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2008 Purdue Preview - Offense
Purdue RB Jaycen Taylor
Purdue RB Jaycen Taylor
Posted May 9, 2008 2008 Preview - Purdue Boilermaker Offense

Purdue Boilermakers

Preview 2008
- Offense

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

What you need to know:
Offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher has some holes to fill at wide receiver and the line, and while the receivers should turn out to be fine with good speed and size likely make up for the lack of experience, the line could be an issue if the myriad of health issues suffered this off-season carry over into the fall. The running game will be better with the return of Kory Sheets and Jaycen Taylor, a talented, but underutilized, 1-2 punch. Running the show is Curtis Painter, considered by some to be the best quarterback prospect for the 2009 NFL Draft. He'll have to make his green receiving corps shine and he'll have to show he can light up the better secondaries and not just the ones on the average teams.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Curtis Painter
356-569, 3,846 yds, 29 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: Kory Sheets
168 carries, 859 yds, 11 TD
Receiving: Greg Orton
67 catches, 752 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Curtis Painter
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior WR Greg Orton
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Kyle Adams
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Sean Sester
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Painter, 2) RB Kory Sheets, 3) OT Sean Sester
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, running back
Weakness of the offense:
Veteran receivers, line health


Projected Starter
Senior Curtis Painter replaced Brandon Kirsch in 2005 because he was better at making the pitch on the option. Now the 6-4, 230-pound senior might be the No. 1 quarterback taken in the 2009 NFL Draft. While he hasn't exactly captured the limelight like Drew Brees did almost a decade ago, Painter has been ultra-productive throwing for 8,763 career yards with 54 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions, while running for 13 scores. Extremely accurate, he completed 63% of his passes last year for 3,846 yards and 29 touchdown and 11 interceptions, highlighted b a 546-yard day in the Motor City Bowl over Central Michigan. Now he has to be better against the top teams, he struggled against Ohio State and Michigan last year, and he has to make everyone around him better with a new receiving corps to work with an a shaky line to operate behind.

Projected Top Reserves: While Painter is the unquestioned star and No. 1, 6-2, 211-pound junior Joey Elliott isn't a bad option and he should be the main man going into next year. He has seen a little bit of mop-up duty here and there completing 13 of 24 passes for 154 yards and 147 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. While he's not the runner Painter can occasionally be, he's mobile for a pro-style quarterback. Known as a clutch passer in high school throwing for 7,797 yards and 80 touchdowns at Evansville High in Indiana, he'll likely get more work this year to prepare for 2009.

One of the team's more interesting options will be 6-4, 220-pound redshirt freshman Justin Siller, the star of last year's recruiting class with size, 4.7 speed, and a good arm. He adds are more of a rushing threat than Painter or Elliott, and he'll get every chance at the starting job next year.

Watch Out For ... Siller. He's too good an athlete and too strong a prospect to not be on the field in some way. He's not going to push Elliott out of a number two job, but he could be the change-of-pace quarterback to throw a wrench into things mid-game.
Strength: Good passers. 2009 might be a lousy year for pro quarterback prospects, but Painter is still considered a first round talent. That Elliott can hold his own with a future millionaire shows how strong the backup situation is. Siller might be the most dangerous college player of the three.
Weakness: The rest of the team. The line was decent in pass protection, but it wasn't superior. Now Painter will have less time to work and a worse receiving corps to throw to.
Outlook: The passing game was among the best in the nation last year, and now it'll have to be more efficient with Painter needing to use all his experience to make everyone around him better. He doesn't have last year's receiving corps to work with, but if he can make quicker decisions and better reads, that might not matter. Elliott is a good backup and Siller is a strong No. 3.
Rating: 9

Running Backs

Projected Starter
Senior Kory Sheets is officially listed as the backup going into the season, but that was the case last year too, and then he ended up starting most of the second half of the season and was the team's leading rusher with 859 yards and 11 touchdowns averaging 5.1 yards per carry. A good receiver, he caught 30 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-0, 206-pounder hasn't quite busted out as expected, but he's great at getting into the end zone with 37 career scores. His problem? Fumbles. He wants to be a 1,000-yard back, but that might not happen if he continues to have problems putting the ball on the ground.

