Spring superlatives: Purdue

It's time to bring back the spring superlatives series, which examines the strongest and weakest positions for each Big Ten team in spring ball.

Let's start off with Purdue, the Big Ten squad furthest along in its spring session.

Strongest position: Offensive line

  • Key returnees: LT Dennis Kelly, RG Ken Plue, C Peters Drey, LT Nick Mondek, G Rick Schmeig

  • Key losses: LG Justin Pierce

  • The skinny: Purdue has a lot of questions to answer at the offensive skill positions this spring, but the line looks solid. How solid? "I believe it's going to be the strength of our offense," coordinator Gary Nord recently told me. Purdue boasts experience at every position, particularly with Kelly and Plue. It won't be hard for this group to develop chemistry before the 2011 season. Although Purdue's offensive numbers dipped in 2010, the Boilers showed they could run the ball at times and should have a much more dynamic unit this coming season. You could make a case for the secondary here as well, but the amount of returning experience along the O-line puts it over the top.

Weakest position: Tight end

  • Key returnees: None (newcomer Sterling Carter is an intriguing prospect)

  • Key losses: Kyle Adams (team-high 36 catches for 244 yards); Jeff Lindsay (nine catches for 72 yards)

  • The skinny: Purdue had a small senior class in 2010 and tight end is one of few positions that took a hit because of graduation. Adams was a reliable target for Purdue's quarterbacks, and his presence will be missed. Nord and coach Danny Hope want to feature the tight end and hope Carter, a junior college transfer, provides an immediate boost. There's a little more uncertainty at receiver after the NCAA denied Keith Smith a sixth year of eligibility, so Purdue will be looking for tight ends to emerge if young receivers like Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross don't continue to make strides. Running back also could fit here if Ralph Bolden doesn't return to form following a torn ACL.