2010 Purdue Preview
Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan
Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan
Posted Jul 31, 2010

Purdue came up with an exciting (but losing) first season under head coach Danny Hope, but with a slew of good playmakers on offense and a potentially strong defense, led by end Ryan Kerrigan, this could be one of the Big Ten's biggest sleepers. Check out the CFN 2010 Purdue Preview.

Purdue Boilermakers

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Danny Hope
2nd year: 5-7
7th year overall: 40-29 Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 17, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Purdue Players
1. DE Ryan Kerrigan, Sr.
2. WR Keith Smith, Sr.
3. LB Jason Werner, Sr.
4. RB Ralph Bolden, Jr.*
5. DT Kawann Short, Soph.
6. LB Joe Holland, Jr.
7. OG Ken Plue, Jr.
8. TE Kyle Adams, Sr.
9. DE Gerald Gooden, Jr.
10. OT Dennis Kelly, Jr.
*Torn ACL
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 at Notre Dame
Sept. 11 Western Illinois
Sept. 18 Ball State
Sept. 25 Toledo
Oct. 9 at Northwestern
Oct. 16 Minnesota
Oct. 23 at Ohio State
Oct. 30 at Illinois
Nov. 6 Wisconsin
Nov. 13 Michigan
Nov. 20 at Michigan State
Nov. 27 Indiana

If it's possible to go 5-7 and have a successful season, Purdue was able to do it.

While a bad loss at Minnesota was inexcusable and dropping a 28-21 battle at home to Northern Illinois wasn't a plus, all seven losses came to bowl bound teams including a 38-36 heartbreaker at Oregon and a soul-crusher against Notre Dame, and only a 37-0 loss to Wisconsin was truly ugly. Despite a quarterback situation that was in turmoil and several question marks everywhere but in the secondary, the Boilermakers lost five games by a touchdown or less and lost four of those by three points or fewer. But more importantly for a program trying to turn the corner, there were finally some big wins.

Purdue could never, ever come up with a big win over the final few years under Joe Tiller, but a 26-18 win over Ohio State became the first victory since 2004 over a team from a BCS conference that finished with a winning record. The win also broke the Buckeyes' ridiculously long string of not losing a game to a team that didn't end up playing in the BCS (with the streak starting after that loss to the Boilermakers five years earlier). Granted, Purdue's win over the eventual Rose Bowl champions last season was the only one over a team that went to a bowl game, but it was still a great step forward and showed that yeah, Purdue really can play with the good teams.

This isn't going to be a Big Ten championship squad quite yet, but head coach Danny Hope has made the offense more explosive, the defense more aggressive, and while Tiller was a great figurehead for the program for a long time, the way the team played last year showed that sometimes teams really can become stale and need a change. But now there are expectations for Purdue to win a few of the closer games, and win a few of the bigger ones, and get back to a bowl game.

It's going to still take a little while, though, with most of the talent still young and emerging. The coaching staff has loaded up on players from Florida, with 14 players from the Sunshine State on the two-deep roster to go along with seven from Texas (and compared to a mere seven from Indiana). The hope will be for the athleticism and speed up and down the board will be good enough to make up for various problems.

Can the secondary replace all four starters? Can Caleb TerBush and/or one-time Miami Hurricane, Robert Marve, upgrade the quarterback play? Can the running game overcome the loss of Ralph Bolden to a torn ACL? Can the offensive line quickly replace three key starters?

Purdue and Hope had to deal with more changes and more adversity going into last year and weren't all that bad. This will be a maddeningly inconsistent team, but it'll be a whole bunch of fun to watch.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. After the problems of last year with suspensions and injuries forcing Joey Elliott into the full-time role, with decent success, now the concern is whether or not TerBush or Marve can be consistent and can utilize the dangerous receiving corps to make the passing game more explosive. There isn't going to be much of a running game, and with the expected issues in the secondary the defense might give up big yards, so the offense has to put up big points and keep up the pace.

What to watch for on defense: Can the secondary survive? Last year's defensive backfield had all four starters back and the longtime veterans were a major strength throughout the season. Now the Boilermakers not only have to replace all the starters, but they're doing it with a slew of untested players. It's a very young, very fast, and very athletic group that should be the X factor for the Purdue season. Considering how good the defensive front seven should be with six returning starters, if the secondary is merely fine, this should be a bowl season.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line can be consistent. Last year's offensive front had the same combination for 11 of the 12 games, and while that was a plus for the pass protection and the offensive production, it made it hard for many young players to see meaningful time. Two good starters, left tackle Dennis Kelly and right guard Ken Plue, will have to be fantastic with three new, untested starters and no depth to rely on.

The schedule: Purdue might not be one of the five best teams in the Big Ten, but it can finish up high in the standings with a not-that-bad schedule that doesn't see Iowa or Penn State. The four Big Ten road games aren't breathers against Northwestern, Ohio State, Illinois and Michigan State, but if the Boilermakers can win two of those it'll be a tremendous season. Even if they don't, with three breezy home non-conference games (although the Toledo game should be a shootout) after the season-opener at Notre Dame, and with home games against Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana, there's no excuse to not be in a bowl game.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Keith Smith. He's not all that fast, but he's a physical 6-2 and 226 pounds with hands that suck in every throw that comes his way. He turned into a special player last year catching 91 passes for 1,100 yards and six scores highlighted by a two-game stretch against Michigan and Michigan State when he made 26 grabs for 246 yards. He'll be a great No. 1 target and a leader for a slew of great young athletic targets.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Ryan Kerrigan. He exploded last year with 13 sacks and came up with 66 tackles, and he should be just as good again with a great line around him. He came up big in the biggest games with three sacks and nine tackles against Ohio State and he was consistent throughout the year. Tough, athletic, and relentless, he'll earn All-America honors.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore RB Al-Terek McBurse. Ralph Bolden fizzled a bit late last year, but he was still a 1,000-yard back (or close to it, netting 935 yards but grossing 1,000) with flash and pizzazz. Now he's out with a torn ACL and McBurse, a very fast, very talented prospect, has to go from good to great to give the Boilermakers a running game.

The season will be a success if … the Boilermakers go bowling and come up with one big win like the Ohio State victory of last year. There are way too many holes to expect a special season, and there will be a clunker or two here and there, but the schedule is too light and the team is too athletic to not get at least seven wins. There are seven games against teams that didn't go bowling last year and games against Minnesota, at Northwestern, and at Michigan State are winnable.

Key game: Sept. 4 at Notre Dame. The Irish will be pumped up in Brian Kelly's first game, but it's a rebuilding team that might not be ready for primetime. If the Boilermakers can come up with the big win, they should be 4-0 with Western Illinois, Ball State, and Toledo to follow before going to Northwestern. Throw in a home date against Minnesota after the trip to Evanston, and if everything breaks right a win over the Irish could mean a 6-0 start with Illinois and Indiana still on the slate.

2009 Fun Stats:
- First quarter scoring: Purdue 103 – Opponents 54
- Red zone touchdowns: Purdue 25-of-35 (74%) – Opponents 29-of-50 (58%)
- Sacks: Purdue 32 for 203 yards – Opponents 20 for 126 yards

2010 Purdue Preview | 2010 Purdue Offense
- 2010 Purdue Defense | 2010 Purdue Depth Chart
- Purdue Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006