Friday, July 28, 2006

Big Ten Football Previews - Purdue Boilermakers

Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of my annual summer Big Ten football previews. Stay tuned for the next review at a time and date TBD...

Team: Purdue Boilermakers

Past Predictions/Results:
2005 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 4-4 (T-5th), Outback / 5-6, 3-5 (8th)
2004 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 5-3 (4th), Outback / 7-5, 4-4 (T-5th), Sun
2003 Prediction / actual: 10-2, 6-2 (T-2nd) / 9-4, 6-2 (T-2nd)
2002 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 5-3 (T-4th) / 7-6, 4-4 (T-5th)
2001 Prediction / actual: 9-2, 6-2 (T-1st) / 6-6, 4-4 (T-4th)

Returning Starters: 7 offense, 4 defense, no kickers

Key Returnees: QB Curtis Painter, RB Kory Sheets, WR Dorien Bryant, LT Mike Otto, DE Anthony Spencer, LB George Hall, CB Zach Logan

Key Losses: C Matt Turner, TE Charles Davis, SS Bernard Pollard, DE Ray Edwards, DE Rob Nikovich, DT Brandon Villarreal

Looking Back ... Crash and burn. That is the best term to describe what was being touted as Purdue’s year. Twenty starters returned last season and yet the Boilermakers got annihilated by the Fighting Irish and before winning out over the last three games, were sitting at a rather ugly and highly dissatisfying 2-6. To say that there was some unrest among fans and alumni is an understatement. But, (isn’t there always a but?) those last three games gave the same folks a glimmer of hope going into 2006.

It may not officially be do or die time for Coach Joe Tiller, but you can bet that what happens on and off the field this year will be more scrutinized than at any point of his tenure. The players seem to be making the headlines for all the wrong reasons and Tiller needs to put a halt to that or he will lose his team again, and maybe this time, his job. Honestly, I think he’s safe and that last year was an aberration, but in this day and age, the only way to make sure of that is to do one thing – WIN.

Outlook - Offense ... Somewhere over the past few seasons, and why I really don’t know, the Purdue offense went from its basketball on grass approach to a more traditional, smash-mouth style of football. The Boilermakers have had the personnel to do so, but again, why they did it remains a mystery. Fact is, the gold and black attack has been at its best when it was pass first, pass second, and run to surprise teams. Will that return with a new offensive coordinator joining the staff? We’ll see…

When Purdue has been good, it has been in direct correlation with a stud quarterback. First it was Drew Brees, then Kyle Orton. Last year, many thought that Brandon Kirsch, who showed flashes while sharing time with Orton earlier in his career. That wasn’t the case and Curtis Painter got his chance. Painter did all he could to salvage what was, by then, a wasted season and in the process helped keep Purdue fans engaged and looking to the future. The trouble is, if he goes down, there is little in the cupboard, at least in terms of experience. If Painter stays healthy, he is a threat to run and if work on his mechanics comes to fruition, Purdue could raise a few eyebrows this fall.

Depth is also a bit of an issue in the backfield. Kory Sheets has what it takes to be a great Big Ten running back, but if he gets dinged up, things get a little dicey. Anthony Heygood is a physical back that can offer up a change of pace, but he might not be ready to carry the load if something happened to Sheets. Back to Kory, he is fast and has experience and with the line he has in front of him, could be just what the doctor ordered on the offensive side of the ball. Another name to watch, unless he gets scooped up by the receivers coach, is JUCO transfer Jaycen Taylor. He is small but fast and gives the Boilers at least a little more depth in perhaps the second most important position for a Big Ten offense.

One thing that will really aid in the continued development of Curtis Painter is the experience of the receiving corps. Dorien Bryant is the most underrated receiver in the Big Ten, if not the nation. He is highly productive, has fantastic hands and great speed. He is a go-to guy who could end up as one of the best ever to don the gold and black. However, for Bryant to be as effective as possible, those around him need to step up – namely 6-9 senior Kyle Ingraham and senior Andrew Chattams. Beyond this pair, there is some talent on board but it isn’t very experienced. A big hole will have to be plugged at tight end as well, where Charles Davis was the dream safety valve for a young quarterback. Dustin Keller has the talent to fill those shoes completely.

