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2009 Purdue Preview - Offense
Purdue WR Keith Smith
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Purdue Boilermaker Offense
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What you need to know:
The offense isn't going to change a
whole lot in the transition, but it needs time and it needs to
hope for some big surprises in key spots. With Curtis Painter
gone and Justin Siller booted, Joey Elliott gets the first look at
quarterback, but he's being pushed hard by strong-armed redshirt
freshman Caleb TerBush. The line is full of veteran players that
need to get and stay healthy to be able to pave the way for
Jaycen Taylor, who returns from a knee injury, and a promising
stable of backs. The receiving corps is the team's greenest area
and has to hope for the big, speedy prospect to turn into big,
speedy producers. Expect an overreliance on the ground game
early until the passing attack figures out what it's doing, but
it'll all go kaput if the line can't find the right combination.
Star of the offense:
Senior RB Jaycen Taylor
Passing: Joey Elliott
8-15, 81 yds
Rushing: Frank Haliburton
13 carries, 37 yards
Receiving: Keith Smith
49 catches, 486 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Ralph Bolden
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OG Ken Plue
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Taylor, 2) QB Joey
Elliott, 3) WR Keith Smith
Strength of the offense: Running back, Receiver size
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback production, Line
Senior Joey Elliott
stepped in for Curtis Painter three times last season, and
was fine completing 8-of-15 passes for 81 yards while
running for 13 yards and a score. And then he got hurt with
a shoulder injury and that ended any hope of doing much over
the second half of the year. The 6-2, 216-pound veteran
isn't a top-shelf passer but he has decent mobility and he's
been around long enough to know what he's doing. Known as a
clutch passer in high school throwing for 7,797 yards and 80
touchdowns at Evansville High in Indiana. Now he'll have to
come through to hold on to the starting job early this fall.
Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman
Caleb TerBush is pushing and pushing hard. The 6-5,
222-pound bomber has the best passing skills on the team and
he can make throws that Elliott can't even think about. He's
also extremely mobile for his size, rushing for 859 yards
and 16 touchdowns as the star of an Illinois state
championship team, but he needs some seasoning. He'll have
to do something extraordinary to become the main man, but
he's not that far off.
On the way to try to jump-start his career is
Robert Marve, the one-time star recruit at
Miami who never panned out. He was thinking about going to
Tennessee, but he'll come to West Lafayette this year to be
eligible for next year. He has the size and the raw skills,
but he didn't do much for the Canes and was bumped out of a
job. It's by no means a sure thing that he'll be the
starter next year.
Watch Out For ... TerBush to see plenty of work.
Either in mop-up time or in blowouts, TerBush will be thrown out
there as soon as possible to see what he can do. He's the likely
starter going into next year, even with the addition of Marve, and if this season starts to go
into the tank he could be come the top option.
Strength: Players who fit. Elliott has the
experience and the smarts to be more than fine now that he has
the full-time job, while TerBush is a great option who should
grow into the job over the next few years. These two fit what
the coaching staff wants to do.
Weakness: Elliott. It's asking a lot to count on a
career mop-up option who's just now getting his arm strength
back to the pre-injury form. TerBush is good, but he'll need a
Outlook: The job would've gone to Justin Siller if
he could've figured out where the classes were, but after a
strong showing in relief, he got kicked off the team due to
academic issues. Elliott and TerBush aren't going to keep any
defensive coordinators awake at night, but they're serviceable
and they'll generate passing yards.
Senior Jaycen Taylor
was supposed to be a co-No. 1 back along with Kory
Sheets, but he suffered a torn ACL and didn't get on the field.
On the plus side, he got another year of eligibility and got
hurt so early in fall camp that he's close to 100%. He ran for
560 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry,
and was considered to be even more of a speed back than the
extremely quick Sheets with 4.5 wheels. The 5-10, 180-pounder
isn't going to run over anyone and he has to prove he can stay
healthy, missing a month of the 2007 season with a broken arm,
to go along with last year's knee problem, and he has to be used
more as a receiver.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Ralph
Bolden got his feet wet last year with 28 yards on 16
carries, and now he appears to be ready to become a top
producer. A compact 5-9 and 194 pounds, he's a tough back who
isn't afraid to run inside and has the quickness to get outside.
