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2011 Purdue Preview – Offense
Purdue OT Dennis Kelly
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Purdue Boilermaker Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
Coaches never like to allow for excuses to enter into the equation, but last year’s Purdue offense can be forgiven for being 104th in the nation in yards, 105th in scoring, and 114th in passing efficiency. The attack suffered a Spinal Tap drummer-like array of injuries with RB Ralph Bolden going down in the offseason with a torn ACL; starting QB Robert Marve was also lost to a knee injury; and top WR Keith Smith also got knocked out for the year. Smith is gone, but Bolden and Marve are back and could mean a night-and-day difference. QB Rob Henry will still be in the hunt for the starting job, but Marve, if healthy, is the better option. The receiving corps needs a true No. 1 target, but it should be good even though there’s almost no depth to count on. The backup running back situation is also an issue. The big plus is the offensive line that was good last year and welcomes back four starters.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Ralph Bolden
Passing: Rob Henry
86-162, 996 yds, 8 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Rob Henry
104 carries, 547 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Antavian Edison
32 catches, 316 yds, 4 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior WR Antavian Edison
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OG Rick Schmeig
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Ken Plue
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bolden, 2) C Peters Drey, 3) Plue
Strength of the offense: Offensive Line, Quarterback Options
Weakness of the offense: Depth Everywhere But QB, Passing
State of the Unit: The Boilermakers had a rough season trying to keep their quarterbacks on the field, and while the overall results might have been disastrous, the silver lining is the experience gained when a few young players were thrown into the fire. However, the 2011 season, and the potential to finally start getting the passing game going, all depends on keeping everyone healthy.
Senior Robert Marve appeared to have finally found a home. The one time super-recruit for Miami was a disaster on and off the field with legal issues and academic troubles ending his time in Coral Gables. He took his talents to West Lafayette where his mobility, toughness, and live arm made one of the Big Ten’s biggest X factors, and he came out playing well completing 67-of-99 passes for 512 yards and three sores, while running for 32 yards and a touchdown in the first four games. However, he had a problem with interceptions, throwing four, and his season was cut dramatically short with a torn ACL. On the plus side, the injury happened early enough to give him time to rehab and get back in the mix for this year, but the 6-1, 210-pounder will have to battle a bit to get his job back.
Sophomore Rob Henry ended up taking over the starting gig when Marve went down, and he struggled completing just 53% of his passes for eight touchdowns with seven interceptions. However, he managed to use his mobility to lead the team with 547 rushing yards and four scores, including a 132-yard, one-score day in the win over Northwestern. While not all that big at 6-2 and 198 pounds, he moves well and has a world of upside once he gets more relaxed. The 2008 Mr. Florida has the skills, and now he has the experience to be counted on to improve the passing game.
6-3, 205-pound sophomore Sean Robinson was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman and predictably struggled, completing 44-of-91 passes for 301 yards and two scores with six interceptions. A great dual-threat prospect, he ran a little bit with 49 yards in his limited action, but his struggles against Wisconsin and Michigan got Rob Henry back on the field in a hurry. Robinson has the talent to do everything the offense needs, but he needs more time and he needs to fight to get back on the field. There’s a chance he could redshirt with junior Caleb TerBush back in the equation after sitting on the sidelines last year after being ruled academically ineligible. The 6-5, 222-pounder saw a little time in 2009, but he’s a big, pure passer who has the mobility to get his chances at the starting gig.
Watch Out For … Henry to keep Marve on the sidelines. Henry had a great offseason, is the team captain, and showed enough to possible make the program his while Marve doesn’t get back in the mix. Marve is still trying to get back to 100%, and Henry is the leader of the offense … for now. He took his lumps last year and now he has to show he can throw.
Strength: Dual-threat options. The quarterbacks had to run partly because the running backs weren’t getting the job done, but Henry, Marve, and Robinson can all move. They’re dangerous enough out of the backfield that defensive coordinators will have to worry a bit.
Weakness: Passing. Interceptions were a huge problem for the Boilermakers with 17 picks on the year with just 13 touchdown passes. Youth and inexperience weren’t totally to blame considering Marve was the starter early on, and now there’s no reason to expect anything less than a big improvement after finishing 114th in the nation in passing efficiency.
Outlook: The team was just treading water last season after Marve got injured, and while Henry and Robinson did what they could, and gained valuable experience, they have to be better. Purdue finished 112th in the nation in passing and have to get more efficiency out of the position. Assuming everyone stays healthy, at least there are more options to play around with this season. Now the production has to come.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: This was supposed to be a major strength going into the 2010 offseason, but disaster struck as the injury bug was a problem, the effectiveness wasn’t there, and it took a village to get any sort of production out of the backfield. Quarterback Rob Henry led the team in rushing; that wasn’t a plus.
