Purdue reloads after QB’s departure
“Contrary to popular opinion of the experts and some of our peers, I think we can field a very good football team in 2009,” he said.
Hope knows there are worries about how the team will come together, now that retired Joe Tiller is gone after 12 years as head coach. Hope said he will be his own man, but he’ll respect what Tiller, Purdue’s winningest coach, put in place.
“A lot of the things we’re going to do at Purdue in the future will be done the Purdue way, or Joe Tiller way, and then obviously we have some of our other wrinkles,” he said.
Purdue is coming off a 4-8 season, and the team lost seven starters on offense. One of those seven was quarterback Curtis Painter, who passed for 11,163 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career and as a sophomore broke the school’s season passing record held by Drew Brees with 3,985 yards.
“We’re outside of our comfort zone, if you will, in some ways at Purdue,” Hope said. “We’re used to having a guy that’s thrown for 10-to-12 thousand yards and is up for every award that a quarterback can be up for.”
Joey Elliott has been the starter in preseason practice. After suffering a separated throwing shoulder last year that ended his season, Elliott has recovered, and he said Purdue will be fine heading into its Sept. 5 opener at home against Toledo.
“There’s been a lot of questions,” he said. “A lot of fans are wondering about our receiving corps, our defense, our offense, our coaching staff. I think we’re all going to come together that first game.”
Hope has confidence in Elliott.
“I thought he was a heck of quarterback, and he competed with our No. 1 quarterback, Curtis Painter, for his job,” Hope said. “Curtis was a record-setting quarterback at Purdue and a draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts. I’m a lot more comfortable with the quarterback scenario with Joey Elliott than most people would realize.”
Purdue’s strength could be its defense. The Boilermakers return seven starters, led by safety Torri Williams and linebacker Joe Holland.
Hope said the biggest question is at receiver. Aaron Valentin and Keith Smith are the top returnees, and Royce Adams has been moved from cornerback to receiver. Junior college transfer Keith Carlos is expected to provide a boost.
The Boilermakers headed into the spring needing to find a replacement for Kory Sheets, one of the most productive backs in school history.
Jaycen Taylor, a former starter who redshirted last season with an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his knee, didn’t recover in time for the spring. Senior Frank Halliburton got through about half of the practices before suffering bruised ribs. Ralph Bolden, a sophomore, rushed for 153 yards on 26 carries in the spring game.
Reserve Dan Dierking is back, freshman Al-Terek McBurse’s eligibility issues were cleared up, and Taylor and Halliburton are expected to be ready by the fall.
Taylor ran for 560 yards and four touchdowns two seasons ago.
The running game is expected to be more important under Hope.
“I think that can be a real shot in the arm for our program in 2009 if we can have a formal running attack along with the great passing attack that we’ve had in the past,” Hope said.
PURDUE AT A GLANCE
-- Location—West Lafayette, Ind.
-- Stadium—Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500).
-- Coach—Danny Hope, first season at Purdue, sixth overall.
-- 2008 record—4-8, 2-6 in Big Ten (tied for ninth).
-- Last bowl—2007 Motor City Bowl, (beat Central Michigan, 51-48).
-- Returning starters—13 (4
offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams).
-- Key players—RB Jaycen Taylor, RB Ralph Bolden, QB Joey Elliott, WR Keith Smith, S Torri Williams, LB Joe Holland, DT Mike Neal, CB David Pender, DE Ryan Kerrigan, LB Jason Werner.
-- Key recruits—RB Al-Terek McBurse, WR Keith Carlos (JUCO), LB Antwon Higgs, LB Dwayne Beckford.
-- Key departures—QB Curtis Painter, WR Greg Orton, LB Anthony Heygood, RB Kory Sheets, WR Desmond Tardy.
-- Coach’s quote—“I’m confident in the guys, just based on their efforts and their attitudes. There are some talented players at Purdue in spite of the preseason All-Big Ten selections.
“We have some good football players at Purdue, and we have some guys on our football team that can be the top players in their position in our league if they play to their very best, and tons of players on our football team that can play winning football.” —Hope.
September: 5—Toledo. 12—At Oregon. 19—Northern Illinois. 26—Notre Dame.
October: 3—Northwestern. 10—At Minnesota. 17—Ohio State. 24—Illinois. 31—At Wisconsin.
November: 7—At Michigan. 14—Michigan State. 21—At Indiana.