Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Opening spring ball: Purdue
Spring football has arrived in the Big Ten!
Purdue hits the practice field later today for the first of 15 spring workouts. I'll post a spring snapshot for each Big Ten squad as they open practice, so let's get started with the Boilermakers.
The big story: The Boilers are taking nothing for granted. After a season in which so many key players went down with injuries, Purdue is moving forward with the pieces it has. Rob Henry enters spring ball as the No. 1 quarterback as Robert Marve continues to recover from ACL surgery. The Boilers hope running back Ralph Bolden returns to form following his own ACL surgery, but they like their other options in the backfield as well. All-Big Ten receiver Keith Smith won't be back, so Purdue will move forward with Justin Siller, Antavian Edison and others.
Position in the spotlight: Quarterback. Offensive coordinator Gary Nord really likes what Henry brings to the offense, and the rising sophomore will have a chance to establish himself as the starter this spring. Caleb TerBush also will be a factor after being academically ineligible for the 2010 season. TerBush continued to practice with the team and should challenge Henry and Marve when Marve returns.
Coaching changes: Gary Emanuel is now the team's only defensive coordinator after sharing the title with Donn Landholm last season. Emanuel will continue to coach the defensive line, while Landholm will work with the outside linebackers. Danny Hope also hired two new assistants: wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins and linebackers coach Phil Elmassian, who returns to Purdue after working with the Boilers defensive backs in 2003.
Keep an eye on: Tight end Sterling Carter and running back Akeem Shavers. Both junior college transfers should make an immediate impact for Purdue. The Boilers lose top tight ends Kyle Adams and Jeff Lindsay, so Carter will make a strong push for the starting job. Hope wants to stress the run game and Shavers provides depth in the backfield alongside Bolden and rising sophomore Reggie Pegram.
Spring game: April 9