Who's Ready To Step Up?

If you're like me, right now, you're looking for something...anything to scratch that itch created by the void of not having college football for the last 6 months. And let the truth be known, there's not a lot out there that can do that. But, online publications know about addicts like you and I and are slowly trickling out their early looks at the college football world.

Here are a couple of notes from three of these publications:
Scout.com's Pete Fuitak hasn't yet made his prognostication for the season, but sounds like he thinks it could go any number of ways...but most of Purdue's success will be measured by quarterback consistency. He also likes a few returning players on Purdue's roster, specifically Ryan Kerrigan and newcomer Kawaan Short. Fuitak's analysis is pretty solid...perhaps he can take over the beleaguered Boiler Sports Report?

The next stop, the NYT Blogs Countdown of the 120 D-1 College football teams. They mention us, which helps them earn brownie points...but atop being awesome because they've stopped by BS, their opinion of our Boilers for next season seems to have some wiggle room. Paul Myerberg looks at Joey Elliott as the lynchpin for the season...and seems to intimate that if Elliot can't get the job done physically, Purdue's just biding its time until Marve can get behind the center. He also is bothered by the void the graduated, Anthony "Heywood" leaves at LB...but thinks Purdue's DBs are really the story on defense. A No. 94 ranking is a tough pill to swallow, but who can blame him for placing Purdue there?

Matt Hinton at Rivals.com uses some pretty sound statistical analysis to look at our Boilers. My favorite portion of the article is his look at Purdue versus the top 25 in the last four seasons. While the 0-13 record is an easy thing to focus upon, I like that it's in there to remind us why Purdue had to move on and start rebuilding toward the future. And his opinion, our Boilers aren't in a state of re-modeling, but a demolition and complete rebuild are underway...the depth chart, especially in the skilled positions shows that he might be correct.

Something to think about- Hinton also aludes to the fact that Purdue's in the position it is in because they simply don't have the horses in the stable, right now...and the last five recruting classes' rankings tell that tale well- 29, 50, 59, 63, 74...but then again, isn't this Purdue's M.O. really? Kerrigan is a case in point- he was reccruited by MAC schools, Cincy, IU and Purdue...and he's developed into a very good end, and might be pretty darned good by the time he leaves West Lafayette.

And that leads me to what Purdue must become...and in a hurry! Our Boilers under Joe Tiller had guys like Nick Hardwick, Craig Terrill, Curtis Painter and many others come into Purdue quietly and leave via the NFL draft. Under Tiller, Purdue was a developmental team- seldom did a player come in as highly touted, play from day one and end his career as a star en route to the NFL.

So the challenge Danny Hope has at this point is blending the old with the new- the developmental players recruited to play in Tiller's system and the speedy skilled guys that are going to be asked to step up right away. That's why many heady prognosticators and Purdue fans alike think Hope's first season will be a 3-5 win season...Purdue football is in the midst of an overhaul of a roster, changes to a team philosophy and the purging of some bad habits that had crept in over the last five seasons. A difficult set of tasks, no doubt, but not impossible.

The worst case scenario I've read is a 1-11 season...the best is an 8-win season. And truth be known, I think an 8-win season would be miraculous, ridiculous...just as absurd really, as a one-win season. But, to sqeeze out enough wins to even almost make a bowl game, Hope is going to have to have a few guys surpise their BT opponents...so who are the players that might surpise people? Here are a few numbers that you, as Purdue fans should commit to memory, in my opinion:

I think the offensive line is going to be noteworthy...and honestly, they'll have to be. Everybody knows the quarterback by default, so he's disqualified.

-Ken Plue has the size and strength to be All-Conference...and as he continues to get a bit lighter, he'll have very good footwork this season. Look for Plue to swallow up a linebacker or 10 on delays.

-Ralph Bolden will benefit from Plue as much as anybody outside of Joey Elliott. Bolden should be able to get low and hide from defensive linemen before exploding through the hole and getting into the second level of the defense.

-Keith Smith is still relatively a novice at wide receiver...and last season, according to his coach he was a bit chubby. If you attended the Spring game, you know he can catch...and as a safety valve, he should be able to create problems because of his strength.

-Eric Williams number is not yet on the books...but after dinking and dunking, the safeties and corners might creep closer and closer to the line of scrimmage...that's when a home run hitter comes into play. Williams has big time speed (4.4) and might make his name getting past CBs as Elliott creates time.


-Mike Neal has had one of the quietest four years for a guy who's played a lot in recent memory. He's got a significant chip on his shoulder...something I think Hope will like and opponents won't.

-Kawaan Short is young, but he's got big time size...and like his counterpart at DT, he plays with a mean streak. He and Neal might make Purdue a very tough team to run against in '09.

-Jason Werner is a guy who every Purdue fan is familiar with...at least by name. But if you've seen him during a spring game, or had the chance to watch him play in high school, you know he's a gamer who's strong and athletic. Plus, he's an on-field coach. I'm betting on Werner staying healthy this season...and making big noise.

-Ishmael Aristide is another guy who is playing to prove something...Since I picked a Freshman on offense, I wanted to pick one on defense. Aristide, if his knee is healthy, can be a shut-down corner. He'll be coming in off of the bench for much of the season, and because of that, I think opposing QBs will try to test him...that'll be a mistake. He's got great closing speed and a knack for disrupting receiver's routes. Plus, he hits very hard for a sub-200 pounder.

Purdue Football 2009 Billboards

Shocker: Floyd Out at SC