The last recruiting class brought in by Joe Tiller will be leaving West Lafayette this fall. One of the biggest knocks he had late in his career is that the recruiting grind wore him down. As a result his final few classes had very few stars and were consistently rated very low in the Big Ten. That likely had something to do with Purdue's three-year bowl drought. It is awfully hard to be successful in this conference if you don't have the horses to compete.
Often the problem is not the trouble with the starts, but the depth that is behind them. When a rash of injuries breaks out like in 2010 you're making due with less and less talent. We're starting to see that depth return now with the improved recruiting of Danny Hope, but there are still some Tiller guys on the roster.
This is the last go-around for those Tiller recruits. The 2008 class was partially recruited by Danny Hope, but it was the final one with input from Joe Tiller, the program's all-time winningest head coach. This is a group that has not done a lot of winning, but they have fought hard while being pushed by those behind them. Here is where each recruit from that final Tiller class of 2008 stands going into this season:
Dwayne Beckford - Linebacker - Beckford has started in the middle for two years until now and will definitely be a starter this season. He has 209 career tackles and can likely finish his career in the top 20 all-time at Purdue in that category with a strong year. Beckford was originally in the 2008 recruiting class but greyshirted.
Alvin Blackmon - Wide Receiver - Never played before transferring to Stephen F. Austin State in Texas.
Ralph Bolden - Running Back - It looks like Ralph was headed towards being one of the best running backs in Purdue history before two more ACL injuries derailed him. He may play lightly this year, or he could sit out in the hopes of gaining a sixth year of eligibility in 2013. He ranks 19th in school history with 17 total TDs and 16th in rushing with 1,637 yards. A top 10 finish in rushing and 2,000 career yards is still very possible.
Andrew Brewer - Offensive Line - Was a highly rated center but never played. Is no longer on the roster after being there in 2008 and 2009.
Jordan Brewer - Tight End - Brewer was an exciting tight end that was dominant for Carmel HS in Indiana, but failed to qualify academically. He went the JuCo route in Arizona, but was asked to leave the program after problems occurred. He has since virtually disappeared.
Monroe Brooks - Defensive Tackle - Moved to offensive tackle in 2009 but never played. He is no longer on the roster.
Chris Carlino - Linebacker - Carlino had to start as a true freshmen and eventually became a reserve linebacker and special teams ace. Known as "Captain Morgan" because of his handsome beard and locks, he finished his career last fall as the unofficial captain on special teams. He was a solid starter in 2009 with 71 tackles and special teams MVP in 2010.
Mike Chacksfield - Offensive Line - Was listed on the roster in 2008 but did not play. He had two shoulder injuries in high school and this may have played a role with him leaving the team.
LaSalle Cooks - Defensive Tackle - Cooks recently left the team before fall camp, having not played a down in four years despite being a two-time all-state selection in Florida.
Arsenio Curry - Wide Receiver - Played in a handful of games as a JuCo wide receiver before getting kicked off the team.
Peters Drey - Offensive Line - Drey has started in 20 games and played in 32, missing the last five games of last year with a back injury. He is expected to start at offensive guard this year.
Albert Evans - Safety - Evans played all four years after starting his career as a linebacker in 2008. He was the starting safety for all of last season and was one of the most steady performers on defense. He is trying to get on with the Miami Dolphins at the moment.
Nnamdi Ezenwa - Linebacker - A career reserve, Ezenwa is expected to finally contribute on a regular basis this year. He has six tackles in six career games, with all but one appearance coming last year. He should be a top reserve at outside linebacker.
Kevin Green - Defensive Back - He was on the roster at the same time as another Kevin Green that started at middle linebacker for a short time. This Kevin Green played in nine games on special teams in 2008 and hasn't been heard form since. He is long gone.
Derek Jackson - Linebacker - Like Ezenwa, Jackson is a "Last Chance" guy. He has played in six games on special teams, all in 2010, and is hoping to be a contributor at fullback this year.
