Wednesday, June 28, 2006

2006 Spring Opponent Preview - Purdue Boilermakers

Top player: Dorien Bryant, WR
Make-or-break player: Curtis Painter, QB
Biggest offensive strength: Wide receiver (if Ingraham is back on the team) or Offensive line (if he's not)
Biggest offensive weakness: Quarterback
Biggest defensive strength: ...
Biggest defensive weakness: Defending the other team's offense
Spring Depth Chart

Last year was supposed to be a banner year for Purdue - a returning QB, lots of talent and positively LOADED with experience (20 returning starters). They didn't have to play either Michigan or Ohio State. Many preseason prognosticators picked the Boilermakers as Rose-Bowl bound, and a few even muttered the words "National Championship game" and "Purdue" in the same sentence (I don't think anyone was crazy enough to say they would win the Championship, though). After back-to-back wins to start the season, the Boilermakers were ranked #11 in the AP poll.

Then the wheels came off. The season started downhill with a double overtime loss to the Golden Gophers. Six straight losses later, the Boilermakers were asking themselves "What Happened?" Only wins over a November MSU team (who is traditionally a bottom feeder in the Big Ten by then) and major renovation projects Indiana and Illinois allowed the Boilermakers any remaining self respect. The season ended as Tiller's first losing season, going 5-6.

And then the entire friggin' train exploded.

Since the end of the football season, much of the coaching staff (5 coaches) have been replaced, Purdue is leading the (Div. I-A) race for the Fulmer Cup (award for the most offseason behavioral problems by a team, named for Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer), and their second best player (WR Ingraham) is currently ineleigible due to academics. Anyone who has been following Purdue athletics this year has seen a complete implosion of the athletics department. The institution has come completely unglued - football, basketball, you name it, they are having major issues.

Of course, most of the mainstream prognosticators are once again calling for the Boilermakers to win 7-8 games and go to a bowl game. However, the mainstream prognosticators are crazy and gullible.

If Tiller can find some super-glue to craft this team back together, they have the talent to win six games and become bowl-eligible. However, if the on-the-field and off-the-field distractions have any effect on team confidence and morale, this team could just as easily drop every Big Ten game, and only get wins against Indiana State (Div. I-AA) and Ball State. And I wouldn't count out Ball State just yet.

The offense should get back to the traditional Purdue spread (if Tiller has any sense) even without a more traditional QB at the reins. The new offensive coordinator, Zaunbrecher, is very good at developing quarterbacks. The offensive line is excellent, allowing only 9 sacks last year, and should give the inexperienced signal caller plenty of time to throw the ball to some very talented receivers. If the pass offense struggles, don't be too surprised to see redshirt freshman Joey Elliott get a look, as he is a more traditional QB. Kory Sheets is a fast running back that is a constant home run threat. Offensively, if Tiller goes back to what he knows, Purdue can be very productive.

The defense is another story entirely. After finishing last year at the bottom of the Big Ten in pass defense, there seems to be nowhere to go but up. But with insufficient experience, depth, and talent, this could be a very long year for the Boilers. They have an excellent safety, and a very good linebacker. Everyone else is average at best. The corners in particular are suspect, and against the Irish, that's not a good thing.

"It's 49-21, sweetheart." This year, that quote could very easily become "It's 56-0, sweetheart." The Irish offense is going to be very potent, and the Purdue defense should be the weakest we face outside of the service academies.

9/2Indiana State (Div. I-AA)W
9/9Miami (OH)W
9/16Ball StateW
9/30@ Notre DameL
10/7@ IowaL
10/14@ NorthwesternL
10/28Penn StateL
11/4@ Michigan StateW
11/11@ IllinoisW
11/18@ IndianaL
11/25@ HawaiiL

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