Now that the opponent previews are complete it is time to start looking at our own team. Perhaps it is the lure of a news season, but I am cautiously optimistic that this can be a solid 7-9 win season if the team plays to its potential. With a few breaks, a few of which have already happened, a division title and appearance in Indianapolis is not out of the question.
It all needs to start at the quarterback position, however. Purdue is in a strange position there in that there are three solid options, but none has risen above the others. The likely result will be another quarterback platoon that can be effective, but it can also be very frustrating. In just three games last season did we have a quarterback take all the snaps (Middle Tennessee State, Rice, Illinois). The rotation was involved in four wins and six losses.
Danny Hope seems to have made his choice for starter, at least. That's where we will begin.
Starter: Caleb TerBush - Sr. (5)
2011 Stats: 171-211-6, 13 touchdowns, 1,905 yards
Gun to my head, I would say TerBush starts the first game. Hope has stated that he is the No. 1 guy going into fall camp. He's also been named a team captain. he also went to Big Ten Media Days, where the backup QB usually does not go. In truth, the more I think about it, the more I would like TerBush in favor of Henry if Marve wasn't there. The better than 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is critical. In his first two games as a starter (really, his first two games ever) he was asked to lead a two-minute drive for the win and, had it not been for the blocked field goal at Rice (not his fault) he would have been successful both times.
Clearly, TerBush has some moxie. He never blew you away at any point last season, but he was steady and didn't make many mistakes. He is exactly what you hope a two-star QB recruit will blossom into after five years. His completion is a very healthy 61%. Based on the numbers of all three players, TerBush is the best option
TerBush was a semi-decent running threat last season. He finished with 219 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Those are hardly Denard Robinson numbers, but it shows that he was mobile and could tuck and run if he needed to as well as make a first down on plays called for him.
I would love to see what TerBush could do with a year of being solely the guy. Unfortunately for him, he does have Robert Marve looking over his shoulder.
Backup: Robert Marve - Sr. (6)
2011 Stats: 61-109-5, 4 touchdowns, 633 yards
By his own admission Robert Marve was never fully healthy last season. Now he is. That alone is what keeps in the discussion here I think. I admit that I am cheering for Marve and would love to see him get the job mostly because he has never gotten a real chance to show his true potential. In a year at Miami he had to split time with Jacory Harris. At Purdue he got three full games, all while still recovering from an ACL, before a second tear cost him the rest of the year. Last year he sort of got his moment with a few big throws and the game-winning score against Ohio State.
Marve is a risk/reward guy. He is more prone to mistakes than TerBush, but he can make the big play either with his feet or with his arm. The deep ball seems to at least be an option with him if we can develop a receiver that will catch it. In practice Marve has been reportedly tearing it up.
At this point I think Marve is going to have to have a dynamite fall camp to pass TerBush. His potential will still get him a series or two per game, but he was honestly outplayed by TerBush last year. That's why I don't feel as bad going with TerBush over Marve. Still, my choice of Marve as my favorite is based more on wanting him to succeed than anything.
I think we all know that both guys will play, and that can be frustrating in terms of one developing a rhythm and really getting the offense moving. This offense is different than the Tiller, "pass 65 times per game" offense. It is an offense that uses running backs more, so Akeem Hunt and Akeem Shavers will move the ball. It is an offense that likes to give the quarterback some running plays. We only threw 30 times per game in 2011, and it was roughly split 75/25 in favor of TerBush.
The amount Marve plays will be directly correlated with how well he does on the field. If he comes in during the first few games and blows up like all the scouting services say he can, he'll play a lot and possibly start. If not, it's TerBush.
The Wild Card: Rob Henry - Jr.
2010 Stats: 86-162-7, 8 touchdowns, 996 yards. 547 yards and 4 TDs rushing
This is just a guess, but I am betting that with the lack of healthy, proven depth behind the Akeems we will see Henry more as a running back than a quarterback this season. Brandon Cottom and Ralph Bolden are coming back from a combined four ACL surgeries while Gavin Roberts and Derek Jackson are 5th year seniors that have barely played. Henry is too good of a ball-carrier to keep off the field. This will give birth to the Wild Henry formation
I think Henry could play a role like Justin Siller last season. He can be a threat to throw out of the wildcat, but I am betting we will line him up elsewhere most of the time that he is on the field.
The downside is the 2013 season, when he returns as the only quarterback with any experience whatsoever. Do we move forward planning to use him as the starter in 2013 or does he make a permanent position switch in order to make way for one of the 2,000 freshmen we have on the roster? To me, that is the more interesting question.
The Many freshmen:
Austin Appleby - Some have dubbed him as the heir apparent to the Cradle, but Danny Etling's commitment and arrival in 2013 could be interesting. Based solely on his number (#12) it is a safe bet to say Appleby is redshirting this season barring a complete disaster injury-wise. You can share numbers, but you cannot have the same number on the field at the time. That's easy for the two No. 4's (wide receiver O.J. Ross and defensive back Taylor Richards). The other No. 12 is receiver Tommie Thomas, who will probably play a bit this year.
Appleby's responsibility is to learn this year, because he could be the No. 1 starter as soon as next season depending on what happens with Henry.
Robert Gregory - Gregory is sharing No. 7 with defensive back E.J. Johnson, so his playing might be a little bit more likely than Appleby. I don't think we'll see a position switch in his near future, either, given that the luxury of depth disappears after this season. Gregory will battle Appleby and the other freshmen for scout team reps. Gregory is an interesting player that could definitely earn himself some time at quarterback in the future.
Aloyis Gray - When you share the same number with the starter at your position it is a giant sign that says YES, I AM INDEED REDSHIRTING! Gray seems to be a long-term wide receiver candidate, so I really have a hard time believing he'll ever start a game at quarterback for Purdue. There are simply too many other quarterbacks in his way.
Bilal Marshall - Marshall, like Gray and Gregory, is a dual-threat quarterback. He may have played the toughest competition as a high school senior though. Gregory's overall numbers were better, but Marshall played in speedy south Florida which is rich with talent. These four freshmen will have some interesting practice battles, and I would be stunned if all four were quarterbacks at this time next year.
If I had to rank these four I would probably go Appleby-Gregory-Marshall-Gray, with Appleby being the most likely to stay at QB and Gray the least.
Austin Parker - If there is such a thing as a fourth string quarterback I would give it to Parker as of right now. He has a year in the system, while the five freshmen behind him do not. That said, if he sees the field I think we're probably pretty screwed. I would bet a redshirt gets burned before he plays.
Erich Berzinskas - Berzinskas is the fifth true freshman QB on the roster and he must really want to come to Purdue if he was willing to walk-on as the fifth QB in the class. He was still a decent high school quarterback in Connecticut and had good numbers. At 6'5" 220 he has excellent size as well. Whereas Marve, Henry, Gregory, Gray, and Marshall are more dual-threat guys Berzinskas has a niche of being one of just three traditional pocket-passing QBs.