We all know that Robert Marve is on the way and will probably play a significant role for Purdue in the '10 season. But, what I'd like to do is look at some players from last year's roster that are set to burst on the scene and make a significant impact.
Here are 7 to watch:
Gerald Gooden 2 (new number)
6'3" 235lb. Junior Defensive End
With Kerrigan's reputation now at the level of which opposing coaches must gameplan for him, Gooden will have one-on-one matchups...and he's no slouch. He's cut from similar cloth as the D-Ends that have made their names at Purdue in the last decade. Fast off the corner, very athletic and with a great motor.
Cortez Smith 81
6'2" 180lb. Senior Wide Receiver
This JuCo product didn't have a ton of production until the second half of the season. But, he has big play ability, as IU and Michigan both know. With a pass-happy offense, someone's gotta make catches that Valentin made in '09, and as Keith Carlos proved he didn't have great hands last season, Smith proved he was sure-handed. Plus, this guy just looks like a wide receiver- he's reminiscent of the long, athletic receivers seen at FSU in the late-90s and, especially until some of the young guys are up to speed on the offensive system. His long arms, good hands and big heart will make him a guy that Marve knows he can count on.
Ugly is the new beautiful
Kawann Short 93
6'3" 310lb. Sophomore Defensive Tackle
Mike Neal's graduation leaves a vacuum...and I think I know the guy that will fill it.
Short showed a bit last season, and didn't need to be an every down guy since Neal was so durable. But, his size and athleticism was undeniable. He was an AAU and HS basketball standout in highschool...and has the footwork to show it. He can bullrush, stop the run and even chase down an unexpecting quarterback from behind. He also has enthusiasm that's contagious in the huddle and his personality will surely become more and more evident as he finds himself become a leader on the field. I think he'll also play a key role in the development of Bruce Gaston.
Antwon Higgs 5
6'3" 248lb. Sophomore Linebacker
An injury kept him out of the spring (like about everybody else). But, as the '09 season progressed, he was nearly-impossible to keep off of the field. He's got DE size and strength and linebacker quickness...so you might see him with his hand in the dirt from time-to-time in the fall. He's a sure tackler and has a mean streak that I really like to see...but off the field, he seems like a good dude.
Albert Evans 32
6'0" 206lb. Junior Safety
Evans has a very important role as the anchor of an extremely-young defensive backfield. I don't expect perfection of him as I think he's going to be forced to help out a lot, but I do expect him to be great in run support, a sure open-field tackler and a pretty nasty hitter if an unfortunate receiver forgets about him back there.
Nick Mondek 62 (new number)
6'5" 285lb. Junior Offensive Tackle
Danny Hope has a knack of making guys into great offensive linemen. I think his next great switch is Mondek. Mondek was a pretty solid defensive tackle the past two years, but seems to be a guy who is made for the offensive line. He has very long arms and is strong so he can create space, plus, he seems to have a frame that will be able to add a few more pounds to inch him closer to 300. But, I don't think it's needed as his quickness and strength is already there. I'm not sure if he'll be starting at the beginning of the season, but think he will by the end. Also, he seems to be a guy who takes things personally on the football field...I think this is a good trait as offensive linemen need a chip on their shoulder. He might become one of Marve's bestest pals in the fall.
Al-Terek McBurse 5
6'0" 198lb. Sophomore Running Back
This one's a pretty easy call to make and is simply a must for Purdue to have success in '10. We all loved watching Ralph Bolden play last season- his combination of speed, power and pass-catching prowess was like no running back I've seen at Purdue in 20 years. But, Bolden probably won't be available in the fall, so ATM is the man. McBurse's speed was easy to spot, both on special teams and in his limited duty as backu-up RB last season. But, I'm not sure if he has the type of running style that can break a ton of tackles. That said, he's very shifty and if he gets into the second level, he can run away from about anyone. I also don't know about his hands...but, if Dierking, Crank and Carlos can just make a few plays a game, ATM's long-striding, straight-up style (reminiscent of Tyrone Wheatley) might prove to be pretty tough to stop. Plus, don't forget Marve is a great runner and the triple option is based on the threat of the QB run and the initial read. ATM might get fat off of his quarterback's ability to read.