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National Signing Day-a-palooza

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First off, this is ridiculous. There is no need for the song and dance of a bunch of 18 year olds signing a letter and faxing it in. It plays up to today's "Look at me" society when, in reality, a lot of this primadonnas won't amount to much of anything in college. That said, signing day still has to be covered. Today Purdue officially welcomes the smallest class in quite some time with 14 new commits. We are already ranked dead last out of 12 Big Ten teams, mostly because we have such a small class. That doesn't mean it is a bad class. Every single high school commitment is rated at 3-stars by Rivals. This is actually an improvement over past years.

The 2010 class had nine 2-star commits (out of 24 total), one of which (Cody Webster) played and performed very well last year. 2009 had 11 2-star commits (out of 20) with only Antavian Edison making a significant impact so far and Keith Carlos already done on his 2-year JuCo stint. 2008 (Joe Tiller's final class) had 15 of 26 commits as 2-star guys. These are players that should be making an impact by now, but only Chris Carlino, Dwayne Beckford, and Carson Wiggs have developed into regular players. The rest haven't yet, and are either gone already or buried on the depth chart. 2007 only had 7 two-stars out of 19, but only Gerald Gooden, Jared Crank, and Charlton Williams are contributors.

That's a lot of players that were lowly rated and didn't pan out. In fact, nearly the majority of our recruited players (42 of 89 from 2007-10) were two star players. Of those, only six are expected to be major contributors next season (Edison, Webster, Gooden, Carlino, Beckford, and Wiggs).

Stars, of course, aren't everything. Schools like Miami, Michigan, and Notre Dame have taught us that by recruiting very well, yet having mediocre at best seasons in recent years. They do help, however. Officially, we only have two guys in this year's recruiting class that are rated as 2-star athletes, and those are JuCo transfers Akeem Shavers and Sterling Carter who have already enrolled and will go through spring practice. Though this class is small, it is more talented overall than our recent recruiting hauls. That is very important considering that the 2011 season needs to be one that at least produces a bowl game.

Because of all the injuries last season we have plenty of experience returning. Players like Sean Robinson, Normando Harris, and others gained experience last year when others went down. On defense the only starters we lose are Jason Werner and Ryan Kerrigan. On offense we lose only Justin Pierce and Kyle Adams to graduation, and we actually return a starter (Ralph Bolden) that didn't play at all. Combined with the influx of talent and some key guys who were able to redshirt last year, we should see improvement as long as people stay healthy. With that in mind, let's meet everyone.

Catch of the Class

Frankie Williams - Tampa, FL (Robinson HS) - According to the Rivals rating system Williams is the best player and borderline 4-star player. He is listed as an athlete and it is unknown if he will be a defensive back or a receiver. He has the speed to be a returner and make an impact there, but that might be taken by Raheem Mostert.

Rob Kugler - Pittsburgh, PA (North Allegheny HS) - Kugler could be a guy who makes an instant impact at Tight End. He only played for his Pennsylvania high school for one year because his dad recently became a coach with the Steelers, but he helped them win a state championship. Scout lists him as a 4-star prospect at both tight end and defensive end. Clearly there is a spot open with Kerrigan leaving, but no one expects him to come in and replicate Superman immediately. We're talking about replacing a unanimous All-American and possibly the best to ever play the position at our school here.

Instant Impact Guys

Sterling Carter - Wilmington, CA (Los Angeles Harbor CC) - We need a tight end and Carter at 6'5" 240 pounds gives us a big target to replace Kyle Adams. Gabe Holmes will likely see a lot more time, but Carter was brought in as a JuCo guy to play immediately. He may serve as more of a blocking tight end, but he did have 10 catches for 109 yards this past season.

Raheem Mostert - New Smyrna Beach, FL (New Smyrna Beach HS) - Our return game sucked last year. Gone are the days of Dorien Bryant and Desmond Tardy each as big threats. If the maligned J.B. Gibboney can ever teach blocking schemes we have a burner that can be a threat to score now with Raheem Mostert. He returned an amazing seven kickoffs for touchdowns and is generally a threat to score as a receiver any time he touches the ball too. I expect him or Williams to be returning the opening kickoff of the season.

Akeem Shavers - Tyler, TX (Tyler JC) - Most JuCo guys are brought in to play immediately because they are a little farther along thant her high school counterparts. Shavers is one of several running back brought in that will likely see time behind Bolden. I imagine that we will take things easy on Bolden as he gets back up to speed. With Carlos and Dierking gone, plus Al-Terek McBurse likely moved to slot receiver, we need depth at running back. Shavers is a speedster who once had a 300 yard game in high school.

