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2010 NCAA Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS IN A NUTSHELL

The Boilermakers started the 2009 season kicking off the Danny Hope era as Hope took over for Joe Tiller who spent 12 seasons roaming the sidelines in West Lafayette, retiring as Purdue’s all time leader in coaching wins. Tiller led Purdue to a 2000 co-Big 10 championship which put Purdue into the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1967. Hope was Tiller’s hand picked successor and hoped to continue Tiller’s winning ways in 2009. Unfortunately for Hope & the Boilermakers, Purdue spent much of the year on the wrong side of Lady Luck and wound up 5-7 with a 1-5 record in “close” games. Clearly Purdue was a better squad than their 5-7 record would indicate, but they enter the 2010 season still in transition.

Offensively the Boilermakers have quite a few questions. They bring in new QB Robert Marve who started for Miami-FL as a rFR before transferring into Purdue. I think Marve is going to have problems replicating outgoing QB Joey Elliott’s statistics, but Marve is a true dual threat QB that will give the Purdue offense a different look this season. They also are bringing in new runners after Ralph Bolden tore his ACL in the spring. Purdue should be OK at receiver with Keith Smith returning, but the O-line could have problems, returning just 2 starters from a year ago. WR Keith Smith, RG Ken Plue & LT Dennis Kelly all have the potential to be all Big 10 type of players at their respective positions, but the Boilermakers are probably going to be a bit raw offensively. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Marve plays given his acrimonious departure from “THE U.”

Defensively Purdue has 6 of their front 7 returning including all-world DE Ryan Kerrigan and talented LB Jason Werner as the SAM. Purdue has been a bit shaky against the run the last couple of seasons so they should see some improvement. The weird thing about Purdue offensively is that they are a bit raw, but this side of the football doesn’t show a ton of talent outside of Kerrigan & Werner. Purdue is the only team in the Big 10 who returns every start at LB from last season, but I think they’ll still have some troubles given how good some of the running teams could be in the Big 10. Purdue doesn’t return a single player from their secondary and their projected 4 starters don’t have a single start among them. Purdue most likely will struggle on defense. They’ll really need other players to step it up as most opponents will easily figure out double & triple teaming Kerrigan to take him out of gameplan. It’ll be interesting to see how Purdue adjusts to this.

The schedule isn’t too bad for Purdue. They get 3 of their 4 out of conference games at home although they do start the season off in South Bend to take on Notre Dame. Toledo & Ball St. won’t be pushovers in my opinion. I think both are going to be quality MAC teams that could surprise some people. Ball St. returns 19 players while Toledo was -10 in TO margin meaning they could get lucky in close games. The Big 10 schedule is also very favorable as the Boilers miss both Iowa & Penn St.! Those two games were almost guaranteed losses for this Purdue team so missing both helps the cause. Purdue also gets Indiana & Minnesota at home which are very winnable games. They do travel to Ohio St., Northwestern & Michigan St. and get Wisconsin & Michigan at home. Keep in mind that Purdue shocked Ohio St. last season in Ross-Ade Stadium so there is potential for the Boilermakers to catch somebody napping in West Lafayette. Ideally Purdue would have liked to have seen Illinois at home, but they have enough talent to beat the Illini on the road.

BOTTOM LINE: Best case for me for Purdue is 7-5 while their worst case is 1-11. There are a lot of questions on both sides of the football, but Purdue has a very manageable schedule that could provide opportunites for quite a few wins. If Purdue gets really solid production from their defensive front-7 and Robert Marve can really settle into the QB spot, then there are certain opportunities for wins. If Purdue can go 3-1 in the out of conference late, Purdue should be in position to get in a bowl if they can hold serve at home against Indiana & Minnesota. There is also an opportunity to win against Illinois. That would be 6-6 and bowl eligibility. On the other end, Purdue could seriously be hurting. The secondary could get TORCHED and the Big 10 is setting up to be a dominant conference in ’10. Indiana is going to have a great passing offense which plays right into the weakness of Purdue. The MAC schools could provide upset alerts for Purdue. I think the Boilermakers will need to start strong at 3-1 if possible. If they can get a little momentum going into the Big 10 part of the schedule, Purdue is due for a little luck if they close games. Purdue should be one of the more interesting teams in the Big 10 simply to see how the coaching staff adjusts because attacking Purdue’s offense & defense shouldn’t be too difficult. Splitting the difference between “worst” & “best” makes Purdue a 4-8 team. I think they can do a game or two better than that.

