Purdue's Newest Class of Freshmen

My job kept me out of town longer than I thought it would...and a friend of mind sent me a text message at 9:30 telling me of one of the defections from this class that occurred even after the 11th hour. While I wasn't too happy, I was angrier when I read the logistics of the transaction later that evening.

Before I address that, let me talk about my opinion of this class as a whole. I like this group much more than the previous two classes...But let's talk about why- As a knee-jerk reaction to some of the problems Tiller & Co. had with one of the recruiting classes a few years ago, Tiller decided quite publicly to recruit "character". Problem is, they seemed to stop recruiting interior linemen during this period. This two-year chasm could be seen in both offensive and defensive line play...and as a result, more than one player who probably should have been playing one position outside had become an interior lineman. That's OK, if you have time/depth...something that programs like Purdue don't have like the perennial powers of the conference.

This season, it was different. Purdue recruited and signed some legitimate size right out of the box. Most notably, Ken Plue, the only 4-star recruit of this class...But he is a large 4-star guy. Standing 6'7" and weighing in at 360 lbs, he's got the size to push people around...on, get this, a run up the middle. Purdue beat out BC, Maryland & NC State for his services. Another "big" in this class is 6'5" 305lb. Rick Schmeig. While I don't know if he'll play as much as Plue his first year, I do think he'll play. Lastly, on the offensive side of the ball is another massive man named Mike Chacksfield a 6'6", 290 lb. manchild. The last two of these three weren't highly-touted, but I think both are Mike Otto-type players who could start two or three seasons.

There are couple of skilled guys of note, one is Ralph Bolden from Georgia. Somehow, Purdue beat out a host of SEC suitors for Ralph's services. Ralph suffered a pretty horrible knee injury that ended his high school career...and probably kept any last-minute pushes by the always ethical fraternity of NCAA football coaches. I don't know if Bolden will be healthy-enough to play next season, but he'll make an impact when his knee is ready...he's got 4.4 speed and a frame that should allow him to put on 10-15 pounds of muscle. Another sleeper that I really like from this class is 6'6" Jordan Brewer. I saw Brewer play this year a couple of times and was impressed with the fact that while not getting passed-to that often, he still seemed to make big catches and make big plays. Plus, he seems to be able to hold an outside block which is very important in Purdue's offense. On the downside, a couple of kids who play with him at Carmel have told me that he has a tendency to be a bit lazy at times. Hopefully, Purdue's next coach chews on him enough to not allow him to waste his substantial size and talent.

Now onto the defection from the class. I'm not mentioning his name simply because no recruiting magazine that I've read has either (when talking about the "jewels" of UM's '08 class). This guy had been a Purdue verbal since the spring. Purdue's coaches had done their due diligence and visited as much as the rules would allow. Conversely, the young man had assured Purdue coaches as late as 11:00 pm Tuesday night that he'd be a Boiler come 9:00 am Wednesday morning. It didn't turn out to be the case. He was a 4-star Rivals recruit that was upgraded from a 3 a few months ago...and looked to be an instant-impact Boiler. But, he left to become (according to thewolverine.com) "the most likely skilled player to redshirt". Congrats, young man! He wanted to play with a few of his high school team mates who had been offered from UM, and I don't fault him for that. I do fault him for lying. Heck, I don't even fault Rodriguez & Co. because I'm sure they were "whispered" that he really wanted an offer from his high school coach. Young man, I don't wish you serious injury, but I do wish you obscurity throughout your college career. I hope you fade into the mass of super-talented skilled players on the three-deeps up in Ann Arbor.

This leads me to a bigger issue with college sports- Why even have verbal commitments? I know, recruiting magazines wouldn't have a list to post three years prior to signing about a class...and many people without hobbies would not be able to allow their lives to continue to revolve around every word of the latest and soon-to-be greatest 17 year old prima donna phenom...but this garbage was old ten years ago. It's especially old when your alma mater's publications are telling you year after year about Billy Ballplayer and how great he'll look in black and gold and then he decides to go wear maize and blue 5 minutes before making his final decision...and he ends up not even seeing the field for said team. Anybody heard of Clayton Richard? If you have, you're probably a Purdue fan who reads too much during the offseason...if you haven't, you have a life and are normal.

I'm not going to end this negative, but instead will focus on what Purdue does well: Develop under-the-radar players and makes them great. I'm positive that there is a Curtis Painter, Taylor Stubblefield, Craig Terrill, Matt Light, Rosevelt Colvin, Mike Alstott, Gene Mruczkowski or John Standeford in this class...and am excited to see which young man really feels like West Lafayette is the place where he should be and he works his ass off to prove that he belongs playing Big Ten football and deserves his free education. I can't wait to see who steps up next...Also, I'm pretty stoked about the spring game already.

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