Purdue believes it will be improved from its 5-7 season a year ago. Just how much, though, remains to be seen.
Coach Danny Hope had a hard time getting a read on his team during the spring because of injury woes. All five scholarship running backs missed the spring game, quarterback Robert Marve wore down as April progressed and the Boilermakers barely had enough healthy bodies to make it through 15 practices.
Most of the injured, except for tailback Ralph Bolden, should be ready in time for the Sept. 4 opener against Notre Dame. Bolden, who rushed for 935 yards and nine touchdowns, tore a ligament in his right knee during non-contact drills early in camp. He was scheduled for May 4 surgery -- his second on the right knee to fix the same injury -- but didn't rule out a return sometime this season.
The loss of Bolden is a blow, but the offense should still be one of the best in the league. Purdue's concerns entering 2010 remain on defense. The Boilermakers aren't much closer to picking out four new defensive backs for their secondary. It's fair to say that the play of Purdue's secondary could go a long way in determining Purdue's success this season.
As for Marve, his surgically-repaired knee is healthy, but he struggled to make it through the spring game and was outplayed by his expected backup, Caleb TerBush.
A healthy Marve throwing to a healthy Keith Smith should keep the Boilermakers in most games this fall. How many they win -- and whether they return to a bowl game -- likely lies with the defense.NOTES, QUOTES
--Seniors TE Kyle Adams, RB Dan Dierking, WR Keith Smith, DE Ryan Kerrigan and LB Jason Werner joined junior DE Gerald Gooden as captains for 2010. Dierking joins his father, Scott, as captains at Purdue.
--Purdue added some late help to its thin secondary with the addition of junior college safety Max Charlot. Charlot, who has three years of eligibility remaining, attended Fullerton College in California. Grades were never an issue for Charlot. He simply wanted to improve his stock as a college player.
--Coach Danny Hope received a one-year extension, keeping him in West Lafayette, Ind. through 2014.
LB Will Lucas -- An early enrollee freshman, Lucas was expected to be a backup. When injuries ripped through Purdue's linebackers during the spring, Lucas jumped in with the starters. He played so well, it will be hard to keep him off the field in the fall. He had 164 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks as a senior at Lakeland, Fla.
QB Caleb TerBush outplayed Robert Marve in the spring game, earning the team's most improved award for the spring. Depending on how Marve's knee fares this summer, TerBush would serve as a capable fill-in.
DT Kawann Short had a pair of sacks and a pass breakup in the spring game. He could provide a big boost as a pass rusher up the middle.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had so many guys who are going to be key players for us in the fall who couldn't practice (in the spring). It's critical we all take care of ourselves, get our bodies well, train well this summer and get ready for the season." -- DE Ryan Kerrigan, one of the many players who missed spring ball with an injurySTRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Purdue has a chance to play in a bowl game for the first time since 2007. The Boilermakers will have a new quarterback and new tailback, along with three new starters across the offensive line. But if they can sort out their problems on defense, seven wins and an appearance in the Motor City Bowl is not out of the question.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Robert Marve will replace Joey Elliott at quarterback. Marve has plenty of potential -- he broke a number of Tim Tebow's high school records in Florida -- but comes to Purdue following a stormy exit at Miami. There are questions whether his knee is fully recovered from ACL surgery. Tailback Ralph Bolden is out for most, if not all of the season. But receiver Keith Smith returns after leading the league with 91 catches and 1,100 yards last year. He did that while playing all year with a broken wrist that required surgery after the season. The coaches have to be excited over his potential when fully healthy.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The biggest question is the secondary. Purdue needs four new starters and has plenty of candidates but no real frontrunners. The only player with any sort of experience, safety Albert Evans, missed the spring recovering from ankle surgery. Finding four starters -- and their backups -- will be the biggest question of the spring. Also, linebacker Jason Werner missed the spring with a heel injury. It wouldn't be a big deal, other than Werner's chronic back woes have previously kept him off the field for extended periods of time. Werner is the leading returning tackler with 77.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: All phases of special teams collapsed at some point last season, something for which coach Danny Hope took the blame. Hope felt Purdue was so thin in so many areas, he could ill-afford to use starters and key personnel on special units. That's no longer the case. Any amount of progress would be a vast improvement over last season. Kicker Carson Wiggs missed time in the spring following minor knee surgery, but returned in time for the spring game. The coaches are confident he'll be fine by early summer.
--DB Michael Eargle -- The junior college transfer has perhaps the best chance of anyone to contribute immediately. There are plenty of jobs available in the secondary and Eargle has the benefit of two years of college football already, plus the 15 practices this spring. He is already on campus taking part in spring drills.
--QB Robert Marve -- The Miami transfer has some competition, but should easily win the starter's job by fall. He has plenty of talent around him to be successful.
--CB Ricardo Allen -- Coach Danny Hope said Allen was the No. 1 high school cornerback on the Boilermakers' board. Being able to land him is big, given the amount of turnover coming in Purdue's secondary. At 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Allen is a strong candidate to contribute immediately.
--DT Bruce Gaston -- Hope said Gaston has the potential to be iconic -- huge praise for a high school kid that hasn't even put the pads on yet. With Mike Neal off to the NFL, Gaston could fit right in along Purdue's defensive front.
--RB Ralph Bolden was scheduled for May 4 surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right knee. He suffered the injury early in spring camp during a non-contact drill. Bolden, a junior, is committed to attempting an improbable return this season, even though he has a redshirt available. Bolden has been through this before -- he tore a ligament in his knee in high school, too.
--All five scholarship running backs missed Purdue's spring game with various injuries. Among the most significant were Bolden and Dan Dierking, who sat with a hyper-extended knee.
--QB Robert Marve, the expected starter, said after spring ball his knee still doesn't feel all the way back following ACL surgery. Coach Danny Hope thought Marve wore down as practices went on, so he pulled him for a few leading up to the spring game.
--DE Ryan Kerrigan ended spring ball on crutches after re-aggravating the foot he broke in last season's finale against Indiana. Kerrigan had the foot in a boot, although surgery remains an option. He should still be ready in time for fall camp, though.
--WR Keith Smith ran routes, but didn't really participate in spring came to protect his wrist. Smith needed two surgeries on his wrist after playing with it broken all last season. He still led the league with 91 catches and 1,100 yards. Smith served as a mentor to the younger receivers in the spring, but will be fine for the start of the season. He should start catching passes again around the middle of May.
--LBs Jason Werner (heel) and Antwon Higgs (wrist) were held out of the spring game.
--Safety Albert Evans is one of the few defensive backs with any experience. But he missed all of the spring while recovering from offseason ankle injury.
--Kicker Carson Wiggs participated in the spring game, but missed a few weeks while recovering from minor knee surgery. The coaches expected him to be fully healthy before the school year ended.
--Purdue dismissed offensive lineman Monroe Brooks for "repeated conduct detrimental to the squad," according to a release. The sophomore did not appear in any games in 2008 or 2009.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010