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2011 Preview – Purdue Boilermakers

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (Last Year = 4-8, T9 in Big 10)


It’s almost impossible to get a read on the 2010 season for the Purdue Boilermakers. Miami-FL transfer QB won the starting QB for 2010, but he was injured in the 4th game of the season against Toledo and never played again. RB Ralph Bolden was a 2nd Team All-Big 10 player in 2009, but he missed all of 2010 with an ACL injury earlier that spring. WR Keith Smith was an All-Big 10 player coming back for his senior season, but blew his ACL out in the 2nd game against Western Illinois! It’s difficult for any team to lose their 3 best offensive players and keep winning. For a program like Purdue, it’s next to impossible and it showed last season as Purdue finished off the year 4-8.

Purdue started the 2010 season losing to Notre Dame 23-12, but followed that up with wins over Western Illinois & Ball St. Unfortunately after 3 games, Purdue was without Bolden & Smith and it showed up against Toledo in a 31-20 loss to the MAC conference representative despite the Boilermakers being 11-point favorites! That’s like them losing 31-9 or 42-20. Brutal either way considering the opponent. Amazingly enough, Purdue rebounded to beat Northwestern in Evanston followed by a home win over Minnesota. The Boilermakers are a very respectable 4-2 at this point with games against Illinois, Michigan and Indiana left to get bowl eligible. Unfortunately, Purdue would never win another game. Ohio St. & Illinois hammered Purdue in the next 2 weeks by the combined score of 93-10 dropping Purdue to 4-4. Wisconsin & Michigan would pile on making Purdue 4-6, but the last 2 games were the harshest of a harsh season. Going up to East Lansing as 20-point dogs, Purdue was beating Michigan St. 31-20 in the 4th quarter, but a blocked punt changed the face of the game and Sparty beat Purdue Pete 35-31! Against in-state rival Indiana, Purdue gave up a game tying FG in Ross-Ade Stadium to force OT where Purdue would lose 34-31.

I don’t think a 4-8 season following a 5-7 season puts any pressure on Danny Hope as HC of the Boilermakers. The guy has been pretty darn unlucky at this point. In his two seasons roaming the sidelines in West Lafayette, Purdue is -11 in turnover margin and holds a 2-7 record in games decided by 7 points or less. At some point those numbers will regress to the mean and Hope will look a lot better, as will the Boilers.


Just happening this week, Purdue lost their returning starting QB Rob Henry due to an ACL tear! That’s a significant blow. Henry as a rFR last season ran for 547 yards & 3TD (5.3ypc) and also passed for 996 yards & 8TD, completing 53% of his passes while throwing 7 interceptions. Henry had a lot of work to do as a passing QB that is certain, but he gave Purdue a legitimate dual threat QB who could make plays from the pocket. Even moreso, given the status of Robert Marve’s health during his collegiate career, the one constant about the former Miami-FL recruit is that he cannot stay healthy. The QB situation becomes EXTREMELY DICEY now with the Boilermakers in 2011.

The big guys leaving for Purdue revolve around their receiving corps. WR Cortez Smith is gone after leading the team in receiving last year wiht33 catches for 434 yards & 4TD. TE Kyle Adams is also gone after catching 36 balls for 244 yards. WR Keith Smith is also gone after having been denied a 6th year of eligibility. That’s a tough break for Purdue as Smith was their best receiver by a wide margin, but essentially missed all of 2010 with an injury. The only player Purdue loses on the O-Line is LG Justin Pierce. It might be worth mentioning that RBs Dan Dierking & Keith Carlos are gone, but really Ralph Bolden is the starting RB here despite missing all of 2010 so I don’t think that we can count the position as a loss especially considering that QB Rob Henry was Purdue’s leading rusher from a year ago.


