Can Henry be the man in West Lafayette? Only time and freshman stand in his way.
After kicking off our preview of Purdue football with a little look back at what transpired in 2012 to lead us to where we are today, we now turn our attention squarely on to the season almost at hand.
One could argue that more than anything else injuries all over the offense pretty much doomed that last regime from the get go and in 2013 perhaps fortunes have changed?
After all, when you think Purdue football you think of the "Cradle of Quarterbacks" and names like Bob Griese, Drew Brees, Curtis Painter and Mike Alstott. We only mention these names to point out that the Boilermakers are more than capable of turning out offensive talent and as we head into 2013 they'll need to find a new breed of talent to stay bowl eligible in the Darrell Hazel era.
With that, let's dive into what to expect from the Purdue offense in 2013!
With new offensive coordinator John Shoop (a name you may recognize from North Carolina) on board things are changing for the QB position as the Boilers attempt to make a switch to a more pro-style system. It's a change that could happen slowly or more aggressively depending on who wins the battle that is going to rage on in fall camp.
Back when we previewed things for spring the names Rob Henry (21-38, 216 yards, 3TD's/1INT in 2012) and Austin Appleby were on the tips of everyone's tongues. While we were right that two QB's would be battling it out, it appears that early enrollee Danny Etling is going to be the challenger to Henry's thrown so to speak, thanks to a standout performance in the spring.
Etling was a prized recruit for Hazel and having him throughout the spring was huge in his growth and ability to mount a serious challenge to Henry. Right now the veteran signal caller has a slight edge, but this one is likely to come down to the end of camp folks.
Again, it's all about style, with Henry bringing the ability out of the pocket and Etling bringing the cannon arm and more drop-back style that Shoop is comfortable with. In the end, Shoop and Hazel have made it clear: the man who wins the job will be the one that gives this team the best chance to win football games and the offense will tailor around said winner to maximize his talents. Look for Henry to just slightly edge out the youngin' but don't be surprised if the roles are reversed when they come out of the tunnel against Cincinnati either.
This is all about Akeem Hunt (335 yards, 8.0avg, 2TD's) because behind him is a ton of inexperience. Hunt must show that he's over the injury bug and that he can be more than a change of pace back. If he stays on the field more often than not then he could end up being one of the biggest breakout players in the conference this season - that's how much talent the guy has.
Behind him is Brandon Cottom, who's a bruiser of a back, but is also experienced to a point, carrying the ball 23 times last season and averaging over 9 yards a carry too. However, don't expect this to be a thunder and lightning type attack on a regular basis. The Shoop offense is predicated on a power running game - don't believe me, just remember the name Giovanni Bernard from UNC over the past few seasons.
Behind them look for a youth movement of sorts in freshman Keith Byars II and Keyante Green, who headline a quartet of incoming freshman for this class. Byars and Green are both thick players with dynamic playmaking skills, something Shoop and Hazel love in their running backs. So, don't be shocked to see one or both of these two become key contributors as the season goes on.
Perhaps the single biggest help to both of the positions we've talked about already is a competent and cohesive offensive line. Purdue returns three players who made starts last season in tackles Justin Kitchens and Kevin Pamphile as well as guard Robert Kugler and have five players on the two deep who have started.
That's all well and good, but this is also a unit that didn't produce a single player to any of the media or coaches all-conference teams or even honorable mention lists either. Kitchens is perhaps the most versatile of the bunch, playing both left and right tackle in 2012. This was also a unit that ranked 60th nationally in pass protection last year so there's plenty of room for improvement.
With a switch in style of offense that's got to be a major concern heading into 2013. On the plus side is Kugler (easily the best o-lineman last season) is likely to move to center to help stabilize the O-Line, but that move does leave holes at the guard spots. The other starters back are experienced enough to build off of 2012 and improve heading forward too.
Behind them is a lot of youth that will push them if needed as there are some quality names to look out for like J.J. Prince and Jordan Roos, who could end up challenging for starting roles when it's all said and done. At least there's some quality depth being built here and 2013 should be a vast improvement over 2012 because of it.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Well, thanks to another suspension for O.J. Ross this could be a major area of concern for the team heading into the season. If he's not back this team loses it's leading returning receiver and his 56 receptions for 454 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Thankfully the group as a whole is experienced and there is a name you really should familiarize yourself with, Dolapo Macarthy. He's what you would call a prototypical pro-style wide receiver, what with his 6'4" and 220lbs.. frame and all. The junior also happened to have his best game of the season last year against Ohio State, catching 6 passes for 48 yards.
Look for him to be the breakout name at this position in the Big Ten this season even in a year loaded with some pretty impressive talent throughout the league. Speaking of loaded, we haven't even mentioned Gary Bush, who had 41 catches for 360 yards and 7 touchdowns last season (good for 3rd on the team in receptions).
With those two in toe this unit will be just fine in 2013 - Ross or no Ross.
As for the tight end position group this is another area that could be a strength for the Boilermakers in 2013 with Gabe Holmes (25 receptions for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns) back to stretch the field. He does need to improve his inline blocking as he wasn't used that much in that role with the more spread attack that Hope featured in West Lafayette.
If the QB situation is to clear up, look for it to be because one of the three potential candidates has developed some great chemistry with the wide receiver corp.
Questions that must be answered in Camp:
- Who will be QB?
- Can the offensive line improve their protection enough to allow the QB to be successful without having to run for their lives?
- Will Akeem Hunt step up to the plate and will he stay healthy?
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