Purdue Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Purdue Boilermakers
Posted Aug 5, 2006

Purdue Boilermakers Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Absolute Bottom? – When the pre-season mags started coming out last summer, Purdue head coach Joe Tiller had to be feeling some major stress.  The expectations were unlike any other year, including any with former Boiler star Drew Brees at the helm.  Purdue was the hot team of the moment.  No Ohio State on the schedule.  No Michigan either.  Ten defensive starters returning.  The Rose Bowl was not only a possibility, some thought it was a probability.  Uh, well, it didn’t happen.  Not even a bowl game.  Not even a winning season.  Well, now that the Purdue faithful have re-lived one of the worst nightmares in their school’s recent history (sorry, guys), it’s time to move on.  With three games left in the season, there was no question that this had been Tiller’s worst season by a long shot.  Even with three wins in the final three games, the Boilers didn’t get to the six wins that would make them bowl eligible.  But, it was more than just the record.  Player attitudes seemed to move more toward the entitled side of life, as opposed to working for everything you get.  There was unrest early in summer camp, especially with star SS Bernard Pollard.  That should’ve been a sign.  The defense didn’t show up, even with those 10 aforementioned starters returning.  But, before you can take the ‘next steps’, you’ve got to hit rock bottom.  The Boilers did that last season.  They started the long climb back up the ladder with those last three wins, but Tiller’s teams have succeeded being ‘under the radar’.  Those ‘overachieving’ teams seemed to define his tenure as head coach at Purdue, but no matter what type of team he has this season, he has to get his kids to believe that being humble, working hard and playing together are the only way to win.  Those expectations won’t near as high this year.  Maybe that’s the way Tiller likes it.

2nd and Seven – A Cat with Nine Lives – Lost in the season that was 2005 was the performance by inside wide receiver Dorien Bryant.  The 5’10” jitterbug from New Jersey had an 80 catch season for nearly 1,000 yards, 101 yards rushing and 500 yards on kickoff returns.  A football player with track speed (or maybe a track guy that’s a pretty dadgum good football player), Bryant is a threat to turn a three yard bubble screen into a thirty yard catch and run.  He was so good over a three game stretch last season that he caught 40 passes over that span against Notre Dame, Iowa and Northwestern – three bowl teams last season.  Bryant will continue to be the go-to guy this year, but the Purdue offensive staff has to continue to find ways to get him the ball.  As if he doesn’t do enough already.

3rd and Three – Hall Monitor – The Purdue defense was supposed to be one of the best units in the nation last season.  Suffice it to say it didn’t turn out that way, but the Boilers still have one of the toughest middle backers in the league - George Hall - back this year.  The 6’2”, 243 linebacker is a physical specimen who will knock ball carriers into next week; he showcased his tackling ability the last two years with a total of 169 tackles from the middle of the Purdue defense.  Not many defensive players return (which might be a good thing?), so Hall has to ‘show’ his youngsters how to play with passion and heart throughout a difficult Big Ten schedule.

4th and One – One Down, One Left – Throughout the last two years, defensive end Anthony Spencer teamed with departed Ray Edwards to form one of the most devastating pass rushing duos in the Big Ten.  With Edwards gone, Spencer will turn Captain and Tenille into just, well, the Captain, if you will.  Spencer’s production went down significantly last year, but he better get himself back into the backfield as he did against Notre Dame in 2004 if the Boilermakers are to get back into the top half of the Big Ten.  It won’t be easy as a one-man band, but Spencer is ready for his guitar solo, errr, moment in the defensive sun.

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