Head Coach: Danny Hope: 5-7 at Purdue; 2nd season as HC
Last Season: 5-7 (T6th in Big 10)
Bowl Game: none
Last 3 Seasons: 17-20
Last 5 Seasons: 30-32
Last 10 Seasons: 67-57
Last 5 Bowl Games: 2-3
AP/BCS National Championships: 0
Experience Level for 2010: Least experienced team in Big 10 (#109 in NCAA)
Turnover Margin: -5
NFL Draft Choices: 1 (DT Mike Neal-2nd Rd)

One thing you always had to respect about Joe Tiller is his willingness to come into the Big 10 and tried to exploit a “market inefficiency” by employing a spread offense and utilizing the passing game to its greatest extent while shunning the prospect of “3-yards & a cloud of dust” that was so pervasive in the Big 10. It’s still the raison d’etre in the conference, but it’s getting more and more open. Tiller took over a Boilermakers squad that went 7-14-1 in Jim Colletto’s last 2 seasons. In Tiller’s first year the Boilermakers went 9-3 and 18-7 in his first two seasons.

Tiller’s 9-3 mark in his very first season would be the best record he’d ever record in his 12-years of coaching in West Lafayette. He’d win 9 games 3 different times, but his signature season was 2000 when he lead the Boilermakers to a co-Big 10 championship & an 8-3 record on their way to the Rose Bowl. It was Drew Brees’s senior season and ultimately it would lead to a 34-24 loss in Pasadena to the Washington Huskies which finished Purdue with an 8-4 record, one game behind Tiller’s best mark of 9-3 back in 1997.

Tiller would never win another Big 10 championships. He would never get back to the Rose Bowl, but in a conference dominated by the likes of Michigan, Ohio St., Iowa, Penn St., Wisconsin & Michigan St., it was quite an accomplishment for Tiller to have finished his career with an 87-62 record. The last time Purdue was in the Rose Bowl was in 1967, and although Tiller didn’t win the Rose Bowl that season, Tiller’s 87 wins is the most for any coach in Purdue football history. Tiller clearly made his mark especially with being an offensive innovator with the spread, espeically being in the Big 10. Purdue never remotely challenged for a national championship, but Tiller clearly made his mark in West Lafayette and it’s never easy replacing a legend.

Danny Hope tried to do just that in 2009. Hope was Tiller’s O-Line coach in his last season at Wyoming in 1996. He followed Tiller to Purdue and spent 5-years as the O-Line coach and is credited with building the offensive line that protected Drew Brees in Purdue’s run to the Rose Bowl in 2000. He left Purdue to join Bobby Petrino at Louisville as Assistant HC before taking on the HC job at Eastern Kentucky where he went 35-22 over 5-years including 32-8 conference record. Hope won a conference championship in his final year before coming back to Purdue in 2008 to be the assistant HC with the promise that he’d be the HC when Tiller retired.

Hope’s tenure in West Lafayette started off great with a 52-31 win over Toledo. Unfortunately for Hope, Lady Luck wasn’t going to allow Hope to start off successfully. Purdue would lose its next 4 games by a total of 18 points, all margins within 7 points. While Purdue started the season off 1-4, their “best case” record was actually 5-0. The Boilermakers certainly weren’t nearly as bad as their record might indicate. They would their 5th straight game in a 35-20 blowout loss at Minnesota, but the following week, Purdue shocked the world by welcoming in Ohio St. to Ross-Ade Stadium and gave the Buckeyes a 26-18 loss despite being a 13 point underdog! Purdue would beat Illinois the following week, but get blasted 37-0 by Wisconsin in Camp Randall! Another huge win awaited Purdue when they knocked off a reeling Michigan squad in the Big House, but lost another close one to Michigan St. 40-37. Purdue would reach a 5-7 record with an Old Oaken Bucket victory by beating in-state rival Indiana 38-21 in Bloomington.