After starring in spring ball, he'll get an equal amount of the
rushing workload until Taylor is back in the swing of things.
Junior Dan Direking has seen a little bit
of starting time and can be thrown into the mix here and there
when he's not serving as a key special teamer. He only ran for
34 yards last season, but he started against Michigan two years
ago and finished the season with 181 yards and two scores.
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 where he made ten tackles.
Looking to make
an immediate impact will be star recruit Al-Terek
McBurse, a 6-0, 204-pounder from Florida who was
considered one of the nation's top all-around backs by the
recruiting services after rushing for 2,238 yards and 23
touchdowns, averaging 12 yards per carry, as a senior in
Florida. He's quick, tough, and good enough to possibly take
over the starting job right away.
Watch Out For ... Bolden. There wasn't much room for
anyone to get work with the passing game and Sheets the focal
points of the offense, and Bolden didn't exactly set the world
on fire when he got in games. Now he should be fantastic with a
good burst and the vision to be a spread running star.
Strength: Quick options. With the return of
Taylor, the emergence of Bolden, and the addition of McBurse,
there are more than enough options to fill in and replace
Sheets' 1,131 yards and 16 touchdowns of lost production. There
should be a good rotation with the coaching staff able to go
with the hot hand.
Weakness: The team. The main problem for the
ground game is a team that's likely going to have to throw to
stay in most games. The talent in the backfield is there and
there should be good production when the backs are needed, but
the offense will end up revolving around the passing attack.
Outlook: The quarterbacks aren't likely to run all
that much with the talent in the backfield in place to create a
solid and effective running game. If Taylor is back to his
pre-injury form, the attack has a good veteran to count on game
in and game out, and some nice reserves waiting in the wings.
The key will be for players like Bolden and McBurse to produce
when they get the chance to provide more reliable options.
The team needs faster, more
dangerous receiving weapons, and that's where Royce
Adams comes in. The former corner is one of the team's
fastest players, but he didn't get much work in the defensive
backfield making 18 tackles last year and 30 as a spot starter
two years ago. With 6-0, 190-pound size and his next-level
wheels, he could be a gamebreaker if he can show he can
consistently catch the ball over the middle and do things with
it. He's not going to shy away from contact.
transfer Aaron Valentin was brought in last
year to make an instant impact after an All-America season, but
he caught just 11 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns
highlighted by a three-catch, 99-yard, one score performance in
the season finale against Indiana. While the 6-1, 205-pound
receiver wasn't much for the offense, he was great on kick
returns averaging 25.7 yards per try. He'll be used as a punt
returner now as well.
6-2, 226-pound senior Keith
Smith started out his career at safety after playing
quarterback in high school, and then he moved to receiver before
last year and finished as the team's No. 3 target catching 49
passes for 486 yards and two scores. While he has great speed to
go along with his size, he wasn't able to put it all together
and make too many big plays. That should change as he played
much stronger this offseason looking like a true receiver.
Junior Kyle Adams is a nice tight end
who'll be used early and often. At 6-4 and 251 pounds he has
good size and great smarts, he has been one of the team's top
students, but he suffered a knee injury on a kickoff in the
opener of last year and is just now getting back into the swing
of things. A strong blocker with great hands, he was great in
spring ball and should be a regular target.
Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman
Tommie Thomas is a promising 6-2, 193-pound speedster
who came to Purdue as a corner and now will move to receiver. A
star safety prospect coming out of high school, he moved
positions early on last year and now will try to add more pop to
the passing game. He's a potential big play waiting to happen
who could be used as a runner as well as a receiver.
Sophomore Waynelle Gravesande was one of the
team's top recruits two years ago with tremendous quickness and
good toughness with the ball in his hands. The 6-0, 182-pounder
only caught two passes for 13 yards last season, with both
coming in mop-up time against Indiana, but he's a potential
home-run hitter who'll start out working behind Keith Smith.
Junior Jeff Lindsay saw spot-starting time
last year spending most of his time on special teams. The
one-time superstar safety prospect has 6-3, 238-pound size,
great range, and the athleticism to become a dangerous receiver,
but he has to start playing up to his promise. He has looked
great at times this offseason and appears to be ready to make a
Watch Out For ... Adams. While he might play like a
cornerback working at wide receiver at times, he has too much
speed and too much athleticism to not have the ball in his hands
on a regular basis. He looked the part in spring ball, and while
he might not be a No. 1 target, he could be a gamechanger.
