On the checklist for Purdue’s preseason hopes, there are many bright spots. Two standout Big 10 First Team selections, check. Big 10 Newcomer of the Year, check. A “Hope” to play 13 that rides on the best mustache in college football, check. Could these factors lead to a bowl game and a few surprises along the way?
A season of two tales is the only way to describe Coach Danny Hope’s first year at Purdue as the head coach. In “big games” he was 3-2, 29 seconds and a 2 point conversion away from potentially being 5-0. A season in which you beat Ohio State and Michigan is promising for the BCS right? Well the second Boilermaker team that showed up got embarrassed by Northern Illinois, blanked by Wisconsin and couldn’t quite get over the edge against other conference foes. But a 5-7 mark isn’t the worst place to start in preparation for 2010 and a new season for Purdue. One must think that Coach Hope is going to get his guys mentally prepared and be a much more consistent team that will definitely cut down on turnovers which hurt them so much in the 2009 campaign.
When looking for a bright spot to look to coming into 2010, one must start with Keith Smith and Ryan Kerrigan. These two juniors are both on the Big 10 First Team and looking to solidify themselves as leaders of this team as well as future NFL prospects. Keith Smith led the Big 10 in receptions and yards with 91 grabs for 1100 yards in his sophomore year. He was the go to guy having double digit receptions in 4 games. Keith Smith has “it”, whatever “it” is; Smith’s got “it.” On the defensive side, Kerrigan is the anchor, the leader, and the force. He is going to receive doubles at the line but that will open up for an experienced linebacker group to exploit gaps and put pressure on the Quarterback.
Looking to the quarterback position and who will get Smith the ball, great hype is surrounding transfer Robert Marve. Marve is the Big 10 Newcomer-of-the-Year and a former high school standout. An average freshman year, throwing for 1,293 yards and 11 scores along with off the field issues at Miami led to Marve looking to move, and Purdue gaining a potentially great player. With the passing game solidified (hopefully), the run game is a major question mark coming in. After Ralph Bolden went down in preseason with a knee injury, our potentially great run game now brings concern. Bolden had a breakout season last year running for over 900 yards in his first year, but now hopes ride on the new legs of Al-Terek McBurse with Bolden out and the departure of Jaycen Taylor to graduation.
Signs point up for Purdue in the coming years under Hope, with many winnable games early in the season. There is strong hope, in my opinion, for a 5-1 start before getting too deep in Big 10 play, which would potentially position the Boilermakers for a bowl game, their first since the 2007 Motor City Bowl. There may not be Roses in the next couple seasons, but the grass sure is getting greener in West Lafayette.