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2008 CFN Purdue Preview
Purdue QB Curtis Painter
Purdue QB Curtis Painter
Posted May 9, 2008

It's the final year of the Joe Tiller era at Purdue, but the season of transition should be a good one with QB Curtis Painter leading the way. Can the Boilermakers finally break through and be a player in the Big Ten race again? Check out the CFN Purdue Preview.

Purdue Boilermakers

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Purdue Preview | 2008 Purdue Offense
- 2008 Purdue Defense | 2008 Purdue Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Purdue Preview | 2006 CFN Purdue Preview 

The succession thing worked well at Wisconsin, and now Purdue is hoping to have similar success.

After this year, the 12-season run of Joe Tiller will be over and the Danny Hope era will begin. Hope, the offensive line coach and the assistant head man, got the job over a few other assistants who were hoping for the bump, so while this will be a year of transition and torch passing, it also has to be a year of getting all the egos and any hurt feelings in line, even though no one has been openly upset about Hope's move into the big chair.

Head coach: Joe Tiller
12h year: 83-54
18th year overall: 122-84-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 26, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Purdue Players
QB Curtis Painter, Sr.
2. LB Anthony Heygood, Sr.
3. RB Kory Sheets, Sr.
4. RB Jaycen Taylor, Sr.
5. LB Jason Werner, Jr.
6. SS Torri Williams, Sr.
7. OT Sean Sester, Sr.
8. PK Chris Summers, Jr.
9. WR Greg Orton, Sr.
10. CB David Pender, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Sept. 6 Northern Colorado
Sept. 13 Oregon
Sept. 20 Central Michigan
Sept. 27 at Notre Dame
Oct. 4 Penn State
Oct. 11 at Ohio State
Oct. 18 at Northwestern
Oct. 25 Minnesota
Nov. 1 Michigan
Nov. 8 at Michigan State
Nov. 15 at Iowa
Nov. 22 Indiana

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 8-5

Sept. 1 at Toledo W 52-24
Sept. 8 Eastern Illinois W 52-6
Sept. 15 Central Mich W 45-22
Sept. 22 at Minnesota W 45-31
Sept. 29
Notre Dame W 33-19
Oct. 6 Ohio State L 23-7
Oct. 13 at Michigan L 48-21
Oct. 20 Iowa W 31-6
Oct. 27
Northwestern W 35-17
Nov. 3 at Penn State L 26-19
Nov. 10
Michigan State L 48-31
Nov. 17 at Indiana L 27-24
Motor City Bowl
Dec. 26 Central Mich W 51-48

Even though the transition will be the focus of the season and the main storyline, Tiller's departure will give the team something to rally around. Everyone wants a winner, and while the players will want to win this season for themselves, sending Tiller out in style would be a nice plus.

The 2008 Boilermakers will have a winning season and will go to a bowl, but that's been the norm in the slightly above-average Tiller reign. To do more, and to possible come up with double-digit wins for the first time since 1979, the team has to figure out how to beat someone with a pulse. 

Purdue has had few problems with the average teams of the Big Ten world, and has been solid in non-conference play against the yearly who's who from the MAC, but over the last several years, for the most part, it has beaten the teams it was supposed to, and lost to the teams it was supposed to.

Out of the 33 losses over the last six years, only one, against Illinois in 2002, came against a team that finished with a losing record. It's not like Purdue is coming out flat against the softies, but on the flip side, over that same span, eight of the 44 wins came over D-I teams that finished with a winning record, and two were against Central Michigan last year and one was against Akron. In other words, Purdue has been totally down-the-middle of the Big Ten pack.

To bust through and be a player, top NFL prospect Curtis Painter has to be an elite quarterback who makes the young receiving corps shine. The star-less defense has to use its overall experience to improve on the strides made last year, and with one more year to go, Tiller has to coach his tail off.

There might be a change about to happen, but this is still Tiller's team. He might not have the weapons and horses like Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin, but he has enough to go out with a big bang.

What to watch for on offense: The health of the line. There's good experience up front to protect Painter and pave the way for the solid running duo of Jaycen Taylor and Kory Sheets, but the isn't a lot of depth and no one appears to be healthy. All the main blocks the offense is counting on, Sean Sester, Zach Jones and Zach Reckman, among others, were hurting this off-season. Those three have to be full-season rocks.

What to watch for on defense: The outside linebackers. Anthony Heygood is a given on the strongside after a big year finishing as the team's second-leading tackler, but the excitement this off-season was around Jason Werner, a former safety who spent last year as a reserve as he continued to try to get over the back surgery that cost him all of 2006. Werner wasn't just good in spring ball; he appeared to be the team's best linebacker at times. These two need to wreak havoc on the outside.

The team will be far better if … it beats the big names in the Big Ten. As alluded to before, the Boilermakers haven't been great against the top teams over the past few seasons. They have to play Ohio State in Columbus, where they haven't won since 1988, they haven't won at Iowa since 1992, they've lost three in a row to Penn State and haven't beaten Michigan since 2000. Since they miss Illinois and Wisconsin, if they can win two of those four big games, they should have a great shot at finishing in the top three of the Big Ten

The Schedule: The bad break is getting the off-week to start the season. With the way the Big Ten likes to wrap things up, it's 12 games in 12 weeks. The worse break is the first half of the slate facing Oregon and high-powered MAC champion Central Michigan before a stretch of three road trips in four games going to Notre Dame, Ohio State and Northwestern wrapped around a home date with Penn State. Things ease up starting with the trip to Evanston and getting Minnesota and Michigan at home before going back on the road to deal with Michigan State and Iowa. Closing with the rivalry game against Indiana at home will help, but missing Illinois and Wisconsin is the mega-break.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Curtis Painter. It might be an awful year for senior pro prospect quarterbacks, but Painter really is a decent prospect. He's not Drew Brees, but he's better than Kyle Orton, and he's the type of big-armed, mobile veteran who could make an average team great on his own. If he's able to become the type of player worthy of a first round pick, Purdue could be like Boston College last year with Matt Ryan at the helm.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Anthony Heygood. But this could quickly change if Jason Werner becomes the real deal on the weakside. As always, there are excellent athletes up and down the Boilermaker defense, but they need a big-hitting tone-setter to revolve around. Heygood is it. It's a good year for Big Ten linebackers, but he should still be in the mix for first-team honors.

Key player to a successful season: Senior WR Greg Orton. All the top receivers are gone, including Dorien Bryant and Dustin Keller, so it's up to Orton, the third leading receiver last year make the leap from Robin to Batman. He had an injured groin this spring, and he has to be healthy and Painter's No. 1 target until the rest of the receivers get their feet wet.

The season will be a success if ... Purdue wins nine games. It'll be a stretch for a decent team with no major strengths (or weaknesses), but the schedule isn't all that bad and the coaching staff and program should be more focused in Tiller's final season. Purdue won nine games in 2003, and after a few mediocre years, pulling that off again would leave a nice legacy.

Key game: Oct. 4 vs. Penn State. Typically, this is the type of game Purdue loses on a regular basis. The Nittany Lions are good enough to win the Big Ten title, but if the Boilermaker line can hold up against the fearsome pass rush, the big plays in the passing game will be there. Considering Purdue will be coming off a road trip to Notre Dame, and will have to go to Ohio State and Northwestern to follow Penn State, the Big Ten opener might be a must win.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Kickoff return average: Purdue 23.9 – Opponents 16.9
- First quarter scoring: Purdue 141 – Opponents 70
- Penalties: Opponents 77 for 642 yards – Purdue 77 for 628 yards