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The Quarterback Derby: Who starts vs. Notre Dame?

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It is a banner year for Purdue quarterbacks. If Peyton Manning comes down with a case of explosive diarrhea a pair of Boilermaker signal callers will face off against each other in the Super Bowl. While I would need to make a rushed trip to Kroger for canned goods because of the ensuing riot in Indianapolis, a Painter vs. Brees matchup would be awesome. We could have even seen Kyle Orton in the AFC championship if the Denver defense had not been awful down the stretch.

Okay, so we're likely not going to see Painter vs. Brees. Still, it is awesome that the new face of the Cradle of Quarterbacks is close to his first Super Bowl ring. I know my man crush on Mr. Brees is pretty large. Some of my happiest memories of college were watching him take us to Pasadena, so it is only natural. It is hard to imagine another Purdue quarterback captivating the entire fanbase like he did.

Beginning this spring, someone will get the next chance at duplicating Brees' legacy. Brandon Hance couldn't hack it and quit. Kyle Orton was good, but not quite as good as Brees. Brandon Kirsch was benched. Curtis Painter never rose to the moment. Joey Elliott was a meteoric hero on a team that was snakebitten. All five of those quarterbacks had their own special talents that were great, but they never measured up to Brees' status. I'd love to take Orton's arm and toughness, Kirsch's running ability, Elliott's leadership, Painter's strength, and Hance's cockiness and put them all in one quarterback.

I know that sounds like the machinations of a mad scientist, but that is what you really want in a quarterback. You wan him to be savvy, a leader, strong, and confident. In today's college game he also needs to know the right moment of when to run (which was one of Brees' most underrated talents). Beginning this spring we will have five or six gentlemen battling to exhibit those qualities. Here is my breakdown on each as they go into the six way Battle Royale.

The Favorite:

Robert Marve (Jr.)

Positives: Experience, running ability, confidence

Negatives: Attitude off the field, coming off of injury, passing

Career stats: 116-213, 1,293 yards, 9 touchdowns, 13 interceptions. 59 carries, 119, 2 TD's rushing (All in 2008 at Miami)

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He has the most experience, but not at Purdue

As I have heard many times, Robert Marve did not come to Purdue to sit the bench. It may be a quarterback competition, but this is one of the most highly recruited QB's from the 2007 high school class. He came to Purdue because he knew he would get every opportunity to start instead of platooning like he did in Miami. He also knew he would likely be The Man for the two years he had left.

I'll be honest. I did not like him at Miami. With three off the field incidents he showed to me that he had no interest in being the starting quarterback for the University of Miami. You want your quarterback to be a leader and set an example for the rest of the team. You don't want him breaking car mirrors in Coconut Grove. On the field, I didn't have a lot of confidence in him. He is an excellent runner, but nothing in his throwing ability stood out to me. That is why I say his passing is a negative. He was given a wide array of young, but talented targets to throw to. He did not utilize them as well as Jacory Harris, and that is why I think Harris won the battle. It bothers me that Marve chose to run from the situation instead of fighting. How will that manifest itself when we're trailing in a game and we need him to lead us back? If you look at the year he split with Harris, it was Harris that had impressive 4th quarter drives against Virginia and Central Florida for wins.

To be fair, Marve was still a redshirt freshman in those games. This will be his fourth year in college, but he has yet to be a full-time starter. He has essentially had two redshirt years to prepare for this year. His torn ACL last season was a setback, but he was able to throw some and work a little. We have some weapons to give him with Keith Smith being one of the best returning receivers in the country. He has all the physical tools. With him, it will be a mental thing, which cannot be quantified. Brandon Kirsch was the same way and look how that turned out. I still maintain that Kirsch would have been fine if we didn't have an awful defense in which Bernard Pollard and Ray Edwards celebrated every tackle made 15 yards downfield, but whatever. He waited for his time, had almost as much on the field experience as Marve, and was pulled as the starter after six games in 2005.

