The drama is over.
The speculation can stop.
Robert Marve has found a home.
The talented quarterback announced on ESPN this afternoon that he will transfer to Purdue for his remaining two years of football eligibility (2010 and 2011, in case you're scoring at home).
The decision was not without anxious moments from Boilermaker fans (including yours truly)- admit it, when a guy's choosing between Purdue UNIVERSITY and THE UNIVERSITY OF Tennessee, any phrase on national television that starts with Marve saying, "It's going to be the University of...", will bring a quick lump to your throat, a vision of being jilted at the altar, and a not-so-pleasant thought of Mr. Star Recruiter/Public Enemy No. 1 Lane Kiffin.
But the moment passed, and Marve proved the first thing he'll learn at Purdue is the school's correct name (followed shortly thereafter by lesson No. 2: what those cold, white flakes falling from the sky are called).
If you follow college football, you've heard the stats by now, but allow me to indulge in a quick history lesson for the rest of us. Marve was Florida's high school Mr. Football the year after some Tebow kid, shattering the future Heisman winner's records in the process.
7,000+ yards passing, 69 touchdown tosses, and a state title will draw a good bit of attention to the recruiting process, and so it was with young Robert Marve. The Tampa native initially committed to Alabama before Mike Shula's firing, then eventually signed with Miami.
After redshirting due to a hand injury in 2007, Marve started 11 straight games for the Canes this past fall, amassing 1293 passing yards with 9 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He completed 54.5% of his passes, and led the Hurricanes to an Emerald Bowl appearance.
No, I haven't forgotten the other side of the story. Marve was suspended twice during the season, including for the bowl game. Rumors are that the young student-athlete enjoyed the Miami party life more than other social obligations, like...well, going to class.
Marve asked for and obtained a release from Miami, leaving on less than stellar terms with Coach Randy Shannon and receiving a laundry list of schools nearby that he wasn't welcome to transfer to.
("Tampering" is such an ugly word, isn't it?)
During the "re-recruitment" saga (which played out as Marve took the 2009 spring semester off), the quarterback's father, Eugene (a former NFL linebacker) revealed that he was battling prostate cancer and wanted his son to play close to home.
Well, I guess West Lafayette, Indiana is in the same country as Tampa...
All that aside, now that Marve has finally made his decision, how do Purdue fans feel?
During the past week, I've read different versions of "I hope he goes to Tennessee; we don't want a kid like that" on several Boilermaker message boards and blogs.
You're not going to find those sentiments ascribed to this humble sportswriter.
Call me naive, but I'm willing to give the guy a second chance. And yes, his talent has something to do with it. My favorite school has long been termed "The Cradle of Quarterbacks", and I absolutely love seeing a big-name newcomer at the position. The Boilers have had success under center with less-than-heralded recruits (see: Brees, Drew), but that doesn't mean I'm unhappy to get a star-in-the-making with a somewhat checkered past.
After all, when's the last time Purdue was even mentioned in ESPN's "College Football Live", let alone featured like they were today? Oh yes, I remember: the Old Gold and Black was shown as an easy victory in Notre Dame's latest road-to-a-BCS-game 10-win schedule forecast not too long ago. Not the kind of national coverage I'm looking for.
I confess: it was nice to hear an analyst say that Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten should look out for Purdue in 2010 and beyond—and the host didn't even get up and run away laughing hysterically!
For at least one wonderful day, Boilermaker fans can look past the rebuilding year of 2009 (some experts have Purdue picked for 11th place in a conference called the Big Ten: you do the math—that's bad) and dream of better things to come.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION ALERT: I write a column for B/R each fall weekend entitled "Carrying On About College Football", and profile a random game around the country. As fate would have it, the September 29, 2008 edition of my series profiled a regular-season matchup between Miami and North Carolina, long before I had any inkling the Hurricanes' starter would eventually transfer to my favorite school.