Projected Top Reserves: Technically the starter, senior Jaycen Taylor is an effective running mate with Sheets rushing for 560 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry last season, and those numbers came despite missing a month with a broken arm. The 5-10, 180-pound is more of a speed back than Sheets, and he has the skills to be used more as a receiver catching 11 passes for 65 yards after making 26 grabs two years ago. The former JUCO transfer isn't going to power over anyone, but he has the 4.5 speed to blaze through holes and around the corner.

Sophomore Dan Dierking got a start against Michigan and was a decent backup running for 181 yards and two touchdowns while catching five passes for 52 yards. The 5-10, 186-pounder was the 2006 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year, and while he's a good back, he'll make his biggest impact on special teams.

Watch Out For ... Sheets to get 1,000 yards. He has rushed for 571, 780 and 859 yards over the past three seasons, but he has the speed and talent to be a bigger-time back. With so much uncertainty in the receiving corps, Sheets will be needed more than ever.
Strength: Experience. Taylor and Sheets seem like they've been around since Bob Griese was under center. These two have been regulars for the offense for the last three seasons and should be even bigger leaders going into this year.
Weakness: Work. Sheets and Taylor each averaged over five yards per carry and combined for 1,410 yards and 15 touchdowns, but the ground game still took a backseat to the passing attack, like always. That's part of the deal at Purdue, but these two are good enough to see more action.
Outlook: Sheets and Taylor will combine for close to 300 carries this year and they'll carry the offense at times, even with a quarterback like Painter under center. The running game will never be the focus of a Joe Tiller team, but it'll be used more often this year as long as Sheets can hang on to the ball.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters
Four of the top five receivers are gone, and the one returning starter, 6-3, 199-pound senior Greg Orton is struggling with a groin injury. He was third on the team with 67 catches for 752 yards and three touchdowns, and while he has enough deep speed to open things up, and he has the size and experience to create matchup problems, all that matters will be his ability as a No. 1 receiver for Curtis Painter.

Trying to fill in for Dorien Bryant, the team's leading receiver, is junior Aaron Valentin, a JUCO transfer who was fantastic this spring and appears to be good enough to be one of the team's new good targets. A JUCO All-American, he's 6-1 and 205 pounds with good deep speed catching 37 passes for 612 yards and 10 scores for Eric CC.

The third receiver slot, occupied by Selwyn Lymon last year, will be senior Joe Whitest, a 6-2, 195-pound former JUCO transfer who has mostly been a special teamer and caught a pass against Illinois two years ago. With good size and sprinter's speed, he has the tools, and now he has to show he can use them.

Taking over for speedy receiving tight end Dustin Keller will be junior Kyle Adams, who's nowhere near the same athlete or the player that Keller was, but he showed this off-season that he's not a bad replacement. At 6-5 and 251 pounds he's a big target with nice hands and good blocking skills. He caught eight passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns last season, but Keller caught 68 balls.

Projected Top Reserves: When will Desmond Tardy be ready? A likely starter at one of the receiver slots, possibly ahead of Valentin, Tardy has to get over a shoulder problem and he has to emerge as a steady playmaker. The 6-1, 199-pound senior came to Purdue as a quarterback but was quickly moved over to the receiving corps. He caught ten passes for 93 yards last season, but he hasn't gotten into the end zone.

Battling with Whitest for the outside job is 6-2, 226-pound junior Keith Smith, a big, tough all-around high school quarterback who came to Purdue to play QB, was moved to safety, where he made 11 tackles, and then moved to wide receiver last year. He has good size, toughness and athleticism, and he looked the part this spring after missing most of last year to work on his grades.

Combining with Adams at tight end is Jerry Wasikowski, a 6-4, 255-pound veteran who caught two passes and scores a touchdown against Eastern Illinois, and didn't see much work the rest of the way. The former walk-on will mostly be a special teamer.

