Spring football has quickly become a very interesting exercise. It used to be what it should be: merely practice. Now it has become an institution. Being down in Miami means I am currently on the edge SEC country. Thanks to their new commitment with ESPN, they spillover ESPN channels were overrun with SEC football coverage yesterday like these games really matter. Ultimately, they don't. What the fans saw from Purdue today was merely a teaser. It was a chance to bring the fans out on a beautiful spring day so they can get some bonus football action.
Mostly I like to think the benefits of spring football come from those lower on the depth chart. They come from guys like Will Lucas, who enrolled early and competed to be a starting linebacker as a true freshman. They come from guys in the secondary who wanted to make an early impression before the young guns get to town in the fall. What was on the field yesterday was a vastly different team than what we will see when we open the season at Notre Dame. Some questions were answered, but some still remain.
Starting quarterback - I agree with Boilerdowd here. Robert Marve will be the starter. Coach Hope may say it is still a competition, but I think we all know it is likely Marve's to lose from here on out. He has put up the best numbers through the entire spring and he had the best play of the day with the 75 yard bomb to Cortez Smith. He seems to be more consistent on the deep ball than Elliott or Painter. He also did not have most of his top targets yesterday. Keith Smith is out currently. No one has cemented themselves in Aaron Valentin's spot (or have they?). Charles Torwudzo, Chevin Davis, and O.J. Ross weren't there either. I think we have the potential to have a fantastic offense once the other pieces are in place around Marve.
#2 receiver - Perhaps I was a little hasty in saying no one has cemented the #2 receiver's job in place of Valentin. Cortez Smith had a great audition this spring and continued his hot play from last year's final three games. They say JuCo player make a big leap in year #2. Valentin did last year, and Smith looks to do so this year after having six catches for 136 yards and a score. He is emerging as a deep threat with Keith Smith being the possession guy. We'll also soon be able to release tons of speed too. I would like to have seen Gary Bush in the game, but he was held out due to injury.
Kawann Short - Is it possible that Short will finish his career at Purdue with double-digit interceptions as a defensive tackle? He already has two from his redshirt freshman season last year. He also now seems to be a savant at breaking up screen passes. I must say, it is a relief to see that as well. For years our defense has acted like they don't know what a screen pass is, let alone how to defend it. One needs to only watch a tape of the 2004 Sun Bowl to see that. If we can finally snuff this play out with some regularity it will go a long way towards improving our defense.
The Secondary - I think we can officially call this a draw. We won't know anything until the fall when we get all the freshmen on board and Albert Evans returns. Chris Quinn and Michael Eargle appear to be frontrunners to start with Charlton Williams, but this will be incredibly fluid.
The running game - It was only natural with our top five running backs sitting out, but I can safely say this: I highly doubt Sean Matti, George Brigandi, and Javeare White will combine for 21 carries this entire coming season. In fact, I don't think any of them get any carries unless we are blowing out Western Illinois by six touchdowns in the 3rd quarter.
Offensive Line depth - I know they were the second team guys playing the first team defense, but the backup O-line guys gave up eight sacks. This is without Ryan Kerrigan on the other end. Let us pray the starters don't get hurt.
Punting - The race to Chris Summers will go into the fall. 30 yards per kick is not going to win the job.
I think that Boilerdowd had the best wrap over at Boiled Sports since he was there, so I will defer to him. This is a team that was playing in pieces. Nearly half of each unit was not what we will see in the season open. Those pieces that are set look really good, but we still have a long way to go.