Here's what we know- Curtis Painter has thrown for a lot of yards during the course of his career. We also know that outside of Greg Orton, most of the receivers that have caught most of Painter's completions during his career are no longer in West Lafayette. So is there reason for concern? If not, who's going to step up?
Curtis tells the press that he isn't worried about his receiving corps simply because he has a lot of upper classmen that know the offense that should be able to step in...Let's take a look at who these guys are and what might make them a household name (at least in the Big Ten) by the end of '08. You make your own decision if you think Curtis is telling the truth or really believes that the offense won't suffer due to last year's attrition.
-#6 Desmond Tardy 6'1" 199
Desmond was Indiana's Mr. Football as a quarterback for national high school power, Warren Central. He came into Purdue and ran some scout team quarterback and even got a look at QB when Tiller was looking at utilizing more triple option. He was moved to receiver and played back-up to Bryant his previous three years on campus. It looked like he would be a shoe-in for the starter at slot, but the next guy on our list seems to have an edge, according to some coaches. Like Bryant before him, Tardy seems to look up a bit when big hits are coming...not quite to the level that Bryant had this problem, but it's definitely a reason for concern.
-#8 Keith Smith 6'2" 226
Smith came to Purdue from Texas, also playing quarterback. He started his career as a third-string quarterback, but was moved to safety, where he played nearly half a season, due to Purdue's lack of depth at the spot because of injuries. Last season, Smith sat out because he was tending to a family matter back home. He played receiver in bowl practices and the coaches seem to think, despite his larger size, he can pick up some of the slack left by Bryant. Younger Purdue fans might think that since the slightly-built Stubblefield and Bryant thrived in the slot that the larger Smith might not be a good fit. Before those two, Chris Daniels helped Drew Brees put up big numbers in the same offense...Smith is a bigger, stronger receiver similar to Daniels.
-#16 Jeff Panfil 6'5" 226
Panfil was a quarterback as recently as last season. And like Smith came from Texas and was a dual-threat QB. Panfil might be a long shot to make a lot of noise next season since he doesn't seem to be as fluid of a runner as is Smith...but his size might help him produce versus tough bump defenses like aOSU, UM and other programs that have given Purdue receivers problems in the past.
-#17 Aaron Valentin 6'1" 205
Valentin is a JuCo transfer that came to Purdue in the spring. The coaches like him quite a bit as he seemed to have picked up the offense well in spring ball. Valentin was an Honorable Mention All-American out of JuCo and looks like he might step in and start right away.
-#18 Roberto McBean 6'0" 192
McBean is another JuCo product who is said to have good hands. He doesn't have a lot of size and did not have a reception during the '07 campaign. That said, he's being mentioned as a potential starter.
-#19 Brandon Whittington 6'2" 213
Whittington is a big body who hasn't had much opportunity to show his ability. He has played during the last three seasons at Purdue, but primarily in blocking situations. Whittington has been tested as a DB as well, but ended up coming back to receiver as it seemed to be more of a natural position for him. Perhaps Whittington can be this year's Jake Standeford?
-#21 Greg Orton 6'3" 199
Orton by far has had the most productive career of any of the receivers in the stable. Orton came into Purdue's program quietly in that he was overshadowed by the troubled Lymon who was kicked off of the team after multiple brushes with the law. Orton has good size and decent hands but amazing body control as we saw often in '07. My main knock on Orton is his consistency. It seems that if he has minor injuries (i.e. hamstring) his concentration isn't as great as it is when he's completely healthy. Problem is, no one's completely healthy during the Big Ten season. I got to meet him during spring ball and found Greg to be a really likable guy...and couldn't help but notice when we shook hands that he has simply gigantic hands- never a bad thing for a flanker. I look for Orton to have 1000+ yards receiving in '08.
#23 Waynelle Gravesande 6'0" 169
Gravesande is a northeast product coming from New Jersey. Like Sherman, I thought he might crack the two-deeps at slot, but with Smith moving into that position, it may be difficult. Plus, his lack of weight might make it difficult for him to see the field next season.
-#38 T.J. Barbarette 5'6" 160
Yes, that's right, he is actually 5'6". Barbarette is a walk-on who is still trying to earn a scholarship. He's naturally a fast guy whose speed got him mentioned by Tiller multiple times during spring ball. Due to his lack of size, I don't see him making a huge amount of noise as a regular receiver, but his height and speed remind me of Donald Winston who was a great role receiver during Tiller's early years.
-#83 Joe Whitest 6'2" 195
Whitest is a good-sized receiver with longer arms and great hands. Much like Orton, Whitest has great body control...He played well during the spring...It seems he has an inside track on picking up where Lymon left off- let's hope he has a better grasp of the offense than did Selwyn and also hope he is a much better blocker than Lymon.
-#86 Derrick Sherman 5'11" 191
Sherman, who I thought would have impact in '08 has decided to leave the program and transfer elsewhere.
-(incoming JuCo) Aresenio Curry 6'4" 210
Curry is a Florida product originally and has played high-quality competition...so he won't be afraid of Big Ten DBs. That said, he is a JuCo transfer with three years of eligibility, so a year in the system will help this big and relatively fast receiver get his feet under him. If he cracks the two-deeps, I don't think it will be until late in the year.
In a one tight-end, three wideout set, I think you'll see:
Kyle Adams, Keith Smith, Desmond Tardy, Greg Orton & Aaron Valentin starting...plus, if the o-line can hold up (and that's a big if), we might even see a two-back set in something other than the goal line situations.
But, a lot can happen before camp and during camp...Regardless of whom arises, I hope there is a corps of receivers who have the tenacity and will of Jake Standeford and Chris Daniels, the speed of Dorien Bryant and the hands and route-running of Taylor Stubblefield...One can always hope.
If you've got a few minutes and are jonesin' for Boiler football, take a moment and enjoy...if you're looking for my typical quick-read, this may be too much content for you.