I began this series by taking a broad overview of the Purdue program by what it has done over the last five years and what that might tell us about what the Boilers will do this season.
Two weeks ago, I looked at the 2012 Purdue offense and how it projects.
Last week, I looked at the 2012 Purdue defense and how it is shaping up.
This week, I'll look at the Boilermakers' specialists, recruiting class and schedule, and I'll give a final breakdown and my prediction for Purdue in 2012.
The Boilers specialists are a case of the haves and the have-nots.
On the "have" side, Purdue returns second-team all-conference punter Cody Webster. The junior didn't have enough punts to rank amongst the Big Ten's best, but he averaged 42.91 yards-per-punt, which would have put him second in the conference.
Even more impressively, the Boilermakers return the top kick returner (yards-per-return) in the country in sophomore Raheem Mostert, who averaged a scintillating 33.48 yards-per-play. He topped off his freshman campaign with a kickoff return for a touchdown in the bowl game.
On the "have-not" side, the Boilers' top punt returner has graduated. That leaves cornerbacks Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen as the only returning players with collegiate punt-returning experience.
Meanwhile, the Boilers' all-conference place kicker, Carson Wiggs, has also graduated, leaving one junior and a slew of freshman (both of the true and redshirt variety), to compete for the job.
2012 Recruiting Class
As previously mentioned—see previously linked "2012 Purdue offense"—the class is heavy on, um, quarterbacks (four signal callers). It is also heavy on pass catchers, with four receivers, two tight ends and one athlete that could wind up at tight end. Finally, there are six offensive linemen, one of whom is a Juco transfer.
Of the potential impact freshmen, Carlos Carvajal is a name that might pop up immediately, though his position is iffy. Rivals lists Carvajal as a 6'7", 215-pound athlete, while Scout has him as a 6'6", 225-pound tight end. Either way, he has been out of high school for a year, having spent 2011-12 at Milford Academy, a pre-college prep school.
What position he winds up at will determine how quickly he sees the field.
As mentioned, Purdue has a depth problem on the offensive line.
Celina, Texas's Jordan Roos is already at playing weight—6'6", 300-pounds—and while starting a true freshman on the O-line is never a good idea, Roos could ably fill out the depth chart.
Finally, receiver B.J. Knauf out of Lakeland, Florida is undersized, but with a reported 40 time of 4.33 seconds, he could vie for punt-return duties.
A pound sign—#—indicates must-win for Purdue.
An exclamation point—!—indicates a probable loss.
A dollar sign—$—indicates a swing game.
09/01: Eastern Kentucky Colonels (FCS) #
09/08: At Notre Dame Fighting Irish !
09/15: Eastern Michigan Eagles #
09/29: Marshall Thundering Herd #
10/06: Michigan Wolverines !
10/13: Wisconsin Badgers !
10/20: At Ohio State Buckeyes !
10/27: At Minnesota Golden Gophers $
11/03: Penn State Nittany Lions $
11/10: At Iowa Hawkeyes $
11/17: At Illinois Fighting Illini $
11/24: Indiana Hoosiers #
9-3 and a bid to the conference championship.
In order for this to happen, Purdue needs:
- A major turnaround from the defense. It has the personnel to be one of the top five in the conference. Now, it has to become one solid, cohesive team and hold its opponents to fewer than 20 points-per-game.
- A play-maker or two to step up amongst the pass catchers. (Bolden/Shavers and the quarterback can't do it alone.)
- A healthy offensive line. The "big uglies" can't afford even one major injury.
In order for this to happen, Purdue needs:
- The same old story from the defense. Lots of talent, little results.
- A quarterback carousel. It is pointless toying with the signal-caller given that all three of the quarterbacks have similar skill sets. Hope has to pick a top guy and stick with him.
- Mediocre play amongst the pass-catchers and health issues along the O-line.
The Season Will Be a Success If...
Purdue demonstrates palpable improvement on defense, wins seven games (including one major upset), and the Old Oaken Bucket game against interstate rival Indiana.
With a little luck, this team has the talent to win the Leaders Division (given that OSU is exempt). In effect, some ambitious Boiler fans will measure success by an eight-win season.
However, that three-game stretch at the beginning of October looks vicious.
Therefore, it will be a success if Hope takes a tangible, albeit small step forward in terms of record, and a large step forward in terms of proving he can coach up a defense.
Some Ohio State or Wisconsin fans might laugh, but Purdue legitimately has the talent to make a run at a division title.
However, there are two issues that keep me from entertaining this possibility.
Firstly, as I inferred in the offensive overview, Danny Hope has some weird recruiting strategies that indicate he doesn't know what he's doing. Certainly, players can change positions, but four quarterbacks in one recruiting class? With four experienced quarterbacks already on the roster?
Secondly, and more importantly, I worry when a collegiate defensive coordinator starts mentioning "multiple schemes."
College offenses plot and scheme, but college defense is more about execution, reaction, effort and attitude than scheming.
"Scheming" college defenses tend to look like the Michigan defense under Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robinson—too busy thinking rather than reacting.
I'm not saying new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar can't turn the Boiler defense around, but I am saying that I am skeptical.
I have Purdue going 6-6 in 2012, with wins over Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Marshall, Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana. Needless to say, this is a substantial underachievement if it does go down this way.
I don't know if that would put Danny Hope on the hot seat, but the talent is in West Lafayette to have a nice run this year. All Hope has to do is make it happen.
Check out past installments of 2012 Big Ten Breakdown, beginning with the Indiana Hoosiers.