Purdue. It's a name that invokes classic football. Some people seem to forget Drew Brees played at Purdue. So did Kyle Orton, Shaun Phillips, Rod Woodson, Bob Griese, Jim Everett, and Mark Herrmann. So if there's a football fan that doesn't think too much about the Boilermakers and Purdue Pete, think again. Heading into the 2012 season, Purdue will also show how inconsistent they've been over the past couple of years since Joe Tiller retired.
Danny Hope is coming into his 4th season as the coach at Purdue. I know he was the offensive line coach at Purdue when Brees was there, but left shortly after for a coaching position at Eastern Kentucky. Formerly a head coach there at Eastern Kentucky, he carries with him a record of 51-43. However, if you look closer, he's 16-21 at Purdue. Even with upset wins over Ohio State and Michigan, that still exhibits a losing record. In 2012, I don't think his win percentage will increase by much.
Purdue heads into the 2012 season with 15 returning starters. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a dual-quarterback system this year as we saw last year with Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve. I know TerBush had a strong finish to last season as he finished with just over 1900 passing yds and 300 rushing. The coaches seem to be behind TerBush, but he's not a game changing player. He seems to just be the conservative choice. Marve will probably see some snaps, but the key is who will stay healthy. Marve has a history of injuries, but if he can stay healthy and make better decisions on the field, he could very well see the majority of snaps.
In the backfield, they have Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden. Bolden ran for almost 700 yds and 6 scores. Now, Bolden was arrested back in April for public intoxication, and he's probably still recovering from an ACL injury that he sustained back in the season finale against Indiana. Needless to say, who knows what might happen with him. The running game could be loaded if he's able to play along with Shavers. Shavers ran for just over 500 yds and 6 touchdowns last season, so that gives you an idea as to how potent they can be running the ball. The experience of the offensive line will help, with some players that are probably NFL ready. Yet it will probably be the inconsistency of the quarterback position that will bring all of them to a halt.
They do have some experience at receiver. Antavian Edison returns from a season where he caught 44 balls for almost 600 yds and 3 scores. However, they do lack a possession receiver and a reliable tight end. Justin Siller had consistent hands and a large frame, but he won't be returning next year. Purdue now is left with a ton of speedy, small receivers and Gabe Holmes could be that TE, but we just don't know yet. Sterling Carter Jr. is an incoming juco transfer that might push for a spot, but he'd definitely be starting on the bottom of the depth chart.
On defense, the interior line should be one of their strengths. At tackle, Kawann Short had 6 sacks last season and Bruce Gaston should be very effective. The linebacking corps is also solid with their leading tackler, Dwayne Beckford returning. Will Lucas is not too far behind Beckford, and those two might form a fearsome pass rush. Ricardo Allen anchors a veteran secondaryand is one of the top corners in the conference this season as he finished last season for the Boilermakers with 81 tackles, and three interceptions. Losing Sean Collins doesn't really hurt the team too much, due to the fact he never saw playing time on the field. The junior cornerback was dismissed from the team earlier this month stemming from charges of public intoxication, resisting arrest, and battery. Josh Johnson and Max Charlot are both seniors who can bring experience and leadership to the secondary as well.
Incoming freshman spotlight: Purdue will be one of the few teams starting a freshman kicker, this one being Paul Griggs. They lose Carson Wiggs, so Griggs should have no issue competing for the starting spot. Griggs, a 3* kicker from N.C., should shine.
Schedule: Purdue opens up their season against Eastern Kentucky (not a coincidence with EK being Hope's alma mater) so there's 1 win. Notre Dame is next, and that is turning into a fierce rivalry and I'm giving that matchup a loss for Purdue. Followed by a win against Eastern Michigan before an early bye is cushioned with a likely win against Marshall the following week. Then there's that brutal 3 game stretch in which I think they'll lose all 3 against Mich, Wiscy, and OSU. Purdue can improve after that against Minn and PSU, a loss against Iowa, and an early present of Illinois and Indiana back-to-back. So that's how I've come up with a 7-5 record; 7 wins would be an improvement but when you look at which teams they're against, then it's a rather weak 7-5 record.
Danny Hope could have a rough season ahead, since a good share of the Big Ten is improving. Yes, Purdue is improving as well, but not in strides. What needs to happen for them to to start off strong and dominant, stave off the injuries that have befell them last season, and show they belong in the Top 25. I'm not too sure about any of that, since they have a brutal 3-game stretch against Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. Ralph Bolden returning at 100 percent will also be a deciding factor, but Purdue still has a long ways to go.
Big Ten Finish: 7th
Ability To Compete With Top Teams: Moderate
Upset Status: Medium
Bowl Status: Bid to Average Bowl