Spring Game: Peeling the Onion

More than likely, this will be my last look at Spring football.  So call this a wrap-up, if you'd like...I'll raise some questions, maybe answer some, and look ahead in the process.

The Rainout
Like a few of you out there, I've watched a lot of bad Spring football in even worse weather.  Cold rain, wintry mix...bad weather seems to be the norm more than the exception, at least in my memory. So when I set out with a few members of my family to watch football on Saturday and a little rain was in the forecast, I thought, "no big deal."

But, once on campus, the skies got more and more threatening and eventually the rain started...about an hour before the planned kickoff time.  Hope and whomever else made the decision to move the game indoors...no big deal as they have that call.

Some goons dressed as security people busted heads (figuratively) and chops (literally) as they ushered folks out of Mollenkopf...there's the rub.  But we've already talked about that. Juan Crespo, distinguished sidekick to Travis Miller, and writer at Hammer and Rails explained that there really was no serious weather threat in the area around Ross-Ade...but the call was made. And in spite of the lousy conditions looking to be clear of 47906 by around 2:00, they cancelled the public show.

What it shows
I watched the videos posted on BTN that were supposed to be a highlight reel of the day.  Honestly, the only real highlights were about :30 long.  But there was still plenty of info on the page.

Hope talked glowingly about the team, Marve and TerBush talked glowingly about one-another, a few other players talked about the Spring, and some ex-players talked about the program.  Here's what I deduced: Unsurprisingly, Danny Hope watches after his own.

In my life, my God, my family and my country are my top-3 priorities...everything else kinda falls into place after that.

Professionally, Danny Hope's onion might look like this: My team, alums of the program and signees.  And the way Saturday, his priority list was pretty clear.  Sure, I think Hope appreciates the fans...but I think Hope might be as bothered by someone like me saying "we" when referring to Purdue's football team, as I would be saying.

We heard grumblings from a few players that they didn't want to play the scrimmage in the slop.  So I think Hope honored that.  He really didn't want his guys waiting around for an extra hour either as the weather cleared out.  I don't think he wanted their parents or siblings to have to wait idly either.  Understandable.
Good at Flag Football

Next, there was an alumni flag football game planned for halftime.  That might look, from the untrained perspective, to be something just for the fans...but it wasn't.  It was for the Purdue football family.  Guys like Colvin, Light, Hermann, Gorin, Zgonina and others all have taken notice that the guys that played football for Purdue are all part of the Purdue football family now...and it hasn't always felt that way.  That's because Hope values those guys...and wants them to be part of what he's working toward.

I think it's not good, but great that ex-players are valued...they paid a high price for my alma mater.  BUT, the perception of the fans and alums also matters...just sayin'.

Fear the Front
With my own two eyes, I saw an in-shape KK Short up close and personal.  So I know this guy has made a point of taking his off-season very seriously.  Now take an already formidable Short, add in a healthy Gaston, returning starter Russell, and Maci, Taylor, Isaac and Rouse for reinforcements and you've got a pretty-damned good front four (or three depending on the scheme).  Plus, three of Purdue's highest-touted incoming guys are D-Linemen- Latta, Ike and Watson.

Strong in the Secondary
We all know that Johnson, Allen and Harris are ball hawks and excellent cover guys. Mix in Charlot, E.J. Johnson and Feichter, and Purdue has a secondary that might be one of the best we've seen in 7 or 8 seasons.

The Question on Defense
Purdue fans not named Boilerdowd all seemed to dog Joe Holland...but there's no doubt he'll be missed.  Couple that with the fact that Beckford's status for the fall is still up in the air.  So the linebackers will be a  group that's a huge question mark.

Lucas will anchor the group as the one returning starter.  Higgs looks to be in much better shape and will return to the LB corps after some time with his hand in the dirt.  After that, there's potential, but no proven commodities. 

Former QB Sean Robinson is on the Boilerdowd diet as he looks to have added 20 pounds since moving to the other side of the ball...unlike me though, his weight is mostly muscle. Gillium, Lee, Williams and Phillips will all need to make strides in order to shore up this unexperienced unit...and I look for Garcia to be the Frosh that might even start this fall (especially if we see the 3-4 early).

Regardless of who starts, one of the guys that few Purdue fans know will need to step up in September.