Senior Ralph Bolden exploded onto the scene in 2009 with 935 yards and nine touchdowns, but he fell off the map a bit after starting out the year with 234 yards against Toledo and 123 against Oregon. Even so, with his quickness, his hands in the passing game, and his home run hitting ability, the hope was that he’d be a bit better and more consistent with a stronger team around him. Instead, he suffered a torn ACL in the offseason and missed the entire year, even though there were some thoughts that he might try to make an early comeback. Now he’s back and is expected to be a 100% by the start of the season with his zip back in his stride. At 5-9 and 194 pounds, he’s not all that big and the team isn’t going to ask him to carry too much of the workload early on, but he’ll be the back the offense desperately missed.
With Bolden gone, Dan Dierking and Keith Carlos stepped up and took over the duties, combining for 844 yards and five scores. Now they’re gone, and Al-Terek McBurse is no longer with the team – and would’ve likely moved to receiver. Running back depth could be a concern, and the coaching staff might lean on one of its top recruits, JUCO transfer Akeem Shavers, to make an immediate impact. A 5-11, 200-pounder from Tyler, Texas, Shavers is a speedster with 4.5 wheels and more of a physical style than Bolden.
While Shavers will be ready to go out of the box, another Akeem, Akeem Hunt, a Georgia recruit who had offers to go to several big school, will get a long look at time. The 5-11, 170-pound true freshman has the quickness and athleticism to be tried out at other positions, but he’s mostly known for being a running back and could get on the field fastest in the offensive backfield.
Watch Out For … Bolden to be back to new. The injury to his knee happened so early in the 2010 offseason that the coaching staff didn’t rule him out for the year until late in the game. While he was limited throughout spring ball and no one is pushing him, he should be more than ready to go as the centerpiece of the attack.
Strength: Bolden. If he’s healthy, or if he’s at least 90%, he’s a gamebreaker and a difference-maker. Shavers is good enough to get at least 5-to-9 carries a game and could take on a big role right away to give Bolden a break.
Weakness: Sure things. The Boilermaker running game will be banking that Bolden’s knee holds up, while it’s throwing a lot of eggs into the basket to hope for new recruits to pick up the slack if disaster strikes again.
Outlook: If everyone stays healthy, and if either one of the Akeems can be a functional option early on, the running game should be stronger and the quarterbacks won’t have to carry the load. Yes, QB Rob Henry led the team in rushing, but if Purdue could run for almost 2,000 yards with Dan Dierking and Keith Carlos leading the way, it can do more with Bolden carrying the mail … if he’s back to being Bolden.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: The hope was to get Keith Smith back for a sixth year after suffering a knee injury early last season, but his request was denied by the NCAA. It was a bad break for a good guy and a class act, and now Purdue has to try to muster more passing production with a few decent returning receivers and some untested prospects. However, four of the top five pass catchers from last year are gone.
The one returning target from the top five of last year is Antavian Edison, a 5-11, 175-pound junior who caught 32 passes for 316 yards and four scores as he became the main target over the second half of the season. A former high school running back, he was also used a bit out of the backfield with 36 carries for 130 yards, but he’ll be asked to be the No. 1 target to use his extreme quickness and 10.7 speed in the 100.
With Smith now officially out of the picture, more of a role will open up for Justin Siller, a very talented, very versatile option who brings 6-4, 223-pound size and good experience. Like seemingly every other good Purdue offensive player, Siller got hurt last year with a bad ankle injury that limited him to just five games and 12 catches for 104 yards with a score, but it was a plus that he was simply back with the program after being booted a few years ago for academic problems. Originally a quarterback, then a running back, then a receiver, he’s a jack-of-all-trades who can be used in a variety of ways, but will be a receiver this year.
Trying to do more as a No. 3 receiver will be sophomore Gary Bush, a 6-0, 175-pound speedster out of Miami who was supposed to make a splash right away as a true freshman before tearing an abdominal muscle. He caught 11 passes for 95 yards with a touchdown against Illinois, but “G.J.” has the potential to be the team’s most explosive target if he can consistently use his athleticism to beat single coverage.
The hope will be for sophomore O.J. Ross to add more to the receiving mix after making 11 catches for 149 yards and a score as a true freshman. Arguably the top prospect in the 2010 recruiting class, the 5-10, 175-pounder was plucked out of Florida and showed off his explosiveness and playmaking potentials right away in practice. While he didn’t do anything over the second half of the year after suffering a shoulder injury, he’ll be used in a variety of way this season as both a receiver, a runner, and a kick returner.
The tight end situation isn’t necessarily going to be a problem despite the loss of leading receiver, Kyle Adams, who made 36 catches for 244 yards. Sophomore Gabe Holmes is a terrific prospect with 6-4, 223-pound size and excellent hands and deep speed. He’s a tight end, but he plays and runs like a big receiver with track athleticism and leaping ability. He only made one catch for 14 yards last year, but he could be a breakout performer with better quarterback play.
