So the 2011-2012 college football season is in the books, so that means it’s time to look ahead to next season. Right? We’ll do it anyway.
The Boilermakers ended this season on a high note, winning three of their last four games, netting Danny Hope a nice little contract extension. The Boilers were stung by key injuries to skill players all throughout the season, book-ended by torn ACLs: Rob Henry’s before the season, and Ralph Bolden’s against IU in the last regular season game of the season. Still, there might be cause for excitement in West Lafayette. Four-star recruits Carlos Carvajal and Ryan Watson highlight an incoming class that is currently ranked #26 in the nation, which is absolutely stunning considering the way things on the recruiting trail have gone the last few seasons.
The Exponent, Purdue’s student newspaper, offers a position by position preview of next year’s roster:
Whether Robert Marve applies for a sixth year of eligibility or not, Purdue seems pretty well set at the quarterbackposition. While he wasn’t a big time playmaker, Caleb TerBush managed Purdue’s offense well with limited turnovers. Rob Henry, who entered last season as the starting quarterback before tearing his ACL, will return after leading the team in rushing and passing in 2010. Highly-touted quarterback Austin Appleby arrives on campus this fall as well, along with a pair of dual threat signal callers in Aloyis Gray and Bilal Marshall.
Despite Ralph Bolden’s ACL injury, running back should be Purdue’s deepest position once again in 2012. Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt both had standout years in their first seasons in a Boilermaker uniform. Raheem Mostert exploited his breakaway speed most often in the kick return game, but in the backfield as well. It’s unknown if Mostert will stay in the backfield, as head coach Danny Hope said on numerous occasions Mostert could excel at running back, wide receiver, or safety. Reggie Pegram came on strong towards the end of the season and had two touchdowns in Purdue’s bowl victory.
Purdue loses Justin Siller, last season’s top pass catcher, but the Boilers still have plenty of options on the perimeter. Purdue’s most consistent target, Antavian Edison, led the team in receiving yards and will look to extend his streak of 21 straight games with a catch. Fast Floridians O.J. Ross and Gary Bush have shown flashes of big play potential, tying for the team lead with Edison with three touchdown catches, but haven’t always been reliable targets in the Purdue passing game. 6-foot-4-inch Charles Torwudzo appears to be a viable option to replace Siller as Purdue’s possession receiver.
Purdue returns every tight end on its roster next season. Although tight ends were not utilized frequently in the passing game, Crosby Wright and Gabe Holmes proved to be a solid duo by combining for 27 catches and 356 yards. Junior college transfer Sterling Carter will be coming off a redshirt season, and two three-star prospects in Jonathan Curry and Ryan Morris will be joining the team as well.
Offensive line is the one position where Purdue loses a lot of depth. With Dennis Kelly, James Shepherd and Nick Mondek all graduating, Purdue is left with three gaps to fill on the offensive line. The Boilermakers appear to be in a great position to fill these spots however. Peters Drey started every game in 2010 at center and started at left guard this season before going down with an injury. Ken Plue was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2009 and started 10 games in 2010 before missing the 2011 season due to academics. He could help anchor the line at right guard if he has his academic issues worked out by the fall. Trevor Foy and Kevin Pamphile both have experience playing tackle, giving Purdue options to replace Kelly at left tackle. In addition, Purdue has five incoming offensive line recruits.
Defensive tackle Kawann Short’s looming decision to forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft or return to Purdue impacts this unit a lot. Short, who led Purdue in tackles for loss and sacks, combines with Bruce Gaston to form one of the most daunting interior defensive lines in the Big Ten. Brandon Taylor provides the line with a solid third tackle. Purdue loses two contributors at defensive end in Gerald Gooden and Adam Brockman. Ryan Russell played well at times in 2011 as a freshman, and Robert Maci had four tackles for loss and two sacks in four games before being sidelined with a season-ending injury. Jalani Phillips entered the defensive end rotation after Maci went down. Four star defensive end recruit Ryan Watson could see the field as a true freshman.
Purdue loses a lot of leadership at linebacker in Joe Holland and Chris Carlino. Dwayne Beckford, Purdue’s leading returning tackler, is back to start at middle linebacker for a third straight season. Will Lucas, who had 82 tackles a year ago, returns at one of the outside linebacker spots. Joe Gilliam or Nnamdi Ezenwa will likely replace Holland opposite of Lucas at outside linebacker.
Purdue returns its cornerback tandem of Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson along with nickleback Normando Harris, but loses both of its starting safeties in Albert Evans and Logan Link. Max Charlot and Landon Feichter both saw significant playing time at safety the past two seasons and are prime candidates to take over next year. Taylor Richards could be in the running for one of the safety spots after playing well in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Purdue loses Carson Wiggs, one of the most prolific kickers in program history, but brings in two kickers in the 2012 recruiting class, including the fifth best kicker in the country according to Rivals.com in Paul Griggs. Cody Webster led the nation in punting for most of non-conference play before faltering a bit late in the season. The return game should be a strength for years to come after the freshmen duo of Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt led the Boilers to the top kick return average in the country.
All in all, things look cautiously optimistic for the next couple seasons in West Lafayette.