Springtime Roundtable...Can't wait until September.

1.I love spring. Flowers blooming. Birds chirping. Bones breaking. ACL’s tearing. List the injuries your team sustained and describe their impact on 2008.

It was a pretty good spring for our Boilers as not many new injuries occurred. That said, the offensive line was pretty banged up coming into spring and couldn't get the reps that it needed due to recovery time. The same can be said for the oft-injured Torri Williams. He was coming off of his third serious injury of his Purdue career. Greg Orton and Desmond Tardy were both out of spring ball as well due to minor injuries.

What's this all mean? Well, it meant that the Spring Game was not nearly the contest it might have been. The tight ends looked great, but that could be because the two best wideouts weren't really an option...and it's always difficult to gauge an offense with a patchwork o-line.

I'm pretty optimistic that these players being shelved during the spring won't hurt Purdue too badly in the fall, in fact, it might help since most of these guys were vets who knew their roles. In a perfect world, everyone would stay healthy...In West Lafayette, this wasn't too bad at all.

2.Break down the major position battles going on with your offense.

The battle for starting center looked like it was going to be pretty tough, but ex-walk-on (and fellow Cathedral alum) Cory Benton took control of the spot during the last few weeks. It was clear at the spring game that he and Painter seem to be on the same page and he can consistently make the shotgun snap unlike some of the guys vying for the job.

A really fun battle that has been going on for the past two seasons is that between Sheets & Taylor. Both have looked good and both have started, but Taylor, once again, seems to be the guy coming out of spring. A surprise to me was to see Jared Crank overshadow Frank Halliburton at the fullback spot...Hopefully, Hope's whispers in JT's ears will actually produce some meaningful downs for the fullback in '08. It seems each year it's talked about, yet it never gets added into the playbook.

The last position battle I see as intriguing is Ken Plue v. about anybody who stands in his way of a starting position. He's large, and looks awfully talented for a 19 year old...One thing seems clear to me is that he will be able to create a seal on running plays unlike any Purdue lineman in the past 7 seasons.

3.You knew this was coming. Break down the major position battles on defense.

Two battles in the defensive backfield are both very interesting to me. First, David Pender looks to be the real deal at corner...but the other side will be very fun to watch as Purdue has two good options for starters. It looked like it would be Royce Adams job at the end of last season, but Brandon King, a natural corner will probably be moved back from safety during summer practice. Plus, as a wild card, Charlton Williams will see significant playing time as he seemed to "come on" during the end of the season and bowl practice last year.

The second battle might not be a battle between players. It's the aforementioned Williams spot at strong safety. He's definitely the most capable guy back there, but the coaches will have to wrestle with the idea of holding him back a bit as to not get him injured YET AGAIN early in the '08 season. When healthy, he's an all-conference-type guy...sadly, no one's seen much of him since his freshman season.

4.Who are the unknown kids on your team that will be household names come December?

I don't know if he's unknown, especially to Purdue fans, but Jason Werner is a guy that I think will have a loud year in gold and black. He's finally healthy and looked very good in the spring. His combination of speed, size and smarts makes him someone that might become the best linebacker of the Tiller era.

I'm also a big believer in Desmond Tardy. I felt like Dorien Bryant, while talented, took way too many plays off. I don't think Tardy will do that, and the slot receiver is an important one in this offense. By default he'll have a lot of catches, but I think he'll be a difference maker as he eases some of the stress on Greg Orton next season.

On defense, Keyon Brown will remind all of us how important the speed rush used to be in the Brock Spack defense as he'll display shades of Rosey and Phillips in '08. Opposite him, Kerrigan will remind a lot of people of Spencer as he has the size that the above simply don't have.

5.How would you describe the general mood around your program? Are you gearing up the tailgate party for a conference title run or do you get the impression there are going to be a lot of empty seats in your stadium this year?

I think that the energy around the program is a mixed bag right now. Some fans are pleased that Tiller will (barring a disaster of epic proportions) become Purdue's winningest coach in '08. Others, myself included, feel like the program is standing pat a bit. I'm excited to see what the coaching shifts will do to the defense, specifically.

As a fanbase, things should be steady. Purdue probably won't set any school attendance records, but will have a nearly full stadium for every game except Northern Colorado & Central Michigan (it's tough for a fanbase to "get up" for a third time in one year v. a single opponent...especially one from the MAC). I think most fans are thankful for what Joe Tiller has done, but are also looking forward to see what Hope will do with the program. So, is Purdue in football purgatory? Perhaps...at least we're not in football hell, which, if you're older than 20, you probably remember it quite well.

Charlie Murphy in West Lafayette

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