- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The spring superlatives series, which examines the strongest and weakest position groups for each Big Ten team, marches on with Purdue.
After winning four of its final six games, Purdue has high hopes for 2010. The Boilermakers return a lot of skill players on offense, and Miami transfer Robert Marve looks like the front-runner to take over at quarterback. The defense needs to fill all four starting spots in the secondary, but end Ryan Kerrigan and linebacker Jason Werner lead the front seven.
Strongest position: Wide receiver/tight end
Key returnees: Keith Smith (91 receptions, 1,100 receiving yards, 6 TDs); Kyle Adams (29 receptions, 249 receiving yards); Keith Carlos (21 receptions, 242 receiving yards, 1 TD); running back Ralph Bolden (20 receptions, 261 receiving yards, 2 TDs); Cortez Smith (17 receptions, 177 receiving yards, 2 TDs); Jeff Lindsay (16 receptions 162 receiving yards).
Key losses: Aaron Valentin (54 receptions, 621 receiving yards, 7 TDs).
The skinny: A year ago, the Boilers had huge questions here as Smith was the lone returnee with any significant experience. Purdue now boasts one of the Big Ten's deepest group of pass-catchers, led by Smith, who topped the league in receiving yards last fall and earned first-team all-conference honors from the media. Purdue needs a new No. 2 wideout, but hopes are high for Cortez Smith and Carlos. The coaches are also high on young wideouts Antavian Edison and Gary Bush. The tight end position should be very solid with both Adams and Lindsay in the fold.
Weakest position: Defensive back
Key returnees: Albert Evans (30 tackles, 2 pass breakups)
Key losses: Torri Williams (84 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 8 passes defended); Dwight Mclean (62 tackles, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble, 4 passes defended); David Pender (40 tackles, 1 INT, 14 passes defended, 1 blocked kick, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery); Brandon King (30 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 5 passes defended).
The skinny: Purdue loses all four starters in the secondary, including tackles leader Williams and second-team All-Big Ten selections in Pender and King. Evans is the lone returnee with significant experience, and he'll miss spring practice with an injury. Players like junior college transfer Mike Eargle, Charlton Williams, Gavin Roberts and Chris Quinn need to step up this spring. "We have a lot of depth issues in the secondary," head coach Danny Hope said.