When Purdue played in the 2001 Rose Bowl much of the credit was given to Drew Brees. Having a once-in-a-generation talent like Brees was certainly the main reason, but the signature play does not happen if not for his offensive line giving him all day to throw. Matt Light, Chucky Okobi, Brandon Gorin, and Gene Mruczkowski all eventually made it to the NFL with Light having the most successful career, earning three Super Bowl rings and nearly getting two more.
My point is that line was outstanding, and it was built by the man that is the current head coach. With experience at quarterback, two solid running backs, and speed to burn at receiver it seems as if the offensive is the key piece that needs to function for a successful season. They gave up 29 sacks last season, however, compared to 10 for Brees' group. Two long-time starters are also gone. It should make for a rather interesting group that coach Hope has to rebuild. Honestly, he should be good at it given what he did in his first stint here.
Justin Kitchens - Jr. - Tackle
Kevin Pamphile - Jr. - Guard
Rick Schmeig - Sr. - Center
Peters Drey - Sr. - Guard
Trevor Foy - Jr. -Tackle
On paper at least, the group is long on experience. Schmeig is a former starter and a long-time reserve that probably makes him one of our best options. He can also play guard. Drey is also a long-time starter that has played at center, but is coming off of a back injury. Foy played at right tackle last year and may get the first shot at replacing Dennis Kelly at the all-important left tackle spot. Kitchens and Foy might also be interchangeable, as Kitchens gained experience last season before getting hurt. The biggest question mark is Pamphile, who moved over from defensive tackle and hasn't officially nailed down a starting spot yet.
My major concern is size. We have a lot of tall guys, but they are extremely lean. Pamphile is listed at 6'5", 300 pounds, but allegedly played at 241 pounds last year. Did he really add almost 60 pounds? Kitchens moved from 275 to 295 and Foy from 275 to 300. Those are impressive gains that I hope are true, because it is damn near impossible to compete in the Big Ten without 300 pound linemen.
Scmeig (305 pounds) and Drey (302 pounds) actually lost a little bit, but that could just be them getting a little leaner and meaner. I feel pretty solid with them because of their experience, but the other three spots have me quite nervous. With the line you want guys that take control of a spot, not guys on their second, third, or fourth chance at learning a position and finding a role.
The pass protection has got to get better. The run-blocking has been their strength in recent years, and last year especially the mark of 200 yards team rushing was important. Purdue was 5-0 when it rushed for 200+ yards. It is a good thing our quarterbacks are mostly mobile, because replacing a left tackle is always a dicey proposition.
Jack DeBoef - So. - Tackle
Cody Davis - Jr. - Center
Robert Kugler - Fr. (RS) - Center
Eric McDaniel - Jr. - Guard
Devin Smith - Jr. - Tackle
I am going to go out on a limb and say that at least one of the current projected starters will be passed by someone in this very promising group before year's end. Smith is a promising JuCo transfer that immediately provides depth and he's a big body at 6'7", 320 pounds. DeBoef is also big at 6'7" 290 pounds and saw some action as a reserve last season. Kugler has moved from tight end to interior lineman during his redshirt season and given that his dad is the O-line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers he certainly has the training.
Davis played in four games as a reserve and McDaniel has five games as a reserve after originally being a defensive tackle. This second group is interesting because it has two career reserves, an instant-impact JuCo group, and two rising players. Many reports have Kugler as the most likely to earn a starting role, which is always nice. When you get an offensive lineman that can be effective as a freshman it is a luxury to have a position you do not have to worry about for four years.
What Purdue lacks is proven depth, especially given that there are three new starters in Pamphile, Foy, and Kitchens. Davis played right tackle in the spring due to injury to Kitchens, so that could also play a role.
Needless to say, I am uncomfortable that both tackle spots are in flux.
This last class was big on offensive linemen with five true freshmen coming in. Given that there is so much experience projected ahead of them we have the luxury of sending these guys to the weight room for a year's worth of conditioning. King is a fun guy to follow on Twitter that has the right attitude, while Roos, Cermin, and Prince are some big Texas linemen that will be fun to develop. Waarburg is a high school teammate of long-snapper Jesse Schmitt.
Most of these guys are former walk-ons known only through the diligent work of Steve and Myles on the countdown to Purdue football. Lorenzen played in the Southeast Missouri State game last season for his only career action. We actually lost two guys; Connor Snapp and Kyle Harris; that were originally on the official roster.
Then you have Patrick Bade, whose most notable contribution since a short and disappointing basketball career was trying to go face-first through the front window at Harry's at last call. He is one of our leaders in Fulmer Cup points this offseason. He has pulled off the rare double in that he has angered Purdue fans in TWO different sports during his career.