It wasn’t a fantastic season at 5-7, but Purdue’s “best case” record was 10-2 while their “worst case” was 4-8. As you can see, Purdue definitely didn’t have things going their way for much of the season. If you discount the 37-0 blowout to Wisconsin, Purdue actually outscored their opponents by 22 points despite being 5-6. Despite just 4 returning starters on offense & 7 on defense, Hope had a great season leading Purdue to a 5-7 record. He had a few chances to get Purdue to 7 or 8 wins, but Purdue simply couldn’t get things going. Hope is still working in a transition period. He’ll enter 2010 with a new QB and no Ralph Bolden at tailback. The good news for Purdue fans is that Hope should utilize all that he learned from Tiller offensively. If Hope can take Purdue’s defense to the next level, the Boilermakers have a real shot to be just as good under Hope as they were under Tiller.

PURDUE OFFENSE

Returns: 0.4% of rushing yards, 0.7% of passing yards, 66.7% of receiving yards
PPG: 27.8 (6th in Big 10)
Rushing Offense: 136ypg (7th in Big 10)
Passing Offense: 255ypg (3rd in Big 10)
Total Offense: 391ypg (6th in Big 10)

Starters Lost

QB Joey Elliott: 61.7%, 3,026yds, 22TD, 13INT, 268yds, 4TD, 3.1ypc
RB Ralph Bolden: 935yds, 9TD, 4.7ypc, 20rec, 261yds, 2TD
WR Aaron Valentin: 54rec, 621yds, 7TD
OC Jared Zwilling: 12 starts, Honorable Mention All Big 10
LG Zach Reckman: 11 starts
RT Zach Jones: 12 starts, Honorable Mention All Big 10

Returning Starters

WR Keith Smith/SR: 91rec, 1,100yds, 6TD
TE Kyle Adams/SR: 29rec, 249yds
RG Ken Plue/JR: 12 starts
LT Dennis Kelly/JR: 12 starts

The big story at Purdue is Robert Marve taking over as QB. Normally you would think a team wouldn’t be well off when breaking in a new QB, but Purdue is in a unique situation. Outgoing QB Joey Elliott had a great season in ’09 completing 62% of his passes on his way to 3,000 yards including 22TD to 13INT. That’s a lot of production to replace, but this isn’t Marve’s first rodeo. As a freshman he started 11 games for the Miami-FL Hurricanes in 2008 before transferring and sitting out a year at Purdue. Marve only completed 55% of his passes for the Canes and had a 9-13 TD:INT ratio, but this is his 4th year in college and his 2nd year in Hope’s system. Marve is a true dual threat QB that was highly recruited out of HS. It’s a little unusual for Purdue in their spread attack to have a legit running attack given their recent QBs in Drew Brees, Curtis Painter & Joey Elliott. I don’t think Marve is going to throw for 3,100 yards or complete 62% of his passes, but it’s very easy to see Marve stepping into this situation and succeeding.

The skill positions are in flux too. Last year’s leading rusher, Ralph Bolden, tore his ACL in the spring leaving Purdue without a RB. They lost Jaycen Taylor which took out Purdue’s 3 top rushers from a year ago (Elliott was the 3rd leading rusher). The Boilermakers will now turn to sophomore RB Al-Terek McBurse who was mostly a special teams player last season and senior Keith Carlos who started 4 games last season at WR and is moving to RB to provide depth. Purdue brings back 2nd Team All-Big 10 WR Keith Smith who caught 91 balls for 1,100 yards a season ago. TE Kyle Adams & WR Cortez Smith are also returning starters at receiver. Keith Smith is a beast at 6-2/225lbs while Cortez Smith is also 6-2. The receivers are pretty stocked despite losing Aaron Valentin. While the running game is definitely going to take some lumps, Marve has plenty to work with at the other skill positions.

The offensive line only returns 2 starters in RG Ken Plue & LT Dennis Kelly. Plue (6-7/340lbs) & Kelly (6-8/300lbs) have incredible size, but the rest of the line is hurting a bit. They are projected to have a couple of sophomores starting in LG Peters Drew & OC Rick Schmeig. Their projected RT, Nick Mondek, is a junior but he was playing defense last season and just moved to the O-Line for the Boilers. Hope is an O-Line coach so Purdue is in good shape as far as coaching is concerned, but 60% of the line is raw. Plue & Kelly both could wind up being All-Big 10 players, but you can’t help but think the line is going to struggle a bit. Purdue is breaking in a new QB and a new running game combined with a raw O-line. Even with a decent offensive line, the rest of the supporting cast might make them look worse than they really are.

