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Fight with Honor

Signing day has come and gone and once again Purdue finds its class in the bottom half at the Big Ten. I don't normally put much stock in recruiting. Too many guys don't work out. Too many guys that are unheralded become probowlers (Nick Hardwick and Drew Brees) Too many guys need their little behinds kissed and wiped just to come to school (Jimmy Montana). What are they going to do when they don't get that any more?

We've consistently in the 40-50's range nationally for several years yet we continue to churn out winning seasons and bowl bids. All this happens while getting out-recruited by other schools that wildly fluctuate between feast and famine. We've proven that what few four and five star guys we do get end up not working out (Garret Bushong, Doug Van Dyke, Bruce Gordon, Brian Ellis), or they are complete headcases (Kyle Williams, who really is in a category by himself). We continue to thrive on getting 2 and 3 star guys who work hard and find their way to the NFL or who at least contribute solidly for several years. Mike Otto is one of those guys that comes to mind in this regard.

It is evident to me that we are going to need improvement on the recruiting front if we are ever going to get out of the middle of the Big Ten, so that makes the 2008 season a very critical year for us. In this class we received very few guys that will be able to contribute immediately, but the ones that will fill such a role will be critical. It is my hope that the transition to Danny Hope will create a boon in recruiting, but we must wait until next year to see how that plays out. On the field, since we will be getting few contributions from the players we got, we must have a successful season to make recruiting easier. We need to win eight games minimum, and with the most experienced quarterback in the Big Ten it is certainly possible. Games against Northern Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, and Central Michigan are games we have to win at home under any circumstance. I feel Iowa, Penn State, and Northwestern are other games we should be able to win. Oregon and Notre Dame are toss-ups that I feel we can win, but wouldn't be surprised if we lost. Michigan is an enigma I will get into much later, and I fear trips to Michigan State and Ohio State.

If we can get to eight wins next year, against what will be a much tougher schedule, it could open the door for better recruits in the future. The key will be our performance on the field. We will need better line play, more depth in the secondary, and better defense in general if 2008 is going to be a successful campaign. We were able to address some of those areas yesterday.

Lamenting those lost:

Jerico Nelson – Losing this kid hurt more than losing Roundtree. I liked this guy's speed and was looking forward to having him in the secondary somewhere. He had some good size for a safety and I was honestly surprised he had committed to us for a brief time. I'm still not quite sure why Arkansas fans were trying to start something on the Purdue boards about him, but he would have been a very versatile player to have. Because of the nature of my job I have a little inside info on him that I can't divulge, but I can say that there could be a surprise or two in store for the Razorbacks.

What I was looking forward to the most is the depth he would have provided. I don't think it is any coincidence that things started to turn south for us when both Torri Williams and Brandon Erwin got hurt. Both guys were logging a ton of time in the defensive backfield and playing well at the time of their injuries. Once they went down we were forced to pull a redshirt off of McKinley. This lead to a three game losing streak that I feel could have been prevented if not for losing Erwin and Williams. Now that both will be back and McKinley has more experience I am hoping this will key a turnaround on defense, because safety play is so important.

Roy Roundtree – I know it is technically legal what Roy did and it happens all the time, but the Big Ten has long prided itself on the "gentlemen's agreement" between coaches concerning long-time verbal commits. An example of a violation of that honor will be on display tonight in Champaign, but on the football side of things both Purdue and Penn State are hurting today because of a violation of that "gentlemen's agreement". Penn State lost 4-star running back Michael Shaw to the Wolverines at the last minute yesterday just as we lost Roundtree. A school like Penn State will always have guys to fill in for those losses, but we're not always as fortunate. I was honestly concerned with the number of slot guys we already had (Tardy, Gravesande Muhammed, Blackmon, Valentin), so maybe that is what scared away Roundtree? Still, he was expected to come in and play right away. Now he will likely redshirt and get buried on the depth chart with a bunch of other guys.

It seems as if Rich-Rod is hellbent on pissing off as many people as possible as a New Year's resolution. Yesterday he added Penn State and Purdue fans to that list. It is clear he has no honor. With no offense to all the Michigan blogs in the network (Michigan is a program I have long respected), I hope the Big Ten tees off on him. The Wolverines narrowly avoided a bowl-less season last year (four losses and three other games that very well could have been losses). What will they do without a quarterback and an entirely new offensive scheme to work in? Michigan is always going to be Michigan in terms of getting talent, but I would not be surprised to see them struggle mightily in 2008. Here is to hoping Pryor picks Penn State or Ohio State and just lights them up for four years.

2008 Class key signees:

Ken Plue – Well, he is our only four star guy and we gained an advantage by having him already signed and on campus. He's massive at 6'8" and over 360 pounds with allegedly quick feet. I am just fine with sticking him at left tackle and not having to worry about finding another player there for four years.

Jordan Brewer – I saw him play one game this year and he reminded me somewhat of Dustin Keller. If he stays at tight end I love that fact that he is currently playing basketball as a power forward, because those guys know how to use their body and block out defenders. They always make the best tight ends (Antonio Gates, anyone?) and they are generally quick enough to move down the field. I am very glad we were able to keep him.

Aresenio Curry – Since Selwyn Lymon found the inside of Harry's more often than he found the end zone it will be up to Curry to provide a big receiving threat in tandem with Greg Orton. I like getting Juco guys because they are often ready to contribute right away, and receiver is an area of desperate need for early contributions. We have a guy that can get the ball to receivers, so hopefully Curry and Valentin are ready to get it.

Rick Schmeig, Mike Chacksfield, Peters Drey, Andrew Brewer– We will only get better as the lines get better, and with Danny Hope back we have a chance to get better in a hurry. Hope was responsible for our Rose Bowl line that was so good even I could have completed a few passes in a game. Our line hasn't been horrible by any means, but I certainly expected more out of the 2006 line than we got. Most of these guys will redshirt, but in 2009 and beyond I feel we could have one of the best lines in the conference again.

Albert Evans – If he moves to corner I like his size. I've never understood why so many teams play small corners on big receivers. One needs only look at the 2001 Rose Bowl when Chris Clopton, who was talented but very short, got absolutely abused by the taller Washington receivers. Evans actually has a bit of size, and we need someone to step up at corner since Vinson is gone.

Dwayne Beckford – The largest question on defense is who will start with Heygood at linebacker. Throwing Beckford back there as a true freshman is a bit of baptism by fire, but if he can contribute even in a reserve role I like his size.

Aaron Valentin – Did the coaches know something about Roundtree we didn't? Valentin is another slot guy, but we will have almost everybody new as receivers so he may see the field regardless of what happens. Right now it is anybody's guess as to who Painter will be throwing to.

All in all I don't expect a lot out of this class immediately because we tend to redshirt almost everyone before they see the field. The largest impact in 2008 will likely come from last year's class, which rated about the same as this one. As long as these guys work hard and in the system we should be alright. We've gone to war with worse guys and come out fine, so ratings really don't really matter to me. Purdue has a long list of guys that weren't supposed to do anything in college but they have had successful careers. In five years we will be saying the same about many of these guys I am sure. Hopefully we will at least be able to fight with honor unlike our neighbors to the north.