Spring practice begins today, and Hope's Herculean effort to rebuild depth on Purdue's football team commences. With stability only in the defensive backfield and on the offensive line, there are so many personnel issues that are up in the air.
Who's playing quarterback?
Siller, Elliot, Ter Bush & Henry might all make some noise in the contest...and we won't know anything about Henry until August...will Tyler be in the mix?
What will the depth chart at RB look like?
Jaycen Taylor will see significant playing time...but after the Senior back, Fullback, Frank Halliburton and Scatback, Dan Dierking have both seen significant PT at one time or another in the past few seasons...but Ralph Bolden might be the best returning back of them all. Especially since, his surgically-repaired knee will have had over a year to heal. But, most Purdue fans are excited to see ATM take the field this spring. McBurse is the highest-touted RB Purdue has had in a long time, and many fans, and the coaches are giddy with his potential. Regardless, this competition might be the most interesting this spring.
How will Purdue field a WR corps?
You read that question correctly, the question right now is not about depth at this position, it's about warm bodies. Two former DBs now bolster this beleaguered unit (Adams and Thomas), and only Valentin and Smith saw any substantial playing time in '08. The guys that we should learn a lot about this spring are Gravesande (who saw a bit of mop-up duty last season) and Carlos, the JuCo transfer. In the fall, Reese and Williams seem to be the two that should make the most noise and might end up starting.
Who'll be the man at TE
We'll probably see a lot of single-tight end sets under Hope, so depth isn't much of a concern at this position since Adams, Lindsey and McKey have all seen a lot of snaps at this position. But, Panfil might be in the mix too, if he's been able to put on any weight...and I'm absolutely certain that the highl-touted Holmes will be a candidate for the start. The problem is that while there are a lot of talented bodies at this position, both Adams and McKey have had a lot of time lost due to injury and that leaves little game experience if one of them were to go down once again. The real question might be- Is Lindsey going to fulfill his potential after clearly being in Tiller's dog house the past few seasons?
What will happen on the DLine?
Purdue lost two lunch pail guys with the graduation of Baker and Magee, but the defensive line might have the biggest upside of all of the units on the team for '09. Neal and Mondek will anchor the defensive tackles, but I'm very excited to see if Short can become the player that many recruiting publications thought he'd be. He's got great size (6'4" 318#) and great feet as he was a very good basketball player in high school. Incoming Frosh, McDaniel might start as well as he seems to have the size and talent to do so right away. At DE, Purdue has some solid returning talent...and Brown, Gooden and Kerrigan have shown flashes of greatness at one time or another.
Questions at LB, once again
With Golden moving back to LB and Beckford and Higgs both vying for PT, there's going to be some good size and speed at the position, but, Carlino and Holland are the only two players that had a significant role in this unit in '08...and honestly, they probably played a bit too much since the LBs were thin last season. And of course, the yearly question about Jason Werner's back is once again on the table. I feel for the kid and would love to see what he's capable of if he was healthy for an entire season, but I'm not counting on it, at this point.
Purdue University- Talent Mill
This article came out a few weeks ago, but is still noteworthy. You'd expect Miami, USC, aOSU and others to make the top-10 of schools who produce NFL talent, but our Boilers made the board as well. You'll notice there aren't a ton of first-round picks, especially when compared to the others in the top-10, but there are plenty of guys earning a heck of a living in the league who used to wear the vegas gold and black...much like they were out of high school, lots of Tiller players seemed to slip in under the radar and made an impact once at the next level.
UConn, Memphis moving onto the round of eight
I can't tell you how many times I've read that the Memphis v. UConn matchup in the round of eight is all but a done deal. But two similar schools might have something to say about that.
I've always been a closet fan of Mizzou as they seem a lot like Purdue, from the outside. They're the liberal KU's antithesis, Purdue's the liberal IU's antithesis. Neither Purdue or Mizzou ever seem to get a ton of pub in the national media...people generally seem to know more about the football teams' super stars than the team itself...and in basketball, both schools were defined by iconic coaches who never could quite get over the hump in the post-season. And of course, both squads wear gold and black.
Atop that, neither has been given any chance to play eachother in the round of eight in this year's NCAA tourney. From the Best Damn Sports Show talking to Calipari about his potential matchup with Calhoun next round to WFAN's Francesa asking Jim to size up the number two seed Memphis squad, this is the deal...Purdue doesn't have a shot, I guess.
Perhaps our Boilers and Mizzou should just share a charter jet back home and we can just drop them off on the way back from Arizona. They could leave today and save the Athletic Departments some dough...Sounds like a plan.