Saturday will be the final game at Ross-Ade Stadium for 22 seniors on the roster. The bulk of them began their careers as the first full recruiting class under Danny Hope back in 2009. They form the rare group in that they were recruited during Joe Tiller's final season while Hope was the coach-in-waiting, they began under Danny Hope, then had to play out their last year under Darrell Hazell.
It is a class that worked hard, but will not likely be remembered for its football success, unfortunately. Several left the program early, for whatever reason or another. Of the 2009 recruiting class none are likely to get a look in the NFL. Since some members of this year's senior class did not redshirt they would be part of the 2010 class, of which maybe three will make an NFL roster. In this we likely see a big reason as to why Purdue is currently 1-9. Among those two recruiting class that have seniors on this year's team only nine are currently starters. Most of those nine aren't even regular starters.
This group may have struggled to a paltry 23-36 record since the start of the 2009 season (when the fifth year seniors this year were in their redshirt years), but they are still Boilermakers. On Saturday we will salute all 22 of them for their time and soon welcome them into the family of alumni so many of us occupy. If all goes well we can send them off with a win.
Cody Webster - P - Of the 22 seniors on the roster, Webster might be the most distinguished. He could see a look in the NFL draft if all goes well since he has performed this year as one of the nation's best punters. The punter from Pennsylvania has showed a big leg this year with two kicks for 73 yards and he has even run on some fakes in the past. This year he is averaging close to 45 yards per kick and is a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's best punter. Getting one of the 32 punting jobs in the NFL is difficult, but Cody at least has a chance.
Devin Smith - OL - Smith is a JuCo transfer from Arizona Western that made a meteoric trip through West Lafayette these past two years. Last year he played in 12 games and started six as one of Purdue's biggest offensive linemen. This year he has been in and out of the lineup with some minor injuries, but has been a regular on the much-maligned offensive line.
Kevin Pamphile - OL - Pamphile played one of his best games at Purdue at Penn State this past weekend, as the radio guys praised the way he was getting out on blocks. He started his career as a project on the defensive line and ended up as a regular starter these past two seasons at offensive tackle. Like Smith, he has seen a lot of time this season as a regular on the offensive line.
Eric McDaniel - DT - McDaniel has been on campus for five years now and has played sparingly. He entered this year after moving back to defense from offense, but he still only had eight games of experience with one tackle in three years. In six games as a reserve defensive tackle this season he has an assisted tackle.
Will Lucas - LB - Lucas has been a contributor from day 1 and he recently crossed the 200 tackle mark for his career with 208 through the Penn State game. That gets him into the top 50 or so all-time at Purdue which isn't too bad for a four year career. he has also had an interception and a few fumble recoveries in his career. He has rarely been great, but he has always been solid.
Henry Lorenzen - C - Here is our first walk-on on the list, and he has even earned some token playing time over the years. Lorenzen is a Canadian that made it into three blowouts before this season and was even talked about as a possible starter in fall camp when the top two centers were having snap problem.
Greg Latta - DE - Another JuCo player, Latta was seen as a raw player with little experience before playing in all 13 games as a reserve last season. He didn't even play football until junior college and was a pretty good basketball player in high school. This year he has been a regular with 28 tackles in 10 games as a part-time starter.
Justin Kitchens - OL - Like Pamphile, Kitchens began his career on the defensive side of the ball before moving over. He has been a regular starter since the start of the 2012 season despite being relatively small for a Big Ten lineman at 6'4" 290. He is one of the few Purdue players that has both recorded and given up a sack, as as he had a sack vs. Western Illinois in 2010 while still on defense.
Ryan Isaac - DT - Isaac is a player that has always been a decent reserve, but has never truly asserted himself as a starter at defensive tackle. This year he has a respectable 16 tackles, which is a career high after seasons of 14, nine, and seven. Like many of his classmates, he has been rather average over the course of his career without really standing out.