A Stable Stable
The QB stable in the fall will be unlike any Purdue fans have seen in the last 30 years. Three quarterback options with multiple starts all available...but all of them seem flawed, honestly.

Marve has every tool in the shed.  Now that he's healthy he adds the ability to run to his impressive arm...and he has no problem taking risks...and there's the rub.  He sometimes takes unwarranted risks (ref. the end of the regulation v. aOSU in '11 or the end of the first half v. PSU in '11).

TerBush is a big, steady quarterback.  He completed 62% of his passes in '11 and his TD-to-INT ration was nearly 2-to-1.  BUT, he tended to go into a shell versus the elite of the conference...and not make decisions quick enough.  In spite of very good size, TerBush ran the option read extremely-effectively.

The last time we saw Henry, he was a different guy, honestly.  It was two years ago, his finger was still crushed and his accuracy was effected by that.  So, he relied heavily upon his speed and agility. But since then, he's torn an ACL and his finger has healed.  The questions are, will his ACL be good to go in the fall and will his accuracy have improved during his season that he sat out? Methinks he'll be healthy-enough to take Siller's place as the Wildcat QB as well as play a little slot receiver.

As for number one, I'm still pulling for Marve to be the guy.  Let's remember, we've still NEVER seen a completely-healthy Marve in a Purdue uniform...until this Spring.  I think that makes a huge difference.  BUT, the more I listen, the more I hear the coaches hinting that they lean toward TerBush for the fall.

Running Wild?
The losses of Bolden and Cottom were significant...as was the defection of Pegram.  BUT, I like the tandem of Shavers and Hunt quite a bit.  Plus, I think Gentry will make some noise when given opportunity in the fall. Sprinkle in Edison and Mostert, and I don't think Purdue will have a hard time running the ball next season.  As Bolden and Cottom get back to health, look for Freytag and Jackson to play some FB...but also, I wouldn't be surprised to see Shavers as the fullback with Hunt at half from time-to-time.

Snug at Tight End
Tight End will be another position in which depth shouldn't be a problem next season.  Known commodities of Crosby Wright and Gabe Holmes provide different situational abilities...and both can catch the ball. Sterling Carter, Carlos Carvajal and Jonathan Curry might all vie for playing time as well.

I look for at least one of these guys, and/or another incoming Frosh, Ryan Morris to be moved elsewhere.

But regardless of which players are on the field, I think the sure-handed tight end will be an integral part of the offense...something that Marve and TerBush will surely welcome and utilize.

Better than it seems on the OL
The Spring made it feel like Purdue was in huge trouble on the offensive line. But injuries are a big reason that depth was a problem...and most of the injuries won't carry over to the fall.

Schmeig, Foy, Kitchens, Drey and Pamphile will probably be the starting unit.  All have started on the line at one time or another.  The two-deeps are harder to figure.  But, Davis, Bade, DeBoef, McDaniel and one of the incoming Freshman along with JuCo transfer, Smith, will also see the field.

Speed Kills at WR
In the on-going saga that is the OJ Ross story at Purdue, it now looks like he might be in good shape come the fall.  If that's the case, the starting WR will be Ross, Edison and Bush.  This diminutive bunch will be different from any other group of Hope receivers (if this group sticks) as there isn't one big possession receiver in the bunch. In fact, there has been one or two 6'4" option in the starting line-up in each of the last four years.  But all of these guys are very fast...and Edison and Bush were the pictures of consistency in the second half of last season.  I don't know how Mostert can be kept off of the field...if nothing else, he'll back up the talented but inconsistent and enigmatic Ross.

The guy that looks to have the inside track on being the next big possession receiver is Shane Mikesky.  Tommie Thomas, Charles Torwudzu and one of the true Freshman will also get time.  All indicators seem to point at Knauf being able to make in roads on ST and eventually working his way onto the field on offense...but he also is vertically challenged...something I can appreciate.

Extra Special
Cody Webster will be the punter...there's no doubt about that. The kickoff duties will probably performed by Thomas Meadows and the field goals by highly-touted fellow Frosh, Paul Griggs.

Mostert and Hunt will be returning kicks yet again...but due to the shorter field, probably won't have quite as many opportunities to bring the ball out.

I have no idea who will be returning punts...but I'll guess we might see Ishmael Aristide and BJ Knauf back there...I'd actually like to see Ricardo Allen try again; but that didn't go so well in his lone attempt last season.

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