He clearly has talent though. He broke all of Tebow's high school records in Florida, so he can definitely deliver immediately.

Verdict: It is his job to lose. Starter in 2010 and 2011 unless a Kirsch happens and it throws everything else off below.

 

The battle for number 2:

Caleb TerBush (R-So.)

Positives: Only quarterback on current roster with snaps in a Purdue uniform, good size, good arm, only quarterback with two years in system.

Negatives: Not very mobile, one quarter of collegiate experience

Career stats: 4-10, 22 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. 2 carries, -8 yards rushing

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This is the only game footage of TerBush I could find. Not good, either.

I think TerBush might be the most mentally prepared quarterback returning. We heard going into last season that he performed well in practice and that he would get some snaps here and there from Elliott. That didn't materialize as he only played in the fourth quarter of the awful Wisconsin game. That gives him a very slight edge of 41 yards (CHECK THIS!!!) passing in his Purdue career against zero from everyone else (save Siller).

TerBush is a guy that mentally gets it. I would love to put his brain in Marve's body because I don't think he has the physical tools we need for the position. One of the biggest things that helped us in 2009 was Elliott's mobility. He didn't run a lot, but he knew when to run to make it dangerous. TerBush is a straight up pocket passer. I am afraid TerBush is a good kid that will get swept behind players that are simply better than him with Robinson and Henry behind him. I could be wrong, but I think 2009 is the only year that TerBush will be the top backup

Verdict: Will fight to stay #2 on the depth chart, may battle Henry and Robinson for starter in 2012 as an Elliott-type.

 

Rob Henry (R-Fr.)

Positives: Wears #15, natural leader, good runner

Negatives: Poor mechanics, not overly big, still only a redshirt freshman

Career stats: none (2,600 yards and 24 touchdowns passing, 350 yards and 6 touchdowns rushing as senior at Trinity Catholic)

This is the last game Rob played in.

My initial excitement over Henry has cooled somewhat. I am very thankful he was not needed last season and we could redshirt him because it means we have another good system guy for four more years. I loved the story of how he worked with the other Florida recruits to keep them on board. That showed keen leadership skills we need at the position. He is also similar to Marve in body type and running ability, giving him some physical tools.

Unfortunately, his mechanics are awful. Boilerdowd talked about this at length going into last season. He seriously needs to break himself of some bad habits. Our passing game works on reads and precision. Henry has a hitch that can be exploited by defenses. He needs a quicker release. This can be fixed, but we won't know of any progress until spring practice starts.

I ultimately think Henry will find himself in a pitched battle the next two years for the top spot behind Marve, with the winner emerging as the starter in 2012 after Marve leaves. There is always the possibility that Marve goes nuts in 2010, leads us to Pasadena, then goes pro early to move everything up a bit, but there is also the equal possibility of Marve losing the starting job in other ways. Either way, I think Henry has an edge on being next because he redshirted this year and ran the scout team.

Verdict: My personal pick for #2 in 2010, will battle Robinson for starter in 2012.

 

Sean Robinson (Fr.)

Positives: Good size, a natural leader, great runner, smart decision maker (less than five interceptions this year) (GET STATS)

Negatives: Just a true freshman, still more of a runner than passer

Career stats: None (122-222, 1,523 yards, 16 touchdowns, 9 interceptions passing. 139 carries, 1,071 yards 8 touchdowns rushing as a junior. Senior year stats are incomplete).

This kid looks and plays like a warrior. He could also finish his career as a three year starter for us.

Here is what I like about Robinson: With his senior season and a berth in the state championship on the line he took it upon himself to go for the win. Trailing by one, his team went for two and Robinson came up just short on the play. They had gotten to the state semifinals on Robinson's shoulders and he did not shy away from the moment where one play could win the game. When he came up short, he blamed no one but himself.