Watch Out For ... D.J. Donley ... next year. The writing was on the way when Paul Johnson and his running attack took over at Georgia Tech, and Donley moved on to Purdue. He might be the best receiver on the roster, but he won't be eligible until next year.
Strength: Size and speed. At the very least, this is a fast group that should create some matchup problems with its size. Valentin is ready to step in from the JUCO ranks right away and shine, and 6-4, 210-pound Arsenio Curry is another one who might come in right away and add more size and speed.
Weakness: Proven production. There's Orton, and ... ? There might be promise and potential, but there's no one outside of Orton that the passing game can count on.
Outlook: Purdue can't replace the athleticism and NFL talent of Keller, and Bryant was an underappreciated talent who finally blossomed in his senior year, but for the most part, Purdue succeeded with marginal talent that worked well in the system. Now the key will be Curtis Painter trying to make everyone better, but this will still be one of the team's biggest concerns when it comes to consistency and overall production.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The line needs all the good players it can get, and it could go into the tank if 6-7, 325-pound left tackle Sean Sester has problems. The honorable mention All-Big Ten performer has a bulging disk in his back, and he'll be desperately needed back after a great 2007. He has worked hard on his strength and athleticism, and this is supposed to be the year he goes from good to special.

The biggest replacement will be for Jordan Grimes at right guard, but sophomore Justin Pierce was able to step in and start the final three games of last season when Grimes went down. The 6-4, 314-pounder is a very strong, very promising run blocker who should be a solid cog up front for the next three years.

Replacing long-time veteran Robbie Powell in the middle will be 6-3, 287-pound Cory Benton, a senior who has spend most of his career at guard. Far better suited for center, where he saw time as a reserve, he's very athletic and has a great motor that doesn't stop. He makes up for his lack of bulk by always going full-tilt.

Working next to Sester at left guard will be Zach Reckman, an unsung rock on the inside who started every game and did a decent job getting of getting better as the season went on. A former defensive lineman, the 6-6, 308-pounder came from out of nowhere and now, after a year of experience, he has to be even better.

Right tackle shouldn't be that big an issue with 6-5, 300-pound junior Nate Jones back after starting every game but the opener. While the former walk-on might not be an elite talent, he was effective enough in pass protection to be considered a plus going into this year. However, he's not great against the top speed rushers.

Projected Top Reserves: Will Eric Hedstrom ever be healthy? The 6-2, 292-pound junior had problems with a shoulder injury early in spring ball last year, and then suffered a knee injury and never saw playing time. Considered a star recruit and one of the nation's best guard prospects back in 2005, he has yet to see any meaningful work.

Working on the left side behind Sester, and in his place until he's healthy, will be 6-8, 275-pound senior Garret Miller, an athlete backup who was slated to be the starter last year but wasn't 100% healthy. Injuries have been a problem throughout his career, and he has a knee issue, but he's a smart player who can start at either tackle spot.

6-4, 293-pound junior Jared Zwilling has been a backup defensive tackle throughout his career, and was a top end recruit, but now he's moving over to the offensive side where he'll work as both a backup guard and center. He'll start out behind Benton in the middle, but could move one step either way if needed.

Watch Out For ... Benton to be strong at center. Powell was a good quarterback for the line, and while Benton has been a career backup, he's athletic enough to grow into a strong starter now that he's getting the full-time chance.
Strength: Experience. There might be some concerns about continuity up front after losing a few key starters, but Sester, Reckman and Jones are good veterans to work around, and the new starters should be ready from day one.
Weakness: Health. Did anyone stay healthy this spring? The Boilermakers had too many injured players and lost too much practice time. On the plus side, several unknowns got meaningful work. However, if Sester's back or Miller's knee are lingering problems, or if Reckman and Jones can't come back healthy, it's uh-oh time.
Outlook: Next year's head man Danny Hope, the line coach, has a little work to do. he line has been above average for the most part, but it rarely wins against the better defensive fronts. This year's group is big, experienced, and potentially better, but it'll all go kaput if the injury problems this off-season continue. The starting five of Sester, Reckman, Benton, Pierce and Jones are good enough to win with, but any variation will mean problems.
Rating: 7