We're once again getting disrespected by arrogant Domers, but at least we can rest in the fact that the players themselves will take us seriously. See, I don't have a problem with Notre Dame as a team per se. The coaches, players, and administration approach the game the same way that the other 119 teams do. It is the majority of their fans that annoys the crap out of me. That is why I wish for debacles when it comes to the football program. Many Notre Dame fans have lost every concept of reality when it comes to their football program. They see Purdue on the schedule and assume it is still 1990, therefore an easy win. Nevermind that we have challenged them in almost every game for the past 15 years. A loss to Purdue in the opener under Brian Kelly would cause most Notre Dame fans to freak out.
Now wouldn't that be delicious? We have the personnel to do it, too.
While I will look at the defense and special teams later this week, the offense has been and will continue to be the driving force of our program. Rarely has it been a problem, except for 2001 and 2008. More often than not, we can score points on anyone. It has been our defense, specifically against the run, that has cost us.
Last year was slightly different. Moving the football was rarely a problem last year. Holding on to it was. Turnovers were the direct cause of losses to Oregon, Northwestern, Northern Illinois, and Michigan State. If our offense can hold on to the football things should drastically improve.
Starter: Robert Marve
Redshirting: Sean Robinson
Deep Bench/Scout Team: Skyler Titus
We've suspected for some time that the 2010 season would be the Robert Marve show, but he was only confirmed as the starter earlier this season. He makes the most sense. As a high profile transfer he did not come to Purdue to sit the bench. He has 11 starts at a major program, which is 8 more starts than anyone else on the team has (counting Justin Siller's three in 2008). TerBush is the only other player currently at this position that has played at the Division I level, and he has all of 4 completions.
Marve has been rated rather low because of his long layoff, his recovery from a torn ACL, and his poor performance at Miami. He hasn't played in a Division I game in almost two years, but he has achieved a lot of personal growth off the field in that time. He has improved his academics, avoided off the field incidents that clouded his tenure with the Hurricanes, and emerged as a leader. There is little question that he has talent, but there will be doubters until he proves it on the field. September 4th is his first chance at redemption.
I saw this game in person, and Marve did some nice things.
Ultimately, Marve is the reason that I believe we will begin the season with an upset in South Bend. He is more experienced and more mature than Dayne Crist. Both Purdue and Notre Dame are incredibly similar teams. Both have young, inexperienced secondaries. Both have issues along the offensive line. Both have new quarterbacks recovering from ACL surgeries. Both were suspect against the run last year. With Purdue, I have seen improvement in all these areas. Notre Dame still has some questions, especially with some recent concussion issues to their O-line.
Marve will likely be an upgrade over Joey Elliott in terms of talent. I also think he will be a better player because he knows he won't be pulled form a game in the middle of it. By splitting time with Jacory Harris, Marve never had a chance to get into a rhythm. This was Randy Shannon's biggest mistake with Marve and Harris. He never totally committed to one or the other, especially when they are both talented players that can also make something happen with their feet. The quarterback position needs consistency, and Marve now has that.
As for the backups, Rob Henry is pushing Caleb TerBush pretty hard for the #2 job. He has made a lot of noise and coaches have talked about playing him on special teams some. He has consistently also been one of the fastest players on the team. I think we will see him on the field somewhere this fall. Sean Robinson is a strong candidate to redshirt, given the depth and experience in front of him. That's good, because I really like him as a player. He is like Marve and Henry in that he can run very well in addition to his arm. TerBush is your more traditional pocket passer, but continues to impress with his arm. I expect both TerBush and Henry will play against Western Illinois in week 2 once we are up by a lot.
One final pair of wildcards are Keith Smith and Justin Siller. Smith threw a touchdown pass at Oregon last year and had a second attempt against Ohio State. As a former quarterback, don't be surprised if he has a few more throws on trick plays. The same is true of Siller. He may line up at running back as well.