So, in case you're looking for something besides the regurgitated stats and rumors that are all over the blogosphere this week, here is my then-unbiased analysis, featured in a few random tidbits about Robert Marve.
Marve cooled off late for the Hurricanes, but his ability to buy time with his feet will win some games for Miami in the future. Marve doesn’t have Vince Young speed...more like a younger Jeff Garcia...keeping the play alive for a few seconds longer and letting his receivers make plays. At one point Saturday, Marve was 16-for-20 for a stellar 80 percent completion rate...with three touchdowns to boot.
I also described the quarterback's unorthodox play-fake:
Speaking of Marve, he used a play-action fake that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. He extended the football toward the running back with both arms (before pulling it away), and then faked again with his empty left hand.
It’s hard to describe exactly what it looked like, but he basically pretended to give the ball up two different times without ever letting it go...anyway, whatever it was, it worked: Marve completed a pass downfield after the “double fake.”
Forgive me for dreaming of a day in 2010 that Marve connects on an 80-yard bomb (in Boilermaker black and gold) to upset Michigan with the same move.
And since hope reigns eternal today (pun on coach's name intended), let me close with three reasons Robert Marve will make a positive impact on Purdue.
Yes, you're welcome to call me during my flight to the 2012 Rose Bowl and remind me what I wrote.
(Hey, a guy can dream, right?)
1. SOUTHERN SPEED
Danny Hope made no secret of his desire to overhaul the Purdue football program with a healthy dose of Florida quickness; the Boilers signed 14 of their 20 recruits this year from the Sunshine State. Couple Marve's accurate arm and playmaking ability with new running back Al-Terek McBurse and some of the other lightning-fast gamechangers in 2010—who knows? It could be "Basketball on Grass, the Sequel".
2. EMPTY DEPTH CHART
Purdue fans were devastated in April to find out that quarterback Justin Siller, dubbed by many observers as the next great Boilermaker signal-caller, had been dismissed from school for an academic violation. While senior Joey Elliott should get the starting nod this autumn in his final season, the Boilers have no real answer at the position beyond 2009.
Bringing in one of the most-heralded recruits ever in Marve, letting him learn the playbook and run the scout team in '09, and then giving him the reins to the Purdue offense for the next two seasons seems to be an ideal scenario. Marve will be given every opportunity to succeed in West Lafayette, and if he's learned from his Miami experience as much as he claims, he will make the most of his second chance.
3. OPENING THE PIPELINE
When Purdue set up a coaching succession plan in men's basketball to replace outgoing legend Gene Keady, new bench boss Matt Painter took advantage of the situation to sign one of the greatest recruiting classes in school history. Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, and E'Twaun Moore have quickly transformed the Purdue hoops program into Big Ten Tournament champions, a Final Four contender, and most importantly, a school that big-name players will consider.
The long-term success of Painter as a coach, Hummel and company as a class, and Morgan Burke as an athletic director may be measured more accurately not by what Purdue does in the next two years, but by the recruiting classes that follow.
Similarly, if Robert Marve is to be the savior of the Purdue football program (as some have dared to mention), it may be because of the four-star players who consider becoming Boilermakers down the road, not because of the wins he could pile up during two final college seasons. While Danny Hope has signed one Florida-centric class (which, to be fair, was met with collective shrugs by most recruiting analysts), landing a bona-fide blue-chip transfer could be the final domino that causes the floodgates from the talent-laden Southeast to blow open to the Boilers for good.
I would love to write in a few years about how the Burke football succession plan even surpassed the basketball version, due to Hope's tireless recruiting down South and one Mr. Football that ultimately made the difference.
Bottom line: let's face it. Marve's a big name and a big fish headed to a smaller (and often frozen, for that matter) pond. No matter how the next few years play out, he's going to draw attention, and he's going to be a story-one way or the other.
Call me crazy, but I think this story will have a happy ending.
At least, I really, really hope so.
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