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Monday, August 1, 2011
Fresh faces: Purdue

By Adam Rittenberg

Our look at three fresh faces to watch for each Big Ten team this season continues with the Purdue Boilermakers. These players are freshmen, redshirt freshmen, transfers or upperclassmen ready to move into much bigger roles this season.

OFFENSE: Akeem Shavers, RB, junior, 5-11, 203

Shavers comes to Purdue from junior college, where he averaged an impressive nine yards per carry in limited work last season. The Boilers get Ralph Bolden back from a torn ACL but need some insurance in the offensive backfield. Shavers is an explosive, physical runner who did some impressive things in spring practice. Along with Reggie Pegram, he adds depth at running back for a team looking for a spark on offense.

DEFENSE: Ryan Russell, DE, redshirt freshman, 6-5, 241

Purdue must replace Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Kerrigan and Russell is among several defensive ends hoping to fill the massive production void. Russell competed with Robert Maci for the starting job this spring, and while Maci is listed No. 1 on the preseason depth chart, Russell will be part of the rotation. Although both Maci and Gerald Gooden boast game experience, there's plenty of opportunity for younger players like Russell and Rashad Frazier.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Cody Webster, P, sophomore, 6-1, 205

Webster isn't necessarily "fresh," as he handled most of the punting duties for Purdue's final 10 games last season, averaging 43.3 yards per punt with 17 attempts of 50 yards or longer. But most of Purdue's key special-teams contributors are holdovers from 2010, which bodes well. Webster and senior Carson Wiggs form arguably the Big Ten's strongest punter-kicker tandem this fall, and Webster will expand his special-teams role by serving as the holder for Wiggs. If Webster builds on his success late last fall, he could be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors.

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