March 25, 2009

Hope springs into action at Purdue

The Joe Tiller era has ended at Purdue, and Danny Hope is the new coach.

The final season under Tiller was a big disappointment, and a lot of work needs to be done on offense this spring - including finding a new quarterback and developing depth at wide receiver.

The defense returns seven starters, but the unit was inconsistent last season.

Here's a look at the Boilermakers as they prepare to open spring practice.

purdue AT-A-GLANCE
Danny Hope takes the reins at Purdue and has plenty to work on this spring.
THE BASICS
Coach: Danny Hope
Last season: 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten
Spring dates: March 25-April 18
RETURNING STARTERS
Offense (2): G Eric Hedstrom, T Zach Jones.
Defense (7): LB Chris Carlino, LB Joe Holland, E Ryan Kerrigan, CB Brandon King, T Mike Neal, CB David Pender, FS Torri Williams.
Special teams (2): P Chris Summers, K Carson Wiggs.
Positions of strength

Hope likes the potential of the offensive and defensive lines, but there's a need for a dominant pass rusher to emerge at a school that has developed a knack for producing them. The next great one could be Ryan Kerrigan, Keyon Brown or Gerald Gooden. There is a nice blend of depth and experience in the secondary. Everyone is thrilled that running back Jaycen Taylor is back after missing 2008 with a knee injury.

Help is needed

With Curtis Painter gone, the hot topic will be the quarterback battle between Justin Siller and Joey Elliott. Don't expect any resolution. In fact, they could end up splitting time in the fall. Whoever is slinging passes will be working with an overhauled wide receiver corps.

Keep an eye on

LB Chris Carlino: He was forced into action as a true freshman last season and held his own. Now, he looks primed to be a standout linebacker for a defense that is desperate for playmakers.

RB Al-Terek McBurse: The most hyped recruit in Purdue's 2009 class, McBurse graduated high school early and will take part in spring drills. He figures to play a big role at a position that lacks depth and will be without departed star Kory Sheets.

G Ken Plue: He was a part-time starter last season as a true freshman and could develop into one of the league's best linemen. He has great size (6 feet 7/322 pounds), and he and Zach Jones could be a formidable duo on the right side of the line.

His time is now

This is it for Elliott, a senior quarterback who has been nothing more than a bit player. When he got his big chance to start for an extended stretch last season after Painter got hurt, Elliott injured his shoulder. So, instead of entering the spring as the front-runner to start, Elliott will have to battle Siller.

The buzz

The staff and players seem energized by Hope taking over as coach. He's an enthusiastic personality who won't be outworked or outhustled. More than anything, Hope wants to get all of his players to buy in to what he's selling. Several key cogs from Tiller's staff remain, but longtime defensive coordinator Brock Spack left to become coach at Illinois State. Hope tabbed Donn Landholm to be his DC. He held the same title under Hope at Eastern Kentucky. The scheme won't change, but how will the players adapt to Landholm's style? Regardless, this looks like the first step in what will be a rebuilding year in West Lafayette.

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.



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