The absolute strength of the Purdue offense, as it often has during the Tiller era, lies with the offensive line. NFL talent churns out of this line all the time, or so it seems, and there is more of that heading into this year, namely left tackle Mike Otto. The next player to take that title might be junior right tackle Sean Sester. The bookends have plenty of help inside as Uche Nwaneri returns from a suspension and Jordan Grimes and Robbie Powell round out the starting five. The only trouble, surprise, surprise, is if the injury bug bites as there is little experience on the depth chart

Outlook - Defense ... Lost in all the hype that typically surrounds the Purdue offense is the success that the defense has had over the years – last year being an exception. Despite returning several defensive starters last year, the unit never gelled and it took its toll. Look for things to be different in ’06 however, with guys like Torri Williams and George Hall leading the way.

A sure strength of this defense each and every year has been along the front four. Well, only one starter (Anthony Spencer) returns and the depth chart is full of first year players. There is potential in Eugene Bright who is big and has nice acceleration as well as tackles Ryan Baker and Alex Magee. However, as mentioned, you must have good depth to have success on the defensive front. Three youngsters have that ability, but can they step in and be difference makers? Keyon Brown, Mike Neal and Jared Zwilling will all get their time in the rotation. How they develop will be what determines the overall success of the Purdue defense this fall.

The foundation of this defense lies at linebacker. George Hall might be the best returning middle linebacker in the conference and Stanford Keglar is speedy and has added needed bulk to be an every down player. Cliff Avril rounds out the starting group but injuries have plagued him over his career. That means guys like Dan Bick, Josh Ferguson and Jason Werner need to be ready to play and do so at a high level. Again, stay healthy and this unit has a load of promise. If not, Purdue might have to put too much reliance on a still young quarterback.

Much like the defensive front, the secondary doesn’t return much in the way of starting experience. Safety Torri Williams has the potential to be a superstar, but he’s been battling a slew of injuries. Cornerback Zach Logan is the lone starter that returns and he was a pretty good cover corner but not as sure-handed a tackler as you’d like in your last line of defense. Brandon King (CB) and Brandon Whittington round out the starting four but will be pushed for time Aaron Lane and JUCO transfers Jonte Lindsey and Brandon Blackmon. In a conference that brings back a ton of firepower in its pitch and catch tandems, this secondary is going to have to become a force in a hurry.

This defense doesn’t have the makings of some that have made Purdue so good over the past several years. Then again, last season’s “D” was highly touted and fell flat on its face over and over again. If it can be serviceable and the fresh talent can get good fast, Purdue should be better than it was during last year’s disaster.

Outlook - Special Teams ... The kicking game is such a question that Coach Tiller brought in a load of JUCO and freshmen talent to compete with penciled in starters Casey Welch (PK) and Jared Armstrong (P) for their jobs. Ben Jones and Dave Brytus depart and while neither was as consistent as you’d like, they had experience. A player to watch out for might be freshman recruit Tim Dougherty.

9/9 – MIAMI-OH
9/30 - at Notre Dame
10/7 – at Iowa
10/14 – at Northwestern
10/28 – PENN STATE
11/4 – at Michigan State
11/11 – at Illinois
11/18 – INDIANA
11/25 – at Hawaii

Key Games: 9/23 – Minnesota, 9/30 – at Notre Dame, 10/7 – at Iowa, 10/14 at Northwestern, 11/18 - Indiana

Prediction ... Purdue seems to be taking the Minnesota approach to out of conference opponents this fall. Aside from Notre Dame, Purdue should have no problem with any of the OOC foes it faces – just the confidence booster a team on the rebound needs. The Boilermakers also miss Michigan and Ohio State again. The first four games are at home before a showdown in South Bend. How the gold and black come out of that game will set the tone for the rest of the season. I’m banking on enough time to get the depth chart some experience and no disastrous injuries this fall. Otherwise I will be overshooting Purdue’s actual finish…

OOC: 4-1 (loss to Notre Dame)
B10: 4-4 (wins over Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois & Indiana)
Overall: 8-5, T-6th in the conference, Insight Bowl berth


BigTenSportsFan said...

Holy cow! What a daunting schedule the Boilermakers face this season. The eyes of the country will be glued to the great Hoosier state on Sept. 16 when one of the sport's oldest rivalries is renewed when Purdue University faces Muncie's own -- the Ball State Univeristy Cardinals! Expect Joe Tiller to pull out all the stops in this one, and the Boilers to squeak by with an epic 3OT victory!

Dan Meyer said...

