One of many reasons to cheer for Purdue on Saturday is its group of seniors. A victory over Indiana means they get to complete their careers somewhere warm, possibly on New Year's Day in Texas. This group is trying to win the Old Oaken Bucket for the fourth time in the last five tries and prevent Indiana from earning consecutive wins in West West Lafayette for the first time since 1994 and 1996.
These guys were brought in by Joe Tiller for the most part, but worked their way through the transition to Danny Hope and, for the fifth year seniors, suffered through three losing seasons to this point. The last group of seniors to do so were the fifth year seniors that left after the 1998 season.
Through everything, these guys have been Boilermakers. They have represented our school with class and dignity even if the results on the field haven't been what we would like. I am thankful for their contributions and wish them well as they head off into the world.
Ralph Bolden - RB - I didn't expect Ralph to play this season. Not after tearing his ACL for a third time last year. He came on late, however, and rushed for over 100 yards at Iowa and would have had 100 last week if not for a pulled hamstring. Ralph is tough as nails for battling back to play even after his first tear. In his career he has rushed for 1,947 yards and 15 touchdowns and added 41 receptions for 466 yards and two more scores. We remember him mostly for his blistering start to Danny Hope's first season when he rushed for over 200 yards against Toledo and put the fear of God in Oregon at Oregon with a three TD game.
With a solid game against Indiana and the bowl game he can finish in the Purdue career top 10 in rushing TDs (17, needs 2), rushing yards (2,094, needs 147), and carries (478, needs 68). He is currently tied for 19th in career touchdowns with 17 total.
Max Charlot - S - Charlot came to Purdue as a junior college transfer with three years of eligibility before the 2010 season and has played in all 36 games since. He has even started about a third of those games, giving us a solid presence in the secondary. He has 79 career tackles (1.5 for loss), and had an interception against Minnesota in 2010. He's not the biggest or best safety, but he plays with a lot of heart.
Peters Drey - OG - Drey has simply been an anchor along the offensive line the last three seasons, starting every game except the final five of last year. He's a versatile lineman that has also played some center and could be a third day pay in April's NFL Draft. Not bad for a lightly recruited lineman out of Alabama.
Antavian Edison - WR - Edison recovered the onside kick to seal the Illinois game, but it was his first game in over three years that he did not catch a pass. His only catch his freshman year was a 15 yard TD in the 2009 season opener against Toledo. He now has 129 receptions for 1,490 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 286 yards and two more TDs, tying him now with Bolden for 19th on the school's all-time touchdowns list. He is Purdue's leading receiver this season in every category and his speed could get him a look at the next level. Right now he is 18th in school history in career receptions, with 56 more yards will crack the top 20 in receiving yards, and is tied for 10th in receiving touchdowns.
Nnamdi Ezenwa - LB - Ezenwa is a testament to patience. Before this season he only played in six games in four years and notched just six tackles. This season in a much larger role the fifth year senior has 18 tackles, three for loss, and had his first career sack at Notre Dame. He also has a forced fumble. These aren't huge numbers, but they come from a guy that did virtually nothing before this year and finally got his chance as a senior.
Kurt Freytag - FB - Another senior and a former walk-on who finally got a chance to contribute in his final year. Before this year he had one carry in four games total for no yards, but against Eastern Kentucky he rushed for his first career touchdown. He now has 30 yards rushing on six carries, a catch for a yard at Illinois, and three tackles on special teams. He's been a valuable reserve and lead blocker in 10 of 11 games this season, which is what you want out of a senior walk-on.
Zack Heiniger - LB - Not a lot of people know this, but Heiniger has been one of those random special teams guys that quietly does his job. He won the defense's Scout Team Award in 2009 and he saw action in 13 games before this season. He has one tackle in 10 games on special teams this season.
Antwon Higgs - LB - Higgs has bounced around a lot in his career. He looked like a potential answer at middle linebacker when he enrolled early in 2009 and recorded nine tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a sack as a true freshman that season. He was then used sparingly as a reserve the next two seasons. This year he has finally returned to the lineup with 11 games, 21 tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass breakup. He is one of the biggest linebackers we have on the roster.
Derek Jackson - RB - Barring a massive blowout of Indiana, Jackson will finish his career with one rush for one yard, recorded earlier this season. He played in only six games in his first four years on special teams before switching to fullback out of need this year. He's not played a lot, but he has contributed on the practice field greatly.
Josh Johnson - CB - Much of the attention to our cornerbacks has gone to Ricardo Allen and his penchant for scoring interceptions. Johnson, however, has been the better of the two and has played like an all-Big Ten corner all season long. He has played in all but one game at Purdue and has 173 tackles, two sacks, six interceptions, and had his first career touchdown with a long pick-six against Marshall. This season alone he has broken up 14 passes, batted down 17, and forced three fumbles with one recovery. If he is not a First-Team All-Big Ten selection next week it is a crime. JJ is one of a handful of Purdue players that should get drafted in April, hopefully on day 2 of the draft.
Robert Maci - LB - The versatile linebacker has been a hybrid this year, occasionally lining up at his original position of defensive end. He was the 2009 Special team MVP and a three time Academic All-Big Ten selection. He had 34 tackles before this season, where he has broken out with 33 tackles (6.5 for loss) and two sacks. He also has two forced fumbles and a recovery. Maci is one of those guys that has tenaciously worked his way up for everything he has earned and he clearly gets it done in the classroom as well. His three-time Academic all-Big Ten awards have come in Industrial Engineering.