The offense was 6th in the Big 10 last season with 27.8ppg. I don’t see how the Boilermakers improve upon that figure. They simply have too many question marks on offense. They’ll be OK at receiver, but they basically have an entirely new backfield and no matter how talented you might be, experience counts for something and the Big 10 in 2010 is not a conference you want to break in new skill position players. The offense should stick in that 25-28 points per game range, but if you are thinking long term, Purdue looks a lot better offensively in 2011 than they do in 2010. I wonder if Hope will see this and get some young receivers a lot of in-game reps as they’ll lose Keith Smith & Cortez Smith after 2010.

PURDUE DEFENSE

Returns: 64.2% of tackles, 82.8% of sacks
PPG: 29.1 (9th in Big 10)
Rushing Defense: 173ypg (11th in Big 10)
Passing Defense: 203ypg (4th in Big 10)
Total Defense: 377ypg (7th in Big 10)

Starters Lost

DT Mike Neal: 35tkl, 5.5sks, 6tfl
FS Torri Williams: 84tkl, 1.5tfl, 6pbu, 2int
CB David Pender: 40tkl, 2tfl, 13pbu, 1int
CB Brandon King: 30tkl, 2tfl, 2pbu, 3int
SS Dwight McLean: 62tkl, 1tfl, 3pbu, 1int

Returning Starters

DE Ryan Kerrigan/SR: 66tkl, 13sks, 5.5tfl, 2pbu
DT Kawann Short/SO: 48tkl, 4tfl, 1pbu, 2int
DE Gerald Gooden/JR: 37tkl, 4.5sks, 3.5tfl
LB Jason Werner/SR: 77tkl, 4.5sks, 10tfl, 2pbu, 1int
LB Chris Carlino/JR: 71tkl, 2tfl, 4pbu, 1int
LB Joe Holland/JR: 81tkl, 1.5sks, 2tfl, 1pbu, 1int

By far the biggest strength of this Purdue team is their front-7. Despite the loss of 2nd round draft pick DT Mike Neal, Purdue returns the real star of the D-Line in Ryan “Superman” Kerrigan at DE. Kerrigan is a beast at 6-4/270lbs and led the Big 10 in sacks with 13 including 100 yards lost due to those sacks. Kerrigan’s 18.5 tackles for loss ranked #4 in the Big 10 behind Wisconsin DE O’Brien Schofield, Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn & Michigan DE Brandon Graham. Clayborn is the only defensive player returning to college in 2010. DE Gerald Gooden also returns opposite of Kerrigan and started all 12 games last season. DT Kawann Short is a rSO who started 12 games last season and has great size at 6-4/320lbs to plug up the middle. The interior will be a little bit down due to the loss of Neal, but Brandon Taylor (6-1/285lbs) will try to replace him. Despite the loss of Neal, this defensive line looks good to go. Kerrigan should fight for All-America honors and gives Pittsburgh a huge matchup advantage on the edge.

Linebacker will also be a real strength for Purdue in 2010. They return all 3 starting LBs in SAM Jason Werner, MIKE Chris Carlino & WIL Joe Holland. Werner is in his 6th year at Purdue while Carlino & Werner are both juniors (Werner a rJR). This trio comprised 3 of the top-4 tacklers on the defense in ’09 and all 3 started every game in 2009. It’s the only group of LBs in the Big 10 that brings back every LB start from last season. It’s also big group averaging about 6-3/225lbs. The Big 10 has a ridiculous amount of talent at LB so I don’t see any player from the LB corps making a push for all-conference honors, but there is an awful lot of experience, continuity & production coming back from these linebackers. The last 4 seasons have been a bit rough on Purdue in stopping the run, but they should be very much improved here in ’10.