Ruben Ibarra - LB - As Purdue has looked for some kind of a solution at linebacker over the past few seasons Ibarra has gotten a little playing time. He is the third JuCo senior and this is his first year as a regular player. It has led to 18 tackles, two of them for loss.
Gabe Holmes - TE - Holmes was always talked about as a great potential player, but never seemed to carry it over onto the field. This year he was in line for a big season and was Purdue's leading receiver through two games with nine catches for 69 yards. He then suffered a season-ending wrist injury in practice before the Notre Dame game. Since he was in the recruiting class of 2010 and never redshirted, it is possible he will return next season.
Rob Henry - S - I love kids like Rob Henry. He has played his ass off and done whatever has been needed to try and help this team win. He started the season as a quarterback whose skill set didn't quite fit the offense. Once Danny Etling replaced him he volunteered to move to defense and help. In his career he has played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, special teams, safety, and has even punted. That's old school
Normondo Harris - CB - Harris is another player that has always been a decent backup, but has not shined when given the chance to start. He has played extensively as a nickel corner in his career and has nine tackles with a pass break up this season. He's never been a regular starter and only played in four games last year as a junior.
Bruce Gaston - DT - Gaston is the second player in this year's senior class that could see time in the NFL. Gaston has been held greatly in check as Purdue's best defensive lineman, but is a four-year starter that has three sacks and 39 tackles overall this year. He played extensively from day 1, helping in a sack for a safety at Notre Dame in his first career game.
Kurt Freytag - FB - Freytag is the epitome of a hard worker, earning regular time after starting his career as a walk-on. Last season he even played in all 12 games, started four, and had 47 rushing yards with a touchdown. This year he has a single carry for 14 yards, but two catches for 10 yards and his first receiving touchdown just this past weekend.
Trevor Foy - OL - Like Kitchens and Pamphile, Foy started on the defensive line but moved to offense. He became a starter in 2011 and has been a three-time academic All-Big Ten selection. He has struggled this year as a regular third-year starter, mostly at tackle, where Kitchens and Pamphile have outplayed him.
Tylor Foster - LB - Foster is another walk-on, but to my knowledge he never played before getting into one game this year and getting an assisted tackle.
Cody Davis - OL - Davis was one of Purdue's most experienced linemen coming into the season as a regular reserve and spot starter at guard and center. He has twice been an Academic All-Big Ten selection, but lost his starting job and has played little since the beginning of the year.
Sterling Carter - TE - Remember, we have a football AND a basketball Sterling Carter, and both are in their final seasons at Purdue. Carter was primarily a blocking tight end the past two seasons but this year has had some good gains as a pass catcher. He has seven catches for 69 yards.
Gary Bush - WR - My heart goes out to Gary Bush, who has had a rough year after entering as Purdue's best receiver statistically. He has only 8 catches for 53 yards after a 41-365-7 season last year. His father down in Miami is battling cancer and he is finishing his career away from home unlike his brother, who is a starter in the secondary for the Hurricanes.
Patrick Bade - TE - The prodigal son returns one more time. I don't think any Purdue athlete has had a career that has been so... interesting. He has won a Big Ten Championship, but in basketball. He was lauded by Matt Painter as the most improved player coming into 2010-11, only to see his playing time diminish so much that he left the basketball team to walk on to the football team. He broke the front window at Harry's and got arrested, but has come back and has one catch for five yards this season. If he gets a touchdown to win back the Bucket next week I think it is the perfect bizarre ending to a strange career.
Ricardo Allen - CB - The final player on the list may be the best, and he has been one of the few consistent defensive performers in a relatively lost season. Allen has 38 tackles, a sack, and leads the team with three interceptions. He has 10 picks for his career, four of which he has returned for touchdowns. If he manages one more pick six he will tie the FBS record in that category. Allen always plays hard and, while sometimes overmatched, he never backs down. Of all the seniors I think I will miss Rico the most, but he has a legitimate shot of getting drafted and playing on Sundays.