"We're excited about the season, maybe more so than in the past couple years."
And in his defense, why shouldn't he be? In '09 he had a quarterback that had never played significant snaps and skilled positions filled with JuCo transfers, position switchers and unproven commodities. On top of that, youth was being served at nearly every position group and there weren't a ton of veterans that had made a ton of noise.
Coming into '10, an injury to Ralph Bolden, an unproven transfer coming off of an injury of his own, some young skilled players, a young and unproven defensive backfield and an unstable offensive line marked all stood out as questions for the second year coach. We all knew Ryan Kerrigan was good...but really, that was about it...and it didn't get better as the season progressed.
So this year, Coach Hope is excited...so let's join him in the party atmosphere and look forward to what is to come.
-Is there anything better than the fall on a football Saturday? Not for us.
Outside of Purdue, J and I both agree that the early fall is one of the best times of the year for sports. Coming off of the doldrums, there's nothing better for me than a football Saturday as the air starts to cool off a bit- But, a full day of wall-to-wall college football is made even better when your alma mater has a fresh slate and there's potential for big things to happen.
Plus, if you have friends who aren't Boilers is there any better sport for trash talking via text message than football? The 6 day break that's built in between games lends itself for prognostication and banter.
Last thing outside of Purdue, we can always rally around watching IU implode following its feather-soft pre-con 4-0 start. We can revel in Notre Dame disappointing the members of the media and its fanbase who decide to pick this season as the year that the echoes will be awakened. It's been quiet out of SB this off-season...mostly because they're trying to keep their heads low while avoiding off-field problems...but we're just weeks away from it all beginning again. And rest assured, you know it's late summer when morons start talking about UND returning to glory...again.
-We've been Purdue fans for a long time. And this is the first time since the mid-90s that we really haven't had any expectations...at all. We're honestly not expecting a horrible product, but last seasons sour Bucket Game left us pretty numb...so we're not negative...we're not positive...and anything can happen. Who knows, maybe 15 will begin to live up to the number, Ken Plue will live up to his potential, Carson Wiggs will kick a 85 yard field goal or Ralph will come back like the Ralph Bolden of the Toledo game a few seasons ago.
-And speaking of players, these are the proven commodities that give us hope:
Carson Wiggs is the most-accurate kicker in the history of Purdue football...and has the biggest leg Purdue fans have ever seen. Plus, he's never given the student section the finger like the last great kicker that came through West Lafiesta...so that's a positive.
Ricardo Allen got better and better as the season went on last year. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns which put him in an elite group...and he was rock-solid in every-down pass coverage. He anchors a very skilled and uber-experienced defensive backfield.
Kawann "KK" Short has been a force since he stepped on the field as a Freshman. And as the seasons have progressed, he's leaned out, worked on his technique and gotten much better at staying motivated each and every down. I think this might be an example of how Ryan Kerrigan quietly led the junior DT. And now, the Purdue fans aren't the only ones noticing as Short was named a top-5 B1G DT by EsPN. He and Gaston are probably the best tackle duo at Purdue in over a decade.
Dwayne Beckford and Will Lucas are part of the most-veteran unit on the team, the linebackers. This group is kind of a head-scratcher as they've played together a while and are athletic and experienced, but haven't really been noteworthy thus far...That said, Lucas and Beckford both have speed that allows them to play at a faster pace than most LBs we've seen the last five or 6 seasons. Plus, Lucas seems to play with a sizable chip on his shoulder...I like that.
Dennis Kelly still need a few pounds to be dominant, but he's rock solid if nothing else. He'll anchor an offensive line that while experienced hasn't set the world on fire...yet. How could they have done so last year with what was going on behind them?
-After these guys everybody is either coming off of injury, had some inconsistency or is just young. That's not to say someone can't...or won't emerge as an all-conference player. In fact, I kind of expect a few guys to do that. But, there just aren't a ton of proven guys...but we'll talk about that later.
-Back to the positives, Purdue returns four, count 'em, FOUR quarterbacks who have played in Bowl Subdivision games. We're not going to talk about their records as starters or the reasons some of them haven't played a ton. What we will say is that there are a lot of guys in the stable with experience...and that's a positive.
So...maybe Coach Hope is right. Maybe there is more reason to be excited this season than in any other pre-season during his tenure.
Our next part of this series is things we're concerned, if not worried about...but don't think about those right now...Let's get excited!! Football season is just under two months away!