2011 Purdue Preview
Purdue RB Ralph Bolden
Purdue RB Ralph Bolden
Posted Jul 18, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue Boilermakers

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Danny Hope
3rd year: 9-15
8th year overall: 44-37
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 30, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Purdue Players
1. DT Kawann Short, Jr.
2. RB Ralph Bolden, Sr.
3. DT Bruce Gaston, Soph.
4. C Peters Drew, Jr.
5. OT Dennis Kelly, Sr.
6. LB Dwayne Beckford, Jr.
7. OG Ken Plue, Sr.
8. OT Nick Mondek, Sr.
9. QB Robert Marve, Sr.
10. SS Logan Link, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 Middle Tennessee
Sep. 10 at Rice
Sep. 17 SE Missouri State
Oct. 1 Notre Dame
Oct. 8 Minnesota
Oct. 15 at Penn State
Oct. 22 Illinois
Oct. 29 at Michigan
Nov. 5 at Wisconsin
Nov. 12 Ohio State
Nov. 19 Iowa
Nov. 26 at Indiana

At some point, Purdue is going to catch a break and third year head man Danny Hope will have some good karma coming his way.

Coaches don't like to blame things on luck and the good ones are true believers that teams make their own breaks, but Hope has a legitimate beef. His first year was good, but all seven losses came to bowl bound teams and his quarterback situation was a wreck. His scrambling team lost five games by a touchdown or less, and lost four of those games by three points or fewer. But the thought was that everything was going to be in place for a big 2010 and the belief was that a veteran team could do just enough to finally get back to a bowl game.

But for all the problems off the field and for all the injury issues, now the program has an even worse thing to deal with after the tragic death of backup running back Sean Matti, who was found dead in an Indiana lake this summer after a party. At some point, Purdue football needs something positive to go its way.

Running back Ralph Bolden was lost before the season even started to a knee injury, quarterback Robert Marve suffered a torn ACL of his own, and star receiver Keith Smith was knocked out for the year. Adding more to the bad luck going forward, Smith was inexplicably not allowed a sixth-year of eligibility, and Marve is still trying to get healthy. But now, unlike the previous two years for Hope, everything really and truly should be in place for Purdue to finally start making some Big Ten noise again. Now Hope has to see if a fully functional team will be good enough to make a big impact in the new Leaders division, and he has to see if it's enough to pull off a shocker and be in the mix for the title.

Under Joe Tiller, Purdue had a "basketball on grass" mentality with Drew Brees and Kyle Orton putting up huge numbers and winging it all over the yard. Under Hope, the offense hasn't been healthy enough to forge ahead with any sort of identity, while the defense has never been special enough to pick up the slack. But even with all the problems and even with all the inconsistencies, including a six-game losing streak to close out last year, the team didn't completely fall off the map and it kept on pushing. If the team's identity is as a battler, and if the effort can combine with a healthy season, Purdue might finally be back as a winner after not getting to a bowl game since 2007.

The offense has options this year in case the top guys get hurt again, and the line should be terrific with four starters returning. The defense might not have Ryan Kerrigan, but eight other starters return with a big pair of tackles and some good-looking linebackers to make the Boilermakers nasty at times.

Ohio State's problems will take center stage in the Leaders, Wisconsin will be a monster again, Penn State will get plenty of attention, but Purdue has just enough talent and just experience to not get swept by the division's big three teams. For Hope, it's time for the ball to start bouncing his way, and he has done his job to make it so that might finally happen.

What to watch for on offense: The ACLs in the backfield. Can Ralph Bolden hold up for a full season? If not, backup Akeem Shavers looks like a strong, talented backup running back who comes in from the JUCO ranks and should produce right away behind the veteran line. Robert Marve is a great talent who hasn't had any luck – part of it his own doing – throughout his star-crossed career, but Rob Henry might be the main man at quarterback anyway. Bolden is ready to roll, while Marve has to be special to take back the starting job, but if nothing else, Purdue finally has quality options to play around with.