Robert Maci - Defensive End - Maci was the Special teams MVP in 2009 and has been a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. A foot injury held him out of the last eight games last year, but he is expected to be a starter and hybrid Defensive End/Linebacker in the 3-4/4-3 shift that is being newly implemented.
Dwight McLean - Safety - McLean was brought in to offer immediate help at safety and was pretty much a two year starter, leaving in 2009.
Eric Mebane - Defensive End - Mebane appeared in four career games with one tackle, coming last year. He is our third "Last Chance" guy hoping to have an impact in his final season, but is buried on the depth chart by younger players.
Ken Plue - Offensive Line - Came in as a massive offensive guard and often plowed the road for some of Ralph Bolden's big runs. He played in 12 games and started six as a true freshman in 2008, then started all 12 games as an honorable mention all-Big Ten player in 2009. He made 10 starts as a junior in 2010, then missed all of last year on a mysterious suspension before deciding to go pro. He went undrafted and hasn't caught on in a training camp.
Gavin Roberts - Athlete - Roberts has one tackle in four career games, all way back in 2009 as a redshirt freshman. He is now at running back and has not made a single carry in his career, but with a blowout game at the start he could play.
Rick Schmeig - Offensive Line - Schmeig started all 13 games at center last year and is expected to be a starter this year as one of our most versatile offensive linemen. His brother is also a regular reader and Twitter follower.
Kawann Short - Defensive Tackle - Short is an All-Big Ten Defensive Tackle and possible top 15 pick in the NFL Draft next spring. He might be one of the most underrated players in the country based on his 2008 ranking vs. now.
Caleb TerBush - Quarterback - Saw his first major action last year in starting 13 games and splitting time with Robert Marve. Expect more of the same this year, but he has been named a team captain. He deserves special kudos for coming back after missing 2010 due to being academically ineligible. TerBush was one of the lowest rated players in the class and it looked like he might never start, but he has earned his way to the field and made the most of his playing time due to key injuries in front of him.
Tommie Thomas - Defensive Back - Thomas moved to wide receiver in 2009 and has played in 11 games, but has yet to catch a pass. He has thrown one, however. He'll miss the start of this year with a foot injury after being expected to contribute.
Aaron Valentin - Wide Receiver - Valentin holds the distinction of being the last Purdue player to return a punt for a touchdown. Unfortunately, he fumbled the next two in that game and it led to a pair of Northern Illinois touchdowns. He had a solid 2009 season in his second of two years after being a JuCo transfer, catching both touchdown passes in the shocking upset of Ohio State that continued our ownership of the Buckeyes in West Lafayette.
Carson Wiggs - Kicker - Wiggs took the starting job from Chris Summers and never let go, graduating this past year after kicking the five longest field goals in Purdue history. He was recently let go by the Seahawks, but is still trying to get on with an NFL team.
You final totals for Tiller's last recruiting class:
- 13 guys have either never played a down or have played very sparingly.
- Five guys are entering this year as "Last Chance" guys hoping to finally make an impact.
- 11 became regular starters at least at one point in their career.
- Eight left Purdue with eligibility remaining
- Only two (Evans and Wiggs) have earned an NFL tryout so far.
- Only one (Short) is a sure thing NFL draft pick, though Schmeig and Drey will likely get a look.
As you can see, those aren't great numbers. This was a 26 man recruiting class, but only 11 eventually became regular starters. Just five of them (Beckford, Drey, Schmeig, Short, and TerBush) will be starters this season, with Bolden being the only one out of 26 whose career was significantly affected by injury. Considering that Hope's first full class the next year brought in only 20 guys and it already has as many starters for this year (Antavian Edison, Trevor Foy, Gabe Holmes, Josh Johnson, Justin Kitchens, and Brandon Taylor) it is safe to call the 2008 class a swing and a miss. 2010 already has seven starters to its credit.
Still, this is a class that has not had its final say. Ezenwa, Jackson, and Thomas especially looks to finally have much larger roles this season, so we'll see what happens. Half the class has had a negligible impact on Purdue football, so they have a lot of ground to make up.