The secondary is where Purdue is really going to hurt. They lose everyone from a season ago and the projected starters do not have a college start among them. Not only is there no experience in the secondary, but there isn’t much talent either. None of the potential starters in the secondary were highly touted players coming out of high school so Purdue could take a real beating in passing situations. They’ll need a lot of help from the D-Line getting good penetration to force errors in opposing teams’s passing game, but if opposing O-Lines can neutralize guys like Kerrigan, Gooden & Werner, the Purdue defense could get lit up like a pinball machine! Purdue hasn’t had a solid pass defense in awhile and it really looks like it won’t be much better in 2010.

The problem with Purdue is that they don’t have any experience in the secondary and they don’t have much talent defensively. Kerrigan & Werner are solid talents, but there isn’t a player on defense that was thought of as a highly touted player coming out of high school. One thing that sort of killed Joe Tiller at Purdue was never having a great defense to go along with the spread offense. Hope inherits that situation and will probably pay for it if he can’t figure out a way to bring in some defensive talent to West Lafayette. DT Bruce Gaston is a 6-3/315lbs freshman that could see some time at DT if he’s available, but that’s about it when it comes to high end defensive talent in the ’10 recruiting class.

Kerrigan is going to see double & triple teams all season long so it’ll be incumbent upon somebody to step up their play and make an offense pay for paying some much attention to Kerrigan. If nobody can step on defense, Purdue is going to get hammered quite a bit.

PURDUE SCHEDULE

@Notre Dame
Western Illinois
Ball St.
Toledo
BYE
@Northwestern
Minnesota
@Ohio St.
@Illinois
Wisconsin
Michigan
@Michigan St.
Indiana

Opening up in South Bend isn’t great news for Purdue. Brian Kelly seriously knows how to coach up a passing offense so I’d expect Irish QB Dayne Crist to carve up Purdue’s secondary to open up the season. ND has a very experienced & talented defense coming back too which should abuse an offense without much outside of a couple of wideouts. Purdue should get a win over Western Illinois no problem, but Ball St. & Toledo won’t be easy. Ball St. returns a ridiculous 19 starters including the entire offense. The last time Ball St. returned that much talent was in 2008 when the Cardinals went 12-2 and started that year off 12-0 before losing to Buffalo & Tulsa to end the season. Toledo shouldn’t be a problem, but the Rockets were -10 in TO margin so they might be in line for a couple of close games to break their way. Purdue needs to hammer the Rockets to ensure the victory.

Purdue gets a massive break in the Big 10 scheduling by not drawing neither Iowa nor Penn St., two guaranteed losses. They also get Indiana & Minnesota at home which could be very winnable games for the Boilermakers. They do get Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan St. & Michigan, but get Michigan at home. They do have road games against Illinois & Northwestern which is a bit unfortunate because those are two games Purdue could potentially win. Overall though I think Purdue get a pretty good draw. Missing out on Iowa & Penn St. is a major coup which could portend to a very good Big 10 season if Purdue can keep games close and win them in the same fashion that they lost them in ’09. Lady Luck can’t be unkind to a man named Hope in consecutive years can he?

PURDUE SUMMARY

For me best case for Purdue is a 7-5. I think they could go 3-1 in the out of conference slate and pull off a .500 mark in conference. Not drawing Iowa & Penn St. is a big deal. Purdue could easily find themselves beating teams like Indiana, Northwestern, Illinois & Minnesota. I can’t imagine scenarios where Purdue can win road games against Notre Dame, Ohio St., & Michigan St. I also don’t think they can beat Wisconsin or Michigan at home although the win over Ohio St. last season shows Purdue has a shot of shocking opponents when they get them in Ross-Ade.

Worst case for me is 1-11. The only guaranteed win is over Western Illinois. Purdue could easily lose the rest of their games although they do get Minnesota at home during homecoming week which is pretty close to a guaranteed win. For the most part, Purdue has a ton of question marks surrounding the team. Offensively they could be OK, but Marve will be in his first year at Purdue under center. The O-Line is young and inexperience and not very talented. Defensively Purdue brings back a ton in the front-7, but only a couple of really talented players. The secondary is a huge liability.

Purdue could see themselves in a bowl despite the question marks. They have a very workable schedule especially if they can get some momentum going. It’ll be interesting to see if they can get on a roll & surprise some people with 6 or 7 wins. If you split the difference between “best” & “worst”, Purdue comes out to a 4-8 squad. That seems about right to me.

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July 18, 2010 - Posted by | Previews, Purdue

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