Monday, May 9, 2011
Hope and concern: Purdue
By ESPN.com staff
It's time to revive the Hope and Concern series. This is pretty straightforward: I'll list the biggest reason for hope and the biggest reason for concern for each Big Ten team heading into the 2011 season.
Let's get things started with Purdue.
Biggest reason for hope: Upgraded team speed
Speed has been Danny Hope's biggest priority in recruiting, and he has scoured the state of Florida for as much of it as he can find during his tenure in West Lafayette. Hope thinks Purdue's speed will be upgraded on both sides of the ball this coming season. "A couple years ago, we only had five or six guys who could run 4.5s or better [in the 40-yard dash]," Hope told ESPN.com. "We've tripled or maybe quadrupled that number. It makes a big difference. We have some guys who can make some plays in space on both sides of the football." Players like cornerback Ricardo Allen, linebacker Will Lucas and wide receivers Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross provide the speed and athleticism Purdue hopes will translate into more victories this season.
Biggest reason for concern: Unproven pass rush
Purdue led the Big Ten in both sacks (33) and tackles for loss (91) last season, finishing 14th and fourth nationally in the respective categories. But the departure of 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Kerrigan leaves a significant void Purdue could struggle to fill. Kerrigan not only made a ton of plays himself, but created opportunities for other defensive linemen like tackle Kawann Short (six sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss in 2010). The Boilers need Gerald Gooden to produce this fall, but the senior has struggled to stay healthy and sat out this spring. Junior Robert Maci and redshirt freshman Ryan Russell took most of the reps this spring, but both men need to prove a lot in games. If Purdue doesn't get much from the end spot, it'll need huge seasons from Short and fellow tackle Bruce Gaston Jr.