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Return of the Roundtable

It's been awhile since we've had a roundtable here, but even though they stole Roy Roundtree from us I'll still forgive Maize N' Brew for it. Dave has been wonderful enough to host a post signing day roundtable on the subject, and in an effort to stave off boredom at work this afternoon the good folks here at Off the Tracks (me) is happy to participate.

1. As a general question, evaluate your recruiting class. Is it more or less what you expected, were you pleasantly surprised or horribly, horribly disappointed? Were your team's needs adequately addressed or will you be starting a two star running back at center next year?

I would probably best describe this class as underwhelming and developmental. A program like Purdue very rarely gets an impact true freshman that comes in and sets the world on fire in his first year. Most guys come to Purdue and redshirt before they see the field. There are a few exceptions like Dorien Bryant that get on the field immediately and contribute, but for the most part we get guys in and develop them. When you're getting mostly 2-3 stars guys every year that is simply something you have to do, and I feel coach Tiller and company have done a very good job of doing just that. We have several 2-3 star recruits getting paid very well right now in the NFL.

The other side of the issue tough is that we have probably leveled off as a program. You can't take the next step and compete for championships without better guys. The few 4 and 5 star guys we have gotten recently have, for the most part, not worked out. Our class obviously took a big hit by losing two four stars right at the end. These are the types of guys that can make an impact instantly at a school like Purdue, but for some reason they decided to go elsewhere where they probably won't see the field for a year or two. Allegedly new coach Danny Hope is a good recruiter. He was involved in some of our better classes earlier this decade as an assistant coach. We'll have to wait until February 2009 to find out.

2. Who were the big catches in your recruiting class? Name two players matriculating to your school whose existence everyone else in the Big Ten will curse for the next four years.

I am really excited about the only 4 star guy we got in Ken Plue. He's 6'8" and 360+, so if he can actually play a bit we can stick him on the offensive line and only have to worry about finding four starters for the next four years. He will battle for a starting spot this coming season at either tackle or guard and he is already on campus getting affiliated with the program. I am a big fan of getting kids in early for spring practice because it gives them extra time to learn the system. Of course, Brandon Hance did this and had a redshirt year behind Brees. Look how that turned out.

I am also very excited to see what Jordan Brewer is going to do as well. He is the only kid I have seen play in person so far, but he reminded me quite a bit of Dustin Keller with his abilities. I can only hope he has Keller's work ethic, because if he does he will be a great tight end. He is a power forward for the Carmel High basketball team right now and they are currently ranked second in the state. The best tight ends are former basketball players because they know how to box out and use their bodies to seal guys off. Brewer has this ability, so he could be a good one.

3. You can't win them all. Maybe some slick talking carpetbagger schmoozed his way into your living room, sold you a set of ginzu knives made out of tin foil, and walked off with your wife and your star recruit. Perhaps an in-state lock who grew up with [Insert University Here] posters on his wall and your coach's face tattooed on his arm decided to go elsewhere for reasons no one seems to understand? Did your recruiting class lose someone big on signing day, who was it, and was your school able to yoink someone else to cover his loss?

Roy Roundtree and Jerico Nelson. Losing Nelson wasn't as bad because he was from SEC country and I was honestly surprised we had him for the short time we did. The loss of Roundtree hurts though because of the way we lost him. The details have already been well documented, so I won't go into them here, but it was indeed very frustrating to have this kid for months as a solid commit only to lose him on the morning of signing day. It's ultimately his choice, and I recognize it happens all the time, but it still sucks.

As far as yoinking someone else we didn't have time to do so, unless we can still talk to the infamous Terrelle Pryor at the 14th hour here.

4. There's been a spirited debate about this whole "Coaches' Code" among the members of the Big Ten coaching fraternity. Do you believe this exists or is it a line being floated by the guys who couldn't keep their recruiting classes together? Bonus points for declaring your coach a poacher or a poachee in creative fashion!

I think there has been a code in the Big Ten for awhile, but much like many other unspoken rules they are broken repeatedly. I don't put much stock into it because until the NCAA does something about it, it is fair game. I know many people outside of the Purdue program have mentioned that Tiller has been a poacher in the past, specifically with Brian Hare. I honestly think most Purdue fans are making way too big of a deal about this and are really selling short the 25 kids we did sign. If one guy is going to make or break your entire program then you have more problems than losing him. I think we'll be just fine from this.

5. Finally, who's the slickest, smoovest, most Billy Dee Williamsesque recruiter in the Big Ten? Who's the worst, most incompetent, "trip over the flat tire on his Yugo" recruiter in the Big Ten?

I've gotta give the honor of best recruiter to Ron Zook over at Illinois. If he's clean, the he could sell a box of condoms to a bunch of nuns. How he has gotten so much talent to come to Champaign is a mystery to me. That program was going nowhere fast except for the unexplained blip of a Big Ten title season in 2001. Now he has them in a Rose Bowl and big time recruits are beating down the doors. The dude is good, I'll give him that. He even proved he can coach a little this year too.

As far as worst recruiter, I would honestly have to go with Tiller. Indiana has a built in excuse of being a terrible football school historically. While an Insight Bowl bid is great, I don't think College GameDay is making football reservations for Bloomington anytime soon. Northwestern has consistently low classes, but I will give the coaching staff in Evanston all the credit in the world for getting what they get out of guys with the academic standards the school has. Everyone else recently has had either a really good class or a breakthrough season within the past few years except Purdue.

As I mentioned above, I do not fault Tiller as a developer of talent. I think he's one of the best guys in the Big Ten at that. But as far as the actual recruiting process goes he is terrible. We always here excuse after excuse of why guys won't come to West Lafayette, but it's not like places like Iowa City and South Bend are fantastic vacation destinations. We have better facilities than we have ever had in West Lafayette, but our classes have gotten progressively worse since the first years Joe was in West Lafayette. Fortunately, we now have an incomplete grade at best when it comes to recruiting, and Danny Hope can change that.