Robert Marve - QB - What can I say about Robert Marve other than that he is one of my favorite players I have ever seen put on a Purdue uniform. There is little question that at Miami he was immature, as he had some troubles with the school and with the law in his two years (one redshirt, one playing) there. His very first game as a Hurricane he was suspended. He fought off potentially career-ending injuries in a car accident that forced his first redshirt year in Coral Gables and is playing on a third torn ACL as we speak.
This kid is tough as nails, but we have seen him mature into a player that his teammates adore and become a leader on the field this team will miss. His entire career before the Iowa game there was always another quarterback looking over his shoulder, be it Jacory Harris, Rob Henry, or Caleb TerBush. That, plus injuries, have limited his snaps, but he has come through it all with an attitude that is incredibly admirable. I can't imagine what it is like to have a talent like his, but not have your body cooperate and stay healthy. He's given everything this season, as noticed by him somehow scrambling 17 yards on a bad knee to set up the game-winning field goal at Iowa.
Combined with his Miami numbers, he has thrown for 3,612 career yards with 25 touchdowns and 24 interceptions, but this is his best season to date. He has 1,174 yards and nine scores against only two picks. He also has 186 yards rushing and four rushing TDs. His biggest one the one yard sneak that beat Ohio State last year, where you got to see a young man have a moment of pure joy playing the sport he loves after so much heartache.
His numbers aren't the best and he will likely never play a down professionally because of that knee, but Robert Marve may have one of the biggest hearts to ever play at Ross-Ade.
Eric Mebane - DT - Mebane only had one assisted tackle in four career games before this season, but he notched his first career sack in reserve action earlier this year. He has only played in two games thus far but he undoubtedly adds senior leadership and depth that is needed.
Chris Quinn - S - Quinn has always been one of those guys that has felt a year away from being a major contributor his entire career. In 2009, 2010, and 2011 he played extensively on special teams, but could never find a spot at safety despite multiple openings in that time. He has two tackles in nine games this season, mostly on special teams. That gives him 11 tackles for his career.
Gavin Roberts - RB - Roberts is almost exactly like Derek Jackson above. He has one carry for seven yards, but has seen some action in five games this year. He had a solo tackle at Oregon in 2009, but that was the only game he played in before this year. He's another Tiller player that unfortunately just got passed over for much of his career.
Rick Schmeig - C - Rick's brother, Doug is an avid reader of the site and is even in our Fantasy Football league. Rick, meanwhile has been anchor on the offensive line with Drey for much of the past four seasons. He's been the starting center the last two years for all 25 games but played as a guard before that. His versatility could get his name called by the NFL Draft in April.
Akeem Shavers - RB - Shavers has been exactly what we needed from a JuCo running back. He only had two years to give and he gave them extremely well. Last season he had 519 yards and six TDs while catching fives passes for 58 yards and another touchdown. He ran wild on Western Michigan in the bowl game for 149 yards on 22 carries and won the game's MVP award. This season he has played extremely well (when the Nordfense has given him the ball, I should add) with 652 yards and five scores to go with 13 catches for 204 yards and two more scores. With 14 career touchdowns he can easily get intot he top 20 at Purdue all-time. If he goes really crazy against IU (and their run defense sucks) a top 20 finish in career rushing yards is possible.
Kawann Short - DT - Purdue almost has one dominant player along its defensive line and this year it is Kawann Short. When he is on, teams absolutely must double-team him in order to have a chance at blocking him. I say chance because he can still break through and make a play. He's that good. The high school basketball teammate of E`Twaun Moore has become one of the best defensive tackles in the country and like first round NFL draft pick. This season he has 36 tackles, 14 for loss, and six sacks to go with two fumble recoveries and four blocked kicks. Most teams don't get four blocked kicks in a season. Last season he blocked two more, and in 2010 he also blocked two. In 2009 he had two interceptions. As a defensive tackle. He is a rampaging beast that pretty much does everything on defense and opposing offenses have had a nightmare of a time dealing with him for four years now. This season is actually his worst in terms of tackles, as he had 103 stops before this year. At 18.5 sacks for his career he is eighth on the school list.
Some NFL team will be very happy to get him in April.
Caleb TerBush - QB - Caleb has taken a pretty ruthless beating by the fans this year, and it is somewhat unwarranted. He has been exactly what we expected him to be: a lightly regarded QB recruit that was decent last year because he didn't make many mistakes, but the mistakes and an inane quarterback rotation caught up to him this year. It sucks, because he's a good kid, but when a player is out-performing him, but still sitting the bench, he becomes a target.
Career-wise TerBush will finish surprisingly high in Purdue history. He has 20 starts as a Boilermaker. At 3,077 yards he is 16th all-time and still could catch Dale Samuels (3,161) for 15th. At 25 career touchdown passes He is actually tied with Billy Dicken for 12th place. He has also rushed for almost 300 career yards and three more scores. Not bad for a guy who, when Marve transferred, many thought he would have spot duty at best.
Tommie Thomas - WR - For many games you've likely seen a dredlocked player wearing a No. 12 jersey and warming up with Marve on the sidelines. That is Thomas, who was set to finally contribute this season as a fifth year senior only to suffer a foot injury in camp that has kept him on the sidelines all year. He's played in handful of games as a reserve before this year, but has never caught a pass. He did throw one, however, on a trick play against Notre Dame last season.
Crosby Wright - TE - The final senior is a walk-on from Carbondale Community College who disproved the scouts that said he couldn't be a Division I scholarship player and earned himself a scholarship to Purdue after walking on. He now has 35 career receptions for 425 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He's really stepped it up in the last two games with seven catches for 82 yards as the Nordfense went away at times and we remembered that a tight end is an eligible receiver.