QB Robert Marve returns. He played in 4 games last season and actually completed 67.7% of his passes going 67 for 99 for 512 yards including 3TD & 4INT. His decision making can improve, but you love the completion percentage. He absolutely has to stay healthy! Also returning from injury is RB Ralph Bolden Bolden rushed for 935 yards & 7TD in 2009 before missing all of 2010 with ACL problems. What is it about Purdue and ACL injuries? WR Antavian Anderson returns on the edge. He was Purdue’s 2nd leading receiver last year coming in with 316 receiving yards & 4TD. The O-Line returns 4 starters including OC Peters Drey, RG Ken Plue, RT Nick Mondek and LT Dennis Kelly. Drew is the lone junior of the bunch with the rest being seniors. Both Plue & Kelly were Big 10 Honorable Mention players a year ago while Kelly was the team’s offensive MVP! If Marve & Bolden can stay healthy, Purdue has a very solid offensive line that can contribute big things to the offense. Losing Henry hurts something awful, but there is still some upside potential to Purdue’s offensive capabilities. However, luck needs to change and players need to stay healthy. At a minimum!


There aren’t a massive amount of opportunities for freshman to impact the offense. I think rFR WR Chalres Torwudzo could be interesting on the edge because of his size at 6’4/210lbs. That’s probably about it. The offensive line is too veteran of a group to see freshman make a big splash. TE could be interesting with Robert Kugler and rFR Justin Sinz, but Purdue also brought in JUCO TE Sterling Carter so even that position looks dicey for impact freshman.


Purdue averaged 19.7ppg last year on offense which was by far the lowest output by any offense in the Big 10. It was close to being 10-points worse than league average! That’s bad. Horrifically bad! Losing Henry is a huge blow! The thing about Henry is that he gave Purdue a different look because he made opposing defenses worry about his ability to scramble. That won’t be the case with Robert Marve. While Marve was once considered an elite dual threat QB, his ACLs are so beat up that he can’t afford to run because Purdue can’t afford him to get injured. It doesn’t make Purdue one dimensional, but defenses don’t have to worry about him running. I actually like Purdue’s offense a bit. Maybe it’s because Bolden is returning, or maybe because Marve had a ridiculous completing % when played last year, or even because they have so much coming back on the offensive line, but I see them being decent. Offensively they’ll score more than 19.7ppg, but I’m not sure it’ll be a lot more. I’d expect something in the 20-25 range with it being closer to 20 than 25. If Marve can complete 68% of his passes all year long and remain healthy, then Purdue might score more than 25ppg.


Purdue loses the best player they had last year, DE Ryan Kerrigan, who not only was a 1st Team All-Big 10 player, but was also a 1st Team All-American and a 1st Rd. Draft pick of the Washington Redskins. Kerrigan was a monster DE at 6’4/265lbs that will switch to a 3-4 OLB with the Redskins. He was the team’s 5th leading tackler, but led the team with 12.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Those 12.5 sacks last year was good enough to rank 4th nationally! Kerrigan was the most breathtaking player I saw all of last season. A massive disruption at all times for opposing offenses. It’s too bad he spent his senior year on a 4-8 team, because this guy was as good as it gets. A huge loss to overcome for the Boilermakers. The only other loss is SLB Jason Werner. Werner only started 9 games last year, but was still Purdue’s 7th leading tackler and ranked 2nd in tackles for loss behind Kerrigan. I actually liked Werner’s size quite a bit at 6’4/225lbs. Danny Hope thinks new SLB Will Lucas can step in and immediately fill his shoes. That might be optimistic, but Lucas is a solid player.


Purdue has 9 starters returning on defense. With Rob Henry’s injury, it’ll be interesting to watch Purdue’s defense because this unit is going to be called upon to win a lot of games for Purdue if the Boilers are to have a successful season. The D-Line returns 3 starters headlined by DT Kawann Short. The 6’3/305lbs junior was a 2nd Team All-Big 10 player last year and was 2nd on the team in sacks, 3rd in tackles for loss and 1st in passes broken up. Joining him is DT Bruce Gaston (6’2/301lbs) and DE Gerald Gooden (6’3/235lbs). The linebackers return MLB Dwayne Beckford who was 2nd on team in tackles last year and was an Honorable Mention All-Big 10 selection & also WLB Joe Holland who was 3rd on the team in tackles and 4th on the team in tackles for loss. Purdue’s LB average about 6’0/225lbs so they are a bit on the small side, but HC Hope believes all 3 could combine to be a very effective unit. Purdue returns its entire secondary headlined by 2nd Team All-Big 10 CB Ricardo Allen. As a true freshman, Allen was 4th on the team in tackles and even had 2 interception returns for TD! Allen might be the best defensive player Purdue has this season! Joining him at corner is junior Josh Johnson who was 2nd on the team in passes broken up. SS Logan Link & FS Albert Evans return. Link, a former walk-on, led the team in tackles last season with 91! Both are seniors.


