Yesterday we talked a bit about some of the guys that will need to step up in order for this season to be a success for Danny Hope...and quite candidly, a bowl game seems to be a long shot at this point. But, football is a game played with aggression and emotion. And while nothing matches a deep, talented, well-coached team, a well-coached, amped team with a lot to prove can make a significant amount of noise.
Joe Tiller's teams always seemed prepared and played a consistent brand of football. But, Tiller teams at times also seemed emotionally arid in the last few seasons. It wasn't always that way- Guys like Drew Brees, Chukki Okobi, Vinny Sutherland, Matt Mitrione, Tim Stratton, Shaun Phillips, Nick Hardwick, Dan Bick and others seemed to react to the size and scope of games...and Coach Tiller, by his own admission, didn't like that type of emotion. On more than one occasion, he talked of never being too high or too low. His favorite type of players were seemed to be Kyle Orton, Taylor Stubblefield, Mike Otto, Ryan Baker and Jaycen Taylor-types. Every one of these guys were tough as nails...and all had the lunch bucket mentality- you do your job, you do it the same way each time...You prepare for everybody the same way- never too high, never too low.
I think the fair-minded fan and observer can see merit in both mentalities. The problem is, when the playing field isn't level from top-to-bottom...when all 22 players on the field aren't at the same level as their 22, you're going to need more from almost everybody on the field.
Purdue football is at that point again. Depth will be a problem in '09. From the wide receiver position to the defensive line, there will be a lot of guys playing a lot of snaps who have seen little or no playing time at the collegiate level. Those guys will be inconsistent...they'll tire out quickly and they'll be overwhelmed when playing in front of 100,000 fans. That's when you need players who will give the proverbial "bird" to those who doubt them- the media, the opposing fans and even their own alums, when they're not on board. Right now, Purdue needs impassioned warriors...the time for stoic technicians has gone.
It's going to take getting way up for some games and playing on the fact that some teams just believe they deserve more than Danny Hope's team. It's going to take guys that were passed over by Michigan, Florida, Georgia and others who remember that they have to earn what they get. It's going to take an idea, a perspective, a collective team philosophy that it's Purdue versus the world...and at this point, really isn't it just that? Some fan bases call Purdue football boring, others call Purdue a perpetual middling program and others still (Purdue's own fans and alums) have resigned themselves to the fact that it's Michigan, aOSU, Penn State...and everyone else falls in line behind them, in the BT.
Make no mistake, teams reflect their coaches. Urban Meyer's teams reflect an awareness of their greatness. Pete Carroll's teams play loose-and-fast. Jim Tressel's teams play precise and controlled. Charlie Weis' teams want everyone to know how great & nasty they are (even if they don't play that way). Ron Zook's teams play with great energy...and so on.
If you've had a chance to watch Danny Hope during Purdue football practices (last year on BTN) and you've heard what former players like Light and Brees say about Hope, you start to understand what he's about. Then, take a minute to listen to him at a presser...You'll see a theme- he's gritty, he moves quickly, he's honest, he's got some mean to him, and he's enthusiastic. I think he'll cultivate the hard-charging type of players on the roster and he'll push the wallflowers to either take control or follow someone who will.
While no one knows how successful Danny Hope will be during his tenure at Purdue, every person who follows this program understands that a coach with his personality is precisely what the program needs at this point in time. I'm looking forward to watching a team that in the coming falls that plays the game as if they have something to prove...They do.