Redshirting: Ralph Bolden (maybe)
Bolden may be listed as the starter, but I'll believe he is playing this year when I see it. That means it is time for ATM to shine. A lot is expected of the true sophomore. He got a few reps last season, but the star of the 2009 recruiting class will be counted on to fill Bolden's near 1,000 yard shoes. Fortunately, he has Crank and Dierking as experienced fullbacks to block for him. Dierking also has a ton of experience and will finally step into a larger offensive role. Coach hope and offensive coordinator Gary Nord showed they were not afraid to have fullbacks carry the ball last year. Both Crank and Dierking caught touchdown passes against Indiana, and each had a handful of carries.
We need a lot of this.
Carlos is banged up right now, and that has allowed true freshman Reggie Pegram to gain some practice reps. It originally looked like he was going to redshirt, but he has impressed enough people to possible earn playing time from day one. He was lightly regarded out of Texas, but you can't argue with the stats he put up at James Madison High in Dallas. Derek Jackson has also been lauded a few times in camp for his fullback work after switching from linebacker. Jackson, Pegram, and Crank are big, physical runners that can be used to punish opposing defenses. Carlos can contribute, but he must be able to hold on to the ball after having the fumbles last year.
Some other positive news is that players like Matti, White, and Brigandi got solid reps in the spring due to all of our injuries at the position. They still likely won't play much, if at all, but there is at least a little experience to rely on. Brigandi is also a regular on special teams.
Receivers and tight ends:
Marve has a lot of good targets to throw to. Keith Smith is a first-team all-Big Ten receiver. Cortez Smith came on late last year. Siller is a playmaker that has been named a starter despite not playing football at all for a season and never being a receiver before. Bush, Ross, Edison, and Reese are fast reserves that should still play a lot. Edison had a touchdown on his only catch last season, while Bush has bulked up significantly. Ross was the star of this year's recruiting class and simply is too good to keep off the field.
Ross wants to play from day one
At tight end we may not have had a ton of production, but there is a lot of experience. Adams was a steady producer with 29 catches for 249 yards. Lindsay averaged 10 yards per reception as well. Both are big enough to block in the run game as well as be a safety valve over the middle. We should probably expect to see Holmes play some, mostly as a pass catching tight end, so we have some experience at the position in 2011.
I expect Torwudzo, Flood, and Sinz to redshirt. Sinz is a converted quarterback, while Flood may just have too many people in front of him to play right away. The same is true for Torwudzo, who is a big receiver, but is inexperienced. Gravesande is in line to return punts while Edison could be involved there as well. Barbarette might be a special teamer too.
Redshirting: Josh Davis, Jack DeBoef,
Some expect us to struggle because only two starters return to our offensive line. They were probably our two best players though. Plue and Kelly are solid players that not only provide consistency, but they will also be back next year. Kelly will be at the all-important left tackle position, while Plue is a road grader at guard that will clear paths for the running game. If you want to talk about stars, Plue is the fifth 4-star player that is an expected to play on offense, joining Marve, McBurse, Lindsay, and Ross.
The three new starters seem to be working out well so far, while there is experience in the depth behind them. Drey has earned much praise as the new center. Mondek has earned the right tackle spot after moving over from the defense. Schmeig has played extensively as a reserve in the past, but his position at the other guard spot seems to be the only one not solidified yet. He and Pierce are both players that have started in the past and have played extensively as reserves. Prater is a fifth year senior that could see some time at tackle. Foy is also an interesting tackle prospect, while Brewer was expected to be a potential starter at center.
The exciting thing about this line is that all five potential starters should return next season. Prater and Pierce are the only seniors on the team along the line. If everything clicks this year the offense could be virtually unstoppable in 2011. By then, we would only need a tight end and a replacement for the Smiths at wide receiver. That's it.
It is hard not to get excited about this offense not only for this year, but next year as well. That is the benefit of having on 12 seniors on the entire roster. As long as we can develop a tight end or two for next season we will see almost everyone starting the next 24-26 games for the program. Imagine what this group can do with that amount of consistency? Depending on divisions and the schedule, we might even be able to crash the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.
That also works into my common theme for the season. Questions are just fine as long as they have answers. So far, it looks like the answers are positive. Marve looks like an answer at quarterback. ATM and the other backs can be the answer there. Drey appears to be an answer at center. Schmeig and Mondek are also answers on the line. That leaves fewer questions going into the Notre Dame game.