The biggest question mark for the Purdue offense this year will be in the backfield. With 2009's rushing leader Ralph Bolden sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, Purdue will look to a relatively inexperienced (yardage wise) corps of running backs. Let's take a look at the group of running backs Purdue will be leaning on.
McBurse comes into the season as Purdue’s best option for a high-octane halfback. He showed flashes of his speed and explosiveness against Indiana last season, returning an 87-yard kickoff for a touchdown. If McBurse can stay healthy he may be the guy for Purdue at running back.
Dierking is the oldest and most experienced running back in Purdue’s backfield, coming into the 2010 season as a team captain. He spent time as the starting fullback last year, and also played on special teams. Dierking may not have the measurables of an ideal fullback, but he brings the heart and passion coaches love. Currently he’s penciled in to be Purdue’s starting halfback, but we’ll have to see if that stays the same.
The 6’2 235 pound fullback could be a big part of Purdue’s running game this year as a blocker. He received the “Hammer” award this spring and at times last year looked absolutely dominant as a blocker. Crank could also function as a "big" back in certain situations. His ability to create space for the halfback behind him could be big for Purdue this year.
Carlos, a wide receiver last season, starts the year as a bit of an unknown for Purdue. He’s out as of now with a stress fracture in his foot, and it remains to be seen when he’ll take the field. He has flashed speed and explosiveness, but it will be intriguing to see how he does in the backfield when he returns.
I think it’s safe to say there’s not a clear-cut #1 running back heading into the season. Purdue will likely run the ball “by committee” and spread the ball around. If Bolden can return at full strength it would certainly be a big boost to Purdue, but that's far from a given. It will certainly be interesting to see who makes the biggest impact.
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