Purdue's history at the quarterback position is undisputed. Purdue quarterbacks have started more games in the NFL than any other college by far, and as long as Drew Brees and Kyle Orton remain as starters we'll gain two more starts per week. At one point last year three former Boilermakers were taking snaps in the League with Curtis Painter staring in Indianapolis before his confidence was completely wrecked by season's end. Even Joey Elliott was the started in the CFL for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before the ACL curse got its passport and attacked poor Joey last season.
For the last three years we have lacked that stellar quarterback play, as injuries and an inane quarterback rotation have prevented us from gaining a rhythm. That trend should be coming to an end. Elite 11, which is pretty much the American Idol of high school quarterback competitions, has emerged as an early summer competition to showcase the best high school football has to offer. Next season Purdue will have two such quarterbacks on the roster.
Incoming freshman Austin Appleby will be there this fall, hopefully following in the footsteps of Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow, and Kyle Orton as former Elite 11 quarterbacks. Danny Etling, one of just two commitments for the 2013 class, has already been selected for the 2012 competition.
Theoretically, we should be set at quarterback for the next five years, getting the gap to under 10 years until Balen Brees comes to campus (I kid). In an effort to be grossly optimistic, let's see how the next few seasons of The Cradle will look.
Starter - Robert Marve
Back-up - Caleb TerBush
Third String - Rob Henry
Of course, this is merely a projection, as the starter right now is the infamous Robleb MarHenBush. It's going to be that way for awhile, too. I still advocate moving Henry to receiver and featuring him in the Wild Siller role we had last season with Marve starting and tarbush ready as a backup, or at the very least rotate TerBush and Marve like last year without making it a true three-man rotation.
Mostly the benefit from this year is that Appleby (and the other QBs on the roster) get to redshirt and get used to the system. Appleby, as highly touted as he is, will be No. 4 on the depth chart at best. It took a freak string of injuries so get down there two years ago. The good news is that we have three experienced quarterbacks. The bad news is that we don't have one definite starter.
Starter: Rob Henry
Back-up: Austin Appleby
Third String: Robert Gregory
Next season's decision will be interesting. It will be Henry's final year unless he gets last year back as a medical waiver, but if he plays primarily at running back/receiver this year will we move him back to quarterback, especially with a stable of young QBs behind him. On the other hand, Henry will be the only quarterback on the roster with in-game experience unless one gets some mop-up action this year.
Aloyis Gray and Bilal Marshall are also factors here. Gray, Appleby, Gregory, and Marshall are all three-star prospects that will be true freshmen this fall. Given that they will have a year of redshirt experience I think they get an edge on Etling, but I also thin Gray and Marshall have a position switch in their future. Gregory technically had a higher Rivals rating than Appleby, so his development will be interesting.
Starter: Austin Appleby
Back-up: Robert Gregory or Danny Etling
This is the first season that all of our current quarterbacks are definitely gone, and both Appleby and Etling have the look of being the traditional pocket passer, while Gregory is probably the best runner of the three. If one of these three has a start by this point I would put the money on Appleby in 2013. That could be enough for him to gain an edge. We're looking at two redshirt sophomores and a redshirt freshman as our top three here, which is the perfect time to give a guy his first start. He's not as new to the college game and he's been around long enough to get used to the system.
Backup: Gregory and Etling
We're starting to look really far out here, but if Etling is truly a four-star commit he should be pushing Appleby by this point. Being a full year behind Appleby would he wait three years to start, however? This is where things get dicey. Assuming Appleby seizes the position as early as next year, Etling may not be able to start until he is a fifth year senior in 2017. That's an awful long time to wait.