ESPN Classic was kind enough to get me thinking about Purdue football again today. They were playing Before they were Pros: Drew Brees today. They featured his 2000 Outback Bowl game today along with the 1999 Notre Dame game and the Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State games from 2000. It's hard to believe it has now been 10 years since those magical games, but they remind us of why we watch spring football and such. Right now, everyone is 0-0 and still has a chance at Pasadena. Maybe Robert Marve will be the guy that takes us there again.
So far the new out of this spring has been both good and bad. Obviously, injuries have played a major role with Ralph Bolden already down and several other starters being held out as a precaution. There have still been some good signs though. Before I head off to Miami on Wednesday and John takes over for the spring game, here are some positives and negatives from spring football.
Robert Marve - Most of us expected Marve to win the starting job, but I think we're all a little surprised that he is cementing his role so early. In a scrimmage on Wednesday Marve was 23 of 31 for 272 ayrds and four touchdowns. Rob Henry and Caleb TerBush each had good days on Friday as well, but they weren't as good as Marve. In another scrimmage on Friday the defense picked off Henry and TerBush twice each, but Marve was 16 of 24 for 167 yards and two scores against no picks. Friday's scrimmage saw a lot more from the defense, but Marve was one of the few offensive bright spots. If he keeps up his play I suspect he will be named the starter by the end of the spring.
If I were to guess right now I would say that Marve is the #1 while TerBush is a slight #2 over Henry. Base this only on statements made by coach Hope that Henry has seen some times at special teams and they said he would be a good candidate for a position switch just to get him on the field. That is a curious statement, especially with true freshman Sean Robinson coming this fall. Should Marve cement himself as the starter, that would leave Henry, TerBush, and Robinson on the sidelines for two years before they battle again in 2012.
Will Lucas - I find this one as a bit of a surprise given the depth we have at linebacker, but you can never have too much depth there. With Jason Werner and Antwon Higgs battling injuries, Lucas has had a chance to play with the first team defense and he has done very well. This gives him a huge advantage in the fall since he was able to enroll early and go through spring football. Coach Hope has already said he will compete to be a starter, and that is saying something considering we have all five linebackers back that saw significant time last season.
Kawann Short - Short had an interception returned for a touchdown in the scrimmage on Friday, which is something that defensive tackles don't do very often.
Receivers - With Keith Smith out and Keith Carlos moved to running back, several of the young guns are getting a chance to play. Xavier Reese had a great Friday scrimmage, but fumbled. Gary Bush had a great game on Wednesday. Cortez Smith had a good Friday scrimmage as well. Keith Smith is an unquestioned starter. Cortez Smith was great in the last three games last year. It seems like Bush and Reese are making a move now, but we still have O.J. Ross and the Mainland guys coming in the fall.
Running backs - while the injury to Bolden sucks, I think we'll be okay. Al-Terek McBurse and Keith Carlos seem to be filling in quite nicely with ATM being the likely starter. Dan Dierking can also carry in a pinch, as he is a senior now. The kid has a lot of heart and can contribute this year. As for the starter, ATM had 100 and two scores on 10 carries Wednesday. I think it is time for him to make it rain on these bitches.
Tackling - This was a major, major issue last year, but coach Hope has cited tackling as vastly improved this year. To me, that is a huge positive after being a major negative for years.
The Bolden injury - While I like ATM and I think Carlos/Dierking/Siller can be a good backup combo, you don't get better by losing a second team all-Big Ten player.
Offensive dominance - Ideally, you don't want one unit to dominate the other in the spring. If the defense is awesome, then you start to wonder if the offense is just bad. If the offense is racking up yards you begin to question if the defense I any good. So far, the offense has been the star of the spring. The defense is rather hampered though. Ryan Kerrigan is out. We still have maybe one starter in Michael Eargle in the secondary. Jason Werner is out as well. While we appear to have the best linebacking unit since 2003, the secondary is very suspect. I think our front seven is going to be the best we have seen in awhile, but I wonder how many of the passing numbers are inflated against a depleted secondary.
Eric Hedstrom - There was a chance that Hedstrom was going to get a 6th year of eligibility and return to provide offensive line depth, but that is unlikely now. He is still recovering from shoulder surgery and coach Hope has said a return is unlikely. Hedstrom is a former starter who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. It's unfortunate, too. We could use him.
It is what it is, honestly. We won't know anything of real value until we take the field on September 4th against Notre Dame. I do like our chances on that day to piss on the parade that wants to crown Brian Kelly as the next savior. The offense seems to be flowing very well. Robert Marve has more experience than Dayne Crist. At least in the front seven, we appear to have a real, live defense unlike the Irish. I would rather have our team getting better in the second year of a coach than a disjointed team in a transition year in that game. I think we make a statement on September 4th.