Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

2009 Record: 5-7 (4-4 in Big Ten)
2009 Bowl: N/A
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Danny Hope (5-7 at Purdue, 40-29 career)
Non-Conference Schedule: at Notre Dame (9/4), Western Illinois (9/11), Ball State (9/18), Toledo (9/25)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 27.6 points per game (6th in Big Ten)
Rushing Yards/Game: 136 (7th in Big Ten)
Passing Yards/Game: 255 (3rd in Big Ten)
Total Yards/Game: 391 (6th in Big Ten) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 29.1 points per game (9th in Big Ten)
Rushing Yards/Game: 173 (last in Big Ten)
Passing Yards/Game: 203 (4th in Big Ten)
Total Yards/Game: 376 (7th in Big Ten)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: -0.42 per game (9th in Big Ten)
Penalties: 41 yards per game (3rd in Big Ten)

Returning Starters
Offense: 6
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 1

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Caleb TerBush, Soph (4 of 10 for 22 yds)
Rushing: RB Ralph Bolden, Jr (200 carries for 935 yds, 9 TD, 4.68 ypc, 77 ypg)
Receiving: WR Keith Smith, Sr (91 rec, 1100 yds, 6 TD, 7.6 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Joe Holland, Jr (80)
Sacks: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Sr (11)
Interceptions: DE Kawann Short, Soph (2)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Lindy's: Not Ranked
Mark Schlabach: Not Ranked
Rivals: Not Ranked
Scout: Not Ranked
Sports Illustrated: Not Ranked
Athlon Sports: #55

2010 Pre-Season Big Ten Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #8

Bowl Prediction:
Athlon Sports: Dallas Football Classic (Purdue vs SMU)

2009 started off worse than Purdue could have imagined. After beating Toledo they dropped 5 consecutive games including a loss to Northern Illinois. In their 7th game Purdue upset Ohio State and went on to win 4 of their last 6 (including that game). Will the 2010 Boilermakers be like the team that started the 2009 season, the one that ended the 2009 season or somewhere in between? The Purdue-centric blog Boiled Sports weighs in with their hopes and fears for the 2010 Purdue Boilermakers.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The front seven should be strong. The linebacking corps will be very talented and have a ton of experience. Holland, Carlino, and Werner all started most of last season. Backing them up, Beckford, Higgs and Greaves all return with experience and a ton of talent.

The most glaring weakness is just behind the greatest strength- the defensive backfield. All four starters graduated, so junior Albert Evans, who is solid, will be asked to do a lot at safety. They'll be talented back there as the young corners and safeties are all very fast, but most haven't played a down in the gold and black unis.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

First major test of the year will be the first GAME of the year, which is rare. Usually Purdue starts with a delicious cupcake or two, but this year the first game is AT Notre Dame. First game for them too, and first game for Brian Kelly, so there is a lot riding on this game for both programs. Purdue winning at Notre Dame is never easy, no matter how good or bad ND is, so a win here would be a terrific jump start to the season and will probably tell us a lot.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Honestly, nobody. The knee-jerk reaction would be to say Ohio State, since they're a consistent Big Ten power and went 7-1 in Big Ten play last year. However, that one loss was to Purdue, so for the first time in a while, Purdue fans are feeling like they can hang with anybody on the schedule. That's not to say we have expectations on winning every game- just that there is no game that the Boilers should not compete in and that they'll have a CHANCE in every game. For a program that's been scuffling a bit, that's a good place to be.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Nobody likes to talk about kickers in pre-season blogs/mags, but Carson Wiggs is a good one, and deserves some pub.  He already has the school record for the longest FG (59 yards), but needs to work a bit on consistency. The good news for Purdue fans is that he's got two more seasons on campus.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

It's hard to argue with Robert Marve's potential in talent.  BUT, Keith Smith is a rock-solid performer in the slot who seems to be able to fight off about any type of coverage...when he feels like it.  He's not blazingly fast, but he's strong, runs good routes and catches about everything. Plus, he often has linebackers on him who can't stay with him...OR has corners that can't tackle him without help. Think Dustin Keller minus a few pounds.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

The last half of the season in '09, Ryan Kerrigan seemed to be pissed at everybody he faced, usually two guys at once. He forced 7 fumbles, and had 13 sacks. Both stats put him among the nation's elite. While he looks a bit like a cherub, he plays like the devil. He'll be re-introducing himself to BT quarterbacks over and over and over again this fall.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

Al-Terek McBurse comes to mind. With Ralph Bolden's knee an unknown, ATM should have his chances early to prove he's the four-star he was said to be. We've seen flashes of his potential as a kick-returner last year and so there is some giddy optimism about what he can do as a RB. If he steps up and makes the running game what it can be and was, at times, last year, then that bodes well for everything else on offense.

Another player that must step up, we think, is (likely) new QB Robert Marve, the Miami transfer.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Speaking of Marve, he's most likely the "top offensive newcomer" of which you speak. Out of high school he broke a bunch of records set by some left-hander named Tebow. He's a transfer from the U of Miami, for those not in the know, who started as a freshman in 2008 and had his differences with Miami coach Randy Shannon. Marve elected to transfer and has appeared to be a team-first guy and is apparently very well-liked by his teammates. Perhaps most importantly, reports are that he's extremely talented and, assuming he fits into the system and gels with the team, could be another member of the Cradle of Quarterbacks at Purdue.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

This one's harder to predict...and is based completely on potential and high school films, not previous experience at another D-1 program. But one redshirt frosh and one true freshman have us pretty excited. The RS is Ishmael Aristide who is healthy after a knee injury ended his high school career early. He's quick and physical and will probably be forced into action early. The true freshman is DT, Bruce Gaston. If his scholarship offers, physical size and films are any indicator, Hope won't be able to keep him off the field. If we have to pick one, we'll say Gaston.

Last year was Danny Hope's first year at the helm. What did he do well and what are some things that he needs to change this year to help the team be more successful?

One thing Hope did very well was to get the players to believe that he was fighting with them. On more than one occasion, he made sure officials, opponents and others understood that he was fighting the fight alongside the team. In doing so, he might have gotten a little unprofessional at times. He taunted other fans a touch (playfully, mind you), which some Purdue fans didn't like (we're split at BS about it).

More tangibly, with the exception of the Toledo game, the team started the season very slowly. Much of that can be attributed to a tough early-season schedule, general attrition, lack of depth and everyone learning new roles...but as the season progressed, they started to figure out how to close games out and finished the season 4-2 in their last 6 games. They simply must start off well if they are going to have any chance of making a bowl game.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

Last year, the Boilermakers shot themselves in the foot MANY times and in a lot of cases had no one to blame but themselves for poor losses. However, they also showed flashes of brilliance in some of their wins. Purdue also had luck against them in 2009, for whatever that's worth. So their record will depend a lot on not making the big mistakes they made last year and on their luck. With those items in the negative direction, this could be a 5 or 6 win team. With some breaks, we think they could be as high as an 8 or 9 win team.

What makes this season successful is the "we'll know it when we see it" test. If they win 7 games and didn't blow any (or many), then it could be seen as successful. By the same token, winning eight but having given away two they shouldn't have could be seen as a marginally successful season. I guess to give an answer now, winning 7+ games and making a decent bowl would make us happy for 2010 and signal the potential for big things in 2011.

Next Up: Northwestern Wildcats

2010 Previews
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan Wolverines
Conference USA- Houston Cougars
MAC- Temple Owls


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