Strength: Potential. The opportunities will be
there for this group to come together all at once and be
extremely productive. It's a land of misfit targets with several
different types pulled in to form the corps, but there's plenty
of speed, quickness and size to hope for big things.
Weakness: Proven production. This was a concern
going into last year with so much turnover, so the passing game
mostly revolved around the two sure-thing targets, Greg Orton
and Desmond Tardy. This year's corps has a few good players to
rely on early on with Smith a No. 1, but there will have to be a
Outlook: Purdue always gets production out of its
receivers, mostly by throwing it in comeback mode, but while
there are good prospects, this should be one of the team's
bigger concerns going into the season. Everyone has looked great
in practices, but obviously it all has to translate to the
IIf guard Eric Hedstrom is healthy, then
Zach Reckman can go back to left tackle, where he
started over the final five games of last year. The former defensive
lineman is a solid all-around blocker with just enough quickness to play
on the outside and the 6-5, 297-pound toughness to be good at guard.
He'll move around where needed. Going into the fall, he'll play left
With Reckman moving inside, the one big opening is at
left tackle where massive sophomore Dennis Kelly will
get more of a shot to see time. At 6-8 and 291 pounds, he's a tough
blocker to get around and he has tight end-like quickness on the move.
He saw a little bit of time as a true freshman, and now he'll get the
opportunity to grow into the job.
Trying to take over for Cory
Benton in the middle is Jared Zwilling, a 6-4,
293-pound fifth-year senior who came to Purdue as a top defensive tackle
recruit but moved to the O line before last year. He got four starts at
left guard to end the season and was decent, and now he'll step in at
center where he'll be one of the team's leaders. Not only was he named a
captain, but he won a team award as the most aggressive player.
6-5, 312-pound fifth year senior Zach Jones started
nine times at right tackle and filled in at right guard for the Ohio
State game and at left tackle against Oregon and Northwestern. The
former walk-on has been the team's most effective pass protector at
times and got 12 starts at tackle in 2007. He finally got a scholarship
last year and will now be one the team's best all-around blockers, along
with being one of the most versatile and experienced.
he's built more like a tackle than a guard, 6-7, 322-pound sophomore
Ken Plue might be a fixture on the inside for the next
three seasons. He started the final six games of last year and isn't
likely to let go of the job. Tough to get around and extremely strong,
he's also just athletic enough to be moved to tackle in a pinch.
Projected Top Reserves: The key piece of the
puzzle for the line going into the fall will be the shoulder of
Eric Hedstrom, a starter for the first eight games at left
guard before suffering a separation. This came after missing most of
2007 with a knee problem and a shoulder injury two years ago. The 6-5,
292-pounder was considered a big-time recruit when he came to the
program as one of the 2005's star guard prospects, and if he's back, the
rest of the line can fall back into place.
Pierce was supposed to take over a starting spot going into
last year, but he struggled with his consistency in his five starts at
right guard and ended up working as a backup. He's durable, extremely
strong, and built for the job at 6-4 and 310 pounds, but he'll need to
be better on the move.
Pushing for time at left tackle is
Peters Drey, a good-looking 6-6, 292-pound redshirt freshman
from Alabama who has good upside and nice athleticism for his size.
Versatile enough to play either side, he'll get work throughout the year
as a key backup.
Watch Out For ...
Hedstrom. There were so many combinations up front last year that there
won't be problems if the line has to go with the flow, but if Hedstrom's
shoulder can heal up, that could open up several options.
Strength: Experience. For good and bad, the line
was never the same for more than a few games in a row. There was lots of
shuffling and lots of playing around with the lineup until the final
month of the year when it seemed like the coaching staff figured out
what it wanted. Now there's lots of returning experience and lots of
players ready to step in and produce.
Weakness: Continuity. There was a major rash of
injuries from the start of last year and things didn't get all that much
better as the year went on. There might not be a set front five for the
first part of the season.
Outlook: Head coach Danny Hope was the offensive
line coach and pays special attention to the backbone of the offense.
Now he needs to get more production out of a group that gave up 24 sacks
and didn't do enough for the ground game. There's a lot of returning
experience, but it'll be work to find the right fit for all the options.