan Russell looks like he might be the guy next year...if he can stay healthy. Plus, Kingsley Ike will be the guy across from him wreaking havoc next season; should be fun.
At the DT spot, no one can contest how good KK Short really is, but opposite him, Bruce Gaston has shown flashes of greatness...but a bum hamstring has hampered his development a bit. Next year, he should play his first completely-healthy season...and rising star, Ryan Watson will grow into a full-time DT (after splitting time at DE in HS). Along with them, Isaac should shore up the middle rotation, and Purdue's DLine will be solid in '13.
At LB, Purdue's going through some growing pains- Will Lucas is the lone returning starter. Injuries and run-ins with the law have kept this unit from being a really respectable piece of a good defense. But Armstead Williams and Joe Gillium should anchor a rock-solid core next year and for the subsequent seasons. Sean Robinson's position switch from QB has helped settle things down a bit in the meantime.
Purdue's cornerbacks have been rock solid...no need to look to the future there. But, the safeties are pretty young with the exception of a walk-on and JuCo transfer that play significant roles. But once Frankie Williams, EJ Johnson, Taylor Richards and company are handed the reigns, watch out B1G QBs...it'll be like the second coming of Stu Schweigert and Ralph Turner. Can't wait 'til '13!!!
This year was supposed to be one that helped Hope's program turn the corner...the more I think of it, and the more I look at the roster, I can't help thinking that we were just a few seasons early on that prognostication...should be fun down the road.
*eg- Stu Schweigert, Tim Stratton, John Standeford, Taylor Stubblefield, Drew Brees, Dorien Bryant...it works in basketball too- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, Smooge, etc...