I may quibble on details (our chances of beating NU increased significantly when Walker died) but your prediction is reasonable and analysis of the team is sound as usual. Purdue actually has made most of its summer news outside of football--Matt Painter appears to be on his way to a spectacular 2007-08 class in men's hoops and President Martin Jischke, who has been a great representative of the university and accomplished much both academically and athletically during his tenure, will be leaving after this academic year.

Aaron Roberts said...

I think people will be happily surpirsed with the next Great QB at Purdue. He has a outstanding O-line, a breakaway back in Sheets and a North-South runner in Juco Jaycen Taylor, the receivers are top notch and younger guys have size and TE will cause problems for opposing defenses.
Defensive front 7 will be solid to excellent at LB. Secondary cannot get any worse and can only go up with alot of newcomers and atheletes joing the mix, which was real thin last year.
Look for a Purdue win at N.W. in a revenge game from the last two years and two holes to fill at N.W.
Coach Walker and QB-Basanaz who is gone. Defense didn't stop anyone last yr and won't put up the numbers they did the last two yrs against teams.
Purdue goes 9-4 and will be in tie for 4th and maybe third if they also take one at home from a weaker PSU team.


Anonymous said...

I think programs like Notre Dame, USC, and Texas showed last year that a great offense, while having weak defense can get you into the top 10. Purdue's success on offense will play more into their success this season than their deficiencies on defense.

Outside of the Notre Dame and Iowa games, Purdue should be favored in all their games this year.

Penn State lost most of their offensive line and their QB, new head coaches are at Northwestern and Wisconsin, and Michigan State is always bad in November.

If Purdue's offensive line lives up to expectations, Painter is markedly improved in the passing game, and Purdue reduces costly turnovers, I see no reason why this cannot be a 10-win season.

-Dan In Indy

Aaron Roberts said...

Update on Purdue Boilers, went to last few practices.
George Hall Sr Lb out with compartment syndrome in leg for a few games. Josh Ferguson who had passed him for starting job replacement.
Dan Bick WLB has had shoulder pain and got shot for it and hopefully no further surgery after having some at end of season.
Brandon King apparently academics and was to be starting CB.
No others with any problems really.
Purple shirts for practice worn by Ingraham, Bryant and Spencer, McDonald , but these adjust daily and may be off as I write.

Scrimmages MR. INDIANA 03 TARDY looked good in Bryants slot.
Orton and Lymon both 6-4 receivers looked reall good. Taylor juco RB still showing nice runs in practice, Camacho had good Thur. at RB.
Keglar intercepted Painter on Wed for TD, OFFENSE LINE DOMINATED THUR. Defense couldn't stop them Thur, but did well Tues and Wed.
JUCO AA punter Armstrong will do well and kicking has three guys of 4 fighting it out, all hit well up to 45 yds.
Offense will looked to be strong at LINE-WR AND RB and it is simply up to Painter.
Defense will have solid line and depth and LB need some health to happen, but secondary has 17 guys fighting it out. Will tell more later on them.
Tiller lost quite a few pounds, lets ass't coaches run the show in practice and he only bsteps in when main scrimmage happens each practice.

Aaron Roberts said...

Post game week 1 and preview week two.
Purdue started off big up 16-0 and then gave up a 79 yard drive to a Div 1-AA school, Purdue scored another 10 points and then gave up a block punt for a td, deep on their side of the field and bot ched the next series with a snap above the punters head , which led to a 5 yd td run and the scoe was 26-21 and everyone was feeling this deep OH _hit feeling, then the offense in the second hald scored 5 tds and held the ISU first unit to one 72 yard td drive and a vey late drive against 2nd and 3rd string guys.
Purdue offense will be a top ten all season I predict and the defense will be a cause for concern, many young guys and prety much save for one guy new in the secondary.
Purdue lost Torri Williams SS for season and maybe career with hyperextended knee and torn ligaments.
Purdue did score 60 points and I believe that may have led the Nation for the first week.
Week Two Miami(OH) and I predict a 41-24 win.

A.G. said...

albeit 60 points versus a very bad (0-11 last season) 1-AA school.

Aaron Roberts said...

0-11 11-0 doesn't matter to me, they got 60 points and had not done so ever under Tiller before.

Take out two messed up punt attempts and review the scoring drives and scores and Purdue controlled things and will improve on the punting unit and I expect clearly improvement across the board for Purdue this week and over the next few.