Although junior Robert Maci is projected to take over where Ryan Kerrigan left off last season, the DE spot could be a place where Purdue really has room to improve. If you take away both Kerrigan and Jason Werner, then really Purdue is a bit thin when it comes to getting a solid pass rush. The Boilermakers are a bit small at every spot on defense except the interior defensive line where they average 6’3/303lbs. DE is a bit small, but there are some freshman that could come in and be an instant upgrade on size alone. Ryan Russell is a rFR who is 6’5/245lbs. Rashad Frazier is another rFR who is 6’5/240lbs. True freshman Jalani Phillips was in for the spring and is 6’4/260lbs which obviously reminiscent of Kerrigan’s size on the edge. I don’t think any of those guys could come in an dominate, but if they are fast & aggressive, they could get some pressure on the QB or at least provide enough depth at the position that opposing defenses can’t half-ass when they come in.


Even with Kerrigan at DE last season, Purdue allowed 28.8ppg which ranked 7th in the Big 10 last season. That goes to show how bad some of the defenses in the Big 10 were last year. If you take a look at Purdue’s defense over the years, what becomes readily apparent last season is that opposing QBs completed a ridiculous 66% of their passes! That was by far the worst mark in the Big 10. When your defense looks worse than Indiana’s or Minnesota’s then you know you have problems. Purdue gave up only 3.6ypc on rush defense which was their best mark since 2005! Clearly there was a discrepancy on defense. Purdue’s rush defense ranked 6th in the Big 10. There is no doubt that Purdue’s D-Line and pass rush are taking hits because of the loss of Kerrigan, but everything else should stay pretty much the same if not improve because of experience. I have a hard time believing Purdue allows a 66% completion rate this year. This isn’t a world beating defense, but the pass & rush defenses will be more in line. I’d expect Purdue to be in the 23ppg-26ppg range this year which is at least a 3-point improvement on defense.


Purdue’s schedule isn’t the easiest. They start the year with a home game against Middle Tennessee St. I think Purdue wins the game at home although it might not be especially easy. Next up is a road game against Rice. This one is tricky. The Owls are actually a decent team and are very experienced, but I’m going to say Purdue wins this one too because of their defense and offensive line. Purdue is actually a halfway decent team with a few flaws that seem monumental. That’s enough to get by Rice. They return home to play SE Missouri St. which will be a walk before going into their bye week. After the bye week, Purdue hosts Notre Dame and it’s not going to matter. I’ll be surprised if Marve survives this game as the Irish are going to hammer Purdue. Purdue rebounds with a home win over Minnesota, but then the schedule becomes a murderers row.

Purdue will then play at Penn St., Illinois, at Michigan, at Wisconsin, Ohio St. and then Iowa. I think they’ll lose all 6 games. The worst team they’ll play there is Iowa which is saying something, and by the time the Hawkeyes come to West Lafayette, Purdue should be so battered that the Hawkeyes should roll over Purdue. The Boilers will come alive one last time in the season finale against Indiana. I have a hard time believing the Hoosiers can take 2 in a row away from Purdue, although new IU HC Kevin Wilson could change my mind depending on how things go for Indiana this season.


This puts Purdue at 5-7 (2-6). That’s not fantastic really, but I think that’s the best they can do. It could get very very ugly for Purdue should Robert Marve suffer injury. I still like Marve at this point especially if he can keep his completion % as high as he did in limited action last season, but if Marve goes down, then this is a team that could easily finish 2-10 (0-8). If Purdue experiences some more injuries, then the wins over Rice, Minnesota & Indiana look tenuous at best especially the Rice & IU games because those are actually road tests. Danny Hope’s tenure at Purdue has been a snake bitten one to put it mildly. That pattern didn’t change this past week with the injury to Rob Henry and now Purdue will once again be playing with their backs against the wall, a QB injury away from a disastrous season. This simply might be a transition year in what seems like 3 straight transition years. The Boilermakers should have at a minimum 7 starters returning on offense & defense in 2012 including the return of QB Henry. If Hope & Co. can survive 2011, then things should get significantly better moving forward.


August 27, 2011 - Posted by | Predictions, Previews, Purdue

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