Purdue football recruiting is something we don't spend a ton of time talking about around here...until they're officially Boilers. In our opinion, there's really no reason to get too wrapped up in a player's potential until you know they're going to be wearing gold and black. All that said, when a highly-touted player signs his name on the dotted line, then, then, you can dream a bit about what might be.
Early in Tiller's time at Purdue, we watched Chris Daniels break records and frustrate opponents by bulking up in the off-season, running precise routes and being sure-handed. We all wondered what a shiny new model would do in the new system. Standeford and Stubblefield quietly entered campus, with little fanfare, but went on to absolutely obliterate old records...and continued in the path of Daniels by thoroughly-frustrating DBs and DCs alike; they were a puzzle that couldn't be solved it would seem...an unstoppable force. Except in Stubby's case of course, a neighborhood pool fence and a girl wanting to go for a dip got him concussed during the summer and kept him off the field for a few games...but the dude still tore up the opposition upon his return.
When Tiller acquired the services of the Fort Wayne product, Selwyn Lymon, we thought the dream had come true...and the highly-touted, chrome-plated recruit showed a glimpse of what he could do as a Frosh in a blowout at the hands of UND. The future seemed bright...but as we know now, it wasn't to be.
And that's been the case over and over again.
The four-star signee is as rare as UFO sightings or glimpses of Sasquatch...and sometimes, after that player leaves Purdue, we ask ourselves, just as in the case of the mythological creatures- Did it really happen?
Al-Terek McBurse had a host of high offers and a high star rating to boot. As a Freshman, he showed that he could move in auxiliary duty...the future looked bright. But as a Soph, he didn't look like the back that was advertised. A little adversity, and he was off to greener pastures.
Most-recently, OJ Ross made an immediate impact as he showed his quickness and speed as a Freshman...But it was apparent that he was raw and needed to work on his route running. It simply didn't happen. Gary Bush started overshadowing Ross in spite of the God-given talent discrepancy...and Ross, while weighed down by off-field baggage faded out before being suspended last winter by Hazell. This morning, it seems that it's become official and Ross will not return to the team (according to message boards...I still haven't found concrete proof) for his final season at Purdue.
Ross is the most-recent case of the 4-star flop for our Boilers. Sure, you might argue that Ross had a pretty productive career...no doubt about that, actually. BUT, he didn't have a career that equalled his hype or his obvious talent.
Production is often a combination of work, attitude, talent and timing. Sadly, Purdue's highly-touted signees haven't had all four very often. We've said it over and over in a number of ways- Purdue players are generally fighters. The problem is, guys that have been told they're great their whole lives generally don't have that fighting spirit. The gritty players that overcome adversity become the darlings of our fanbase. The guys with a lunch bucket mentality are our favorites (not just BS', mind you).
Purdue currently has three former 4-star players on the roster- Sophomore DT Watson, Frosh TE Carvajal and Frosh QB Etling. Can this group of three be the first crop of high recruits to end the streak of bad mojo for the golden recruits? It would certainly seem that way.
Watson started his career on a promising note last season as he worked his way into the line-up about mid-way through the season. From all accounts, he'll be on the two-deeps again in the fall and seems to be on track to make some noise.
Danny Etling has made his presence known as he's shot up the QB depth chart to the second spot...and it seems that Joe Tiller thinks that Etling will be the guy come this fall. That's pretty interesting...Sure, Tiller isn't attending practice, but he talks to Hazell more regularly than you and I and is still pretty connected to Purdue. He thinks that Henry's accuracy, mechanics and run-first mentality isn't what the program needs. We'll see if his prophecy turns out to be accurate.
Carlos Carvajal is the one question mark in the group right now, it seems- Granted, he didn't take the typical route to Purdue after a year of prep school...and honestly, I'm not sure if he's a great fit yet. He's got swagger like a Miami player of the 90s, it seems...but that doesn't really jibe with Hazell's way. All that said, he's got an imposingly-long frame, and some pretty great tools to work with. I still think his mean streak might put him at DE before the first game in 2013; we'll see.
Whether it's Ross, McBurse, Plue, Kacinko, Lymon, Paxson, Kyle Williams, Bushong, Van Dyke or Kirsch...We Purdue fans can easily recall our dreams of grandeur and shattered expectations shortly after due to a wide range of variables and complications. Sure, players like Baker and Lindsay are sprinkled throughout that had solid careers, but the last real success Purdue had of the high-ranking players was probably Dorien Bryant...before that, Kyle Orton.
That's kinda sobering.
Part of that, of course is simply that Purdue doesn't get a ton of these guys, so the odds are a bit longer that they will have great careers. Solid high-three star guys tend to do quite well at Purdue; Short, Greg Orton and others come to mind right away. Hopefully Hazell's efforts will give us a bit of a larger sample to judge by, in the coming seasons.