Spring football practice is well underway and there are a few notes that stand out so far:
- O.J. Ross is back - according to yesterday's report from GBI, Ross was not only suspended for academics before the Little Caesar's Bowl, he was actually dismissed from the team and stripped of his scholarship after missing some class this semester. He is now back on the team, and paying his own way, which cannot be cheap (unless he established Indiana residency). Ross does have a little girl living in Florida, but he is apparently trying to make it work before his junior season. Still, he edges ever closer to entering "the curse of the four-stars". We need his experience, given he had 33 catches, 356 yards, and three TDs last year.
- Dwayne Beckford in Limbo - Purdue's middle linebacker, not an easy position to replace, remains suspended after a DUI arrest that led to other charges. As usual, Purdue is being very quiet about this, which in the case of Ken Plue wasn't a good sign. I am not optimistic.
- Position battles - The top position battles are quarterback, safety, wide receiver, and offensive line, as much of the defense returns intact.
Call me crazy, but I think this spring could be the beginning of a special season for Purdue. Once again, I expect to win three of four non-conference college football games, with Marshall the most likely Toledo/Rice/Northern Illinois type of opponent. If we get those, I kind of like the way the conference slate sets up. Minnesota is hardly overwhelming, Illinois and Penn State are in transition, Iowa has a lot of question marks (especially when their next three running backs get abducted by Somali pirates thanks to AIRBHG), and Indiana is still Indiana. Given that Ohio State is ineligible and we get Wisconsin and Michigan at home, Purdue just might be a dark horse sports bet candidate to win our division.
Okay, you can stop laughing now.
Seriously, hear me out.
I SAID STOP LAUGHING!!!
Okay, thank you. Obviously, there are a lot of questions that need to be settled. The quarterback situation needs to have a clear leader. My suggestion is to go with Robert Marve and incorporate Rob Henry as the Wild Henry in the H-back/slot receiver/wildcat QB type. The offensive line has some hole, but Robert Kugler, Kevin Pamphile, Cody Davis, and Jack DeBoef looks to be solid answers. Trevor Foy, Peters Drey, Rick Schmeig, and Justin Kitchens at least have experience now.
Defensively, Kawann Short is going to have an all-Big Ten season, and I really like Ryan Russell and Bruce Gaston, while Brandon Taylor provides depth. Our cornerbacks are set, as are outside linebackers with Will Lucas. Safety is the biggest question mark, but I would like to see E.J. Johnson get a shot.
My point is that there are some tools there that can make some nose. The Akeems (Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt) look like a nice running back combo and there is some speed with receivers Shane Mikesky, Antavian Edison, Gary Bush, and Raheem Mostert (who really needs a speedy nickname). This is before a pretty solid freshman class gets here.
April 14 will be very interesting for sure.