Isn't that what you want in a quarterback? This guy had played his heart out for three months and came up a yard short. He didn't point fingers. He put it upon himself. I think he has the best physical tools of the three main players battling for the #2 job. He is not afraid of contact. He is more of a runner right now, but can develop as a passer with good receivers. He makes smart decisions with the football. With some seasoning I think he can be a very good quarterback. Of allt he guys, his leadership reminds me the most of Brees

Ultimately, I see him redshirting this year simply because we don't need him to play. With Marve, Henry, and TerBush in front of him and all of them going through spring practice Robinson will be several steps behind them in the experience department. More likely, he will be the scout team QB as he redshirts. He has the physical tools, however, to surprise many by winning that top backup job.

Verdict: Redshirt in 2010, Will battle Henry for starter by 2012.

 

The Longshot:

Najee Tyler (R-Fr.)

Positives: Good size, strong arm, one year in system

Negatives: No experience against elite competition, no one knows much about him

Career stats: None (104-198, 1,276 yards, 9 touchdowns, 11 interceptions passing, 26 carries , -29 yards 1 TD rushing)

Najee_tyler_of_xaverian_medium

He's a bit of a project, but there might be some promise there.

My gut tells me that Najee Tyler will never take a snap as Purdue's quarterback. That doesn't mean he won't ever play. He might have a moment at this year's spring game where he is like Jeff Panfil in the 2008 spring game (I.e. a "holy crap this guy needs to play!" moment), but realistically Panfil wasn't winning out over Painter or Elliott, so he switched positions. Is that in Tyler's future?

Does Tyler even have any experience at another position? I think all we really know about him is that he is from Brooklyn, has a nice arm, but is unpolished. That tells me it will likely be years before he even sees the field, if ever. Is he really going to beat out Henry now that they are on the same graduation track? What about Robinson? What if another stud QB is recruited in the 2011 class?

This kid is essentially a mystery until we see him in spring practice, so let's leave him there.

Verdict: If he sees the field, it will be at another position.

 

The Wild Card:

Justin Siller (Jr.)

Positives: Only player with starting experience while at Purdue, excellent runner, good size

Negatives: Been away from football for more than a year, Still needs to work on passing, has already switched positions to running back and back, will he even come return?

Career stats: 59-106, 496 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions passing. 60 carries, 167 yards, 2 touchdowns rushing.

Siller_medium

Oh what might have been

Coach Hope said numerous times that the invitation was out there for Justin to return. It is a Purdue University issue he needs to resolve though. Remember: He was kicked out by the school, not the football program. The school does not have to let him back in even if the football team will. He has supposedly been keeping up with his studies and credits, but that is also a factor in getting him back.

It is a shame too. Had he not screwed up it is very likely that he could be the incumbent starter ready to have a big junior season. That likely means we traded three years of Justin Siller for two of Robert Marve though. I somehow doubt Marve comes to Purdue if Siller had been in the picture since they would have the same amount of eligibility remaining in 2010.

Siller is too much of an athlete to not play somewhere if he returns. I highly doubt it will be quarterback though. There is just too much he has missed in the last year and a half in terms of learning the position both in practice and in the film room. Henry, Marve, and TerBush have all had that. I am thinking he is an emergency quarterback at best, but we do remember that Michigan game don't we? There is no question that the kid is talented. I think he can be converted to a receiver or safety with his body type and he can be back on the field immediately. A safety is more likely because we have a ton of scholarship receivers now (even if they are unproven). We won't know anything until the fall because that is the earliest he can be reinstated. There is also the possibility of him being a wildcat quarterback with the ability to throw. To me, the wildcat is more dangerous with a player than can throw. Look what Brad Smith did in the AFC title game. It is just one more guess to add to the play.

Verdict: Position change (if he returns)

Chris Kramer (Sr. 5)

Positives: Certifiable badass

Negatives: Hasn't played football in four years, played football in an awful high school conference.

Career stats: None (1,336 yards passing, 997 yards rushing as a senior at Huntington North)

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One more year! One more year!

(Pause)

Nah, Never happen!