Potential Sleepers

Shane Mikesky - Zionsville, IN (Zionsville HS) - This is the one kid I have seen in person (at least in football) and I think he is someone that could be a very pleasant surprise. He is the reigning state champion in the 110 meter hurdles here in Indiana, and he plans to also run that at Purdue. He was pretty much Zionsville's lone receiving threat this year and he still put together a 39 catch, 760 yard season with 10 touchdowns. If you want a deep threat this could be the guy with Charles Torwudzo. He has good size too at 6'4", and seemed to be a guy that came on very late.

Randy Gregory - Fishers, IN (Hamilton Southeastern HS) - Gregory is in the middle of basketball season right now with Purdue targets Zak Irvin and Gary Harris. He is a bruising 6'6" forward that is playing a lot like Kawann Short did with E`Twaun Moore and Angel Garcia. Gregory was one of our earliest commitments in 2011, and has a chance to make an impact at defensive end. With his basketball background I can see him batting down passes, especially if he plays next to Short.

The rest:

Kaulana Judd - This was a surprise JuCo pickup this morning as the letters rolled in. Judd is a 6'3" outside linebacker that played at Fullerton Junior College last year and originally is from Waimea High School on the island of Kauai out in Hawaii. Kauai is beautiful and Waimea has Waimea Brewing Company, an excellent microbrewery famous for being the Westernmost Brewpub on the planet. The Canefire Red is the best beer I have ever tasted.

Brandon Cottom - This was our earliest commitment and he is a big 6'2", 233 pound running back out of Newtown, PA. I look for him to become more of a fullback type with his size, but he was hampered by injuries a little this season.

Doug Gentry - Another running back, this time from Mexia,TX. He will likely either redshirt of battle some others for carries behind Bolden. Remember, we still have Reggie Pegram returning as well. At the very least, we probably won't have to play receivers at running back anymore.

Akeem Hunt - Another running back, this time from Covington, GA. He is probably a little more like Bolden, and I don't say that just because they are both Georgia natives. He is a versatile back that caught several passes out of the backfield, so he will likely fit in nicely.

Taylor Richards - I almost included Richards on the instant impact list. He is potentially good enough to be another Ricardo Allen, who came in and had an immediate impact this past season at cornerback. Richards is bigger than Allen, but with everyone returning in the secondary and a few other coming off of a redshirt it will be a testament to his abilities if he sees playing time.

Michael Rouse III - This is a big defensive tackle from Flossmoor, IL that might see some time early in the rotation. Kawann Short, Kevin Pamphile, Bruce Gaston, and Xavier Melton will all be back, but don't be surprised if Rouse cracks the two-deeps as well. Afterall, Gaston played very well as a true freshman.

Armstead Williams - Here is a solid 6'3" linebacker from Pennsylvania that could see some playing time, but Will Lucas, the redshirted Joe Gilliam, and Dwayne Beckford might be the starters. Antwon Higgs and Chris Carlino also come back with experience, but Higgs may move to DE. As long as he realizes it is legal to cover a slot receiver or tight end on third down over the middle I have a spot for him in my defense.

Those that got away:

Russell Bellomy - I am surprised that he switched to Michigan, as he was a solid Purdue get for months, but these things happen. Michigan was in desperate need of a quarterback, while Bellomy may not have played at all for three seasons or more thanks to Rob Henry and Sean Robinson being on the roster.

Marcus Caffey - This was another speedy running back we briefly had before he switched to Kentucky. He was only committed for a week or so at most.

A.J. King - Finally, we have King, who, in my opinion, Purdue royally screwed over. King's scholarship offer was revoked because his surgery to repair a torn ACL was similar to the one that Robert Marve, Robbie Hummel, and Ralph Bolden all had the first time around. All three of them repeated the injury, and now King is the victim. Purdue allegedly offered a greyshirt where he wouldn't enroll until after this season, but King declined. As a result, Purdue is now supposedly banished from recruiting his high school, which is one of the best programs in Florida.

I have not heard Purdue's side of the story, but if this situation is true I think it is an awful thing for Purdue to do, and it could very well have negative repercussions in the future. Brandon Cottom struggled this year with an injury, but no such thing happened to him. Now other schools can use this as ammunition against us. I would like to think Purdue is a classier program than this. It seems like we clearly jerked a kid around and left him out to dry. I'm very disappointed that this happened.

Concerns:

We do not have a single offensive line prospect in this class. Rouse is the closest, but he will likely stay at defensive tackle. I really hope that means we're set with the guys we currently have, especially since Ken Plue and Dennis Kelly graduate this year.