Also in the tight end mix is Sterling Carter, a JUCO transfer with excellent athleticism and 6-5, 230-pound size. While he wasn’t a big-time recruit and is only a marginally talented receiver, he was brought in to challenge for the job right away.
Needing to provide some depth to the receiving corps is Tommie Thomas, a 6-2, 190-pound junior who started his career at corner before moving to receiver. A strong recruit who was originally considered to be a safety, he was a backup at several receiving spots last year, but didn’t catch a pass. Joining Thomas as a key backup is Waynelle Gravesande, a 6-0, 189-pound senior who didn’t catch a pass last year but was the main backup behind Antavian Edison at the end of the year. A former good recruit who had offers from bigger programs, he has yet to do much outside of special teams.
Watch Out For … Siller. He got hurt last year and was never able to fully show what he can do. He’s big enough, athletic enough, and experienced enough to make a night-and-day impact for a receiving corps that needs help.
Strength: Speed. The program hasn’t exactly hit the jackpot with any of its good receiver recruits over the last few years, but it did a decent job of bringing up good athletes. It’s not a plus to lose Keith Smith, but the receiving corps is faster without him.
Weakness: The quarterback play. Depth is the biggest issue, but there are enough athletes and enough decent prospects to generate some decent production as long as the quarterbacks can throw. Last year’s disastrous passing game was a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem with the receivers not helping the cause, but the quarterbacks have to be far better.
Outlook: It would’ve been a season-changing boost if Keith Smith had been allowed a sixth year of eligibility, but now the Boilermaker receiving corps has to rely on Siller to put together a full season and for Edison to make the transition from being a nice complementary target to a killer of a No. 1. It would be really, really nice if the depth could develop quickly and if there were several options, but that could be a year-long work in progress.
Unit Rating: 6
State of the Unit: And welcome to the strength of the team. Purdue might have suffered a slew of offensive issues last year, mainly due to skill player injuries, but the offensive line came together and put up a nice season allowing just 18 sacks while paving the way for 161 yards per game. Having scrambling, mobile quarterbacks helped the stats look good, but the line really did have a decent year and now it gets back four starters.
A big concern a few years ago was figuring out the left tackle situation, but 6-8, 301-pound senior Dennis Kelly stepped in and grew into the starting role. A former high school tight end, he has filled out his frame and has become a fringe all-star candidate. Working again at right tackle will be another possible all-star, 6-5, 296-pound senior Nick Mondek. A former defensive lineman, he showed that he had the feet and the quickness to handle the tackle job, and he brings a defensive toughness to his run blocking. He’s not necessarily polished, but he’s effective.
6-7, 358-pound senior Ken Plue is the earth mover up front. A fixture at right guard, he has been an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten performer over the last few seasons and is starting to live up to the billing coming out of high school. A superstar prospect a few years ago, he’s not all that athletic and he’s still working on becoming a more complete blocker, but he’s a good, experienced anchor to work around.
Center Peters Drey earned Honorable Mention All-Star recognition in the middle last year, and now the former offensive tackle prospect will quarterback the veteran line for the second year in a row. The junior is coming into his own and should grow into more of a known name with freakish weight room strength and the potential to be a decent pro prospect either as a center or a smallish, 6-6, 300-pound guard.
The one question mark is at left guard where Justin Pierce is gone. 6-3, 315-pound junior Rick Schmeig was the backup last year after earning the honor of being the team’s most improved lineman, and he’ll get a long look at the job, but 6-5, 306-pound senior James Shepherd will also push for time while also serving as the main backup behind Plue at right guard.
Finding consistent depth will be a key as the season goes on, and 6-7, 284-pound sophomore Trevor Foy could become a factor at tackle after spending last year figuring out what he was doing. A very tall pass rushing prospect, he moved from defensive end to tackle last year and ended up as the backup behind Mondek on the right side.
Watch Out For … Schmeig. He’s the one new starter to the front five and he has the potential to be one of the best. He’s a guard who can move.
Strength: Experience and pass protection. With four starters coming back and a fifth player in Schmeig who knows what he’s doing, the line will be among the most experienced in the Big Ten. It’s a good group in pass protection and it’s big enough to pave the way for a good year on the ground. Now it’s up to the skill players to stay healthy and take advantage of the blocking.
Weakness: Depth. There isn’t much, especially at tackle where Foy is the only real option for either outside spot and a backup center will need to be groomed. The team is set with the starting five, but there will be problems if injuries hit.
Outlook: The line isn’t going to be Wisconsin’s or Ohio State’s, but it’s a very good, very sound front that should be a major plus as the season goes on. The key will be health with few veterans to count on if disaster strikes, and it would be a major problem to shake up the rotation or the positions if one player went down. For now, though, assume the line will be terrific.
Unit Rating: 8
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