What to watch for on defense: The tackles. The focus and the spotlight will be on the end with the loss of Ryan Kerrigan, but the strength might be in the interior with 301-pound sophomore Bruce Gaston and 305-pound Kawann Short ready to form a terrific tandem. They're not massive, but they're big enough to hold up better against the run and they have just enough athleticism to get into the backfield once in a while. With an athletic group of veteran linebackers ready to clean up the mess, the run defense that allowed just 138 yards per game should be even better and more active. Can it be enough to stop the Wisconsin and Ohio State running games in Leaders play? No, but it should be able to slow them down a bit.

The team will be far better if … The passing game can be somewhat efficient. The injuries at the key spots on offense provide a reasonable excuse, but if the coaching staff really is going with Rob Henry early on as the starting quarterback, the production has to come. Purdue finished 114th in the nation in passing efficiency with 13 touchdown passes, 17 picks, and averaging just 5.11 yards per attempt. The offense was just trying to tread water under Henry and never let the passing game rip, but that has to change in a big way. The downfield throws have to come.

The schedule: It's not that bad. Getting Minnesota from the Legends at home is a nice break, and while facing Iowa in interdivision play is rough, it's not that bad a deal to get Michigan and miss Nebraska and Michigan State. September is a joke going against Middle Tennessee, at Rice, and SE Missouri State before getting a week off, and then Notre Dame comes to West Lafayette. Win that, and 5-0 is a possibility with the Gophers coming into town the week after. The second half isn't fun with three road games in four weeks, including dates at Penn State and Wisconsin, before hosting Ohio State and Iowa. Winning at Indiana to close out the regular season could be a must for bowl eligibility.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Ralph Bolden. Bolden doesn't have to carry the workload with Akeem Shavers looking good enough to handle the work, but if the knee is fine, all of a sudden the running game takes on a whole new look. From all indications, Bolden could've gone full-tilt this offseason but kept everything under wraps to make sure everything stayed fine, but once the start of the season comes he has to get used to taking some big shots early on. He hasn't run for 100 yards since a September 12th, 2009 game against Oregon, and while he ran for 935 yards and nine scores two years ago, his reputation has come from that game and the 234-yard day against Toledo the week before. He has to not only be healthy, but he has to be good.

Best defensive player: Junior DT Kawann Short. The 6-3, 305-pound interior pass rusher has all the makings of an All-Big Ten dominator after making 41 tackles with six sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. With a quick first step, he rips apart the slower guards, while he has enough power to hold up against the power teams. Paired next to Bruce Gaston, he should be ready to do even more and be in the mix for First Team All-Star honors.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Gerald Gooden. No one's asking for another Ryan Kerrigan to emerge right away, but it would be nice if the team that led the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for loss could get more production out of the ends now that its all-star is off to the NFL. The 6-3, 235-pound Gooden made 35 tackles with 1.5 sacks and four tackles for loss, and now the one-time top recruit and a great athlete has to show off the elite burst that made him a top prospect. The former linebacker has to live up to his promise and potential.

The season will be a success if … Purdue gets back to a bowl game. There's no excuse to not start the season 3-0 against Middle Tennessee, at Rice, and SE Missouri State, and there's no reason the Boilermakers can't beat Minnesota at home and come up with a win at Indiana. That's five wins, and there needs to be a home win over someone like Illinois or Iowa to get to six. Can Purdue win at Penn State? How about at Michigan? There's always an upset or two out there waiting to happen for the Boilermakers, and if they take care of the two-foot putts, they should get to seven wins and a post-season game for the first time in three years.

Key game: Oct. 1 vs. Notre Dame. The first three games are easy, and then comes a week off to prepare for a home date against Notre Dame. Meanwhile, the Irish go to Pittsburgh the week before the trip to West Lafayette. If the Boilermakers can pull off the win, and with Minnesota coming after, a big first half of the year is there for the taking, and it might be a must after losing three years in a row in the series and five of the last six.

2010 Fun Stats:
- 4th Quarter Scoring: Opponents 112 – Purdue 62
- Passing Yards Per Game: Opponents 231.1 – Opponents 150.8
- Time of Possession: Opponents 31:45 – Purdue 28:15

- 2011 Purdue Preview | 2011 Purdue Offense
- 2011 Purdue Defense | 2011 Purdue Depth Chart