Man, a lot of stuff seems to be going on around Purdue's campus right now. But after hearing the news about Dwayne Beckford's overnight arrest, I'm really not excited about all of the things I see or hear. According to a report by the IndyStar, Beckford (who was already on his last strike with the football team) was charged last night with "possession of paraphernalia and possession of a synthetic drug", which counts as a Class D felony since he is now a repeat offender in that category. Apparently that whole suspension and reinstatement thing he went through had no effect on his character. This is now Dwayne's third arrest since August of last year!
I really am disappointed in Beckford. He acted out of stupidity and selfishness and he is going to pay the price for it. But, what really upsets me is that #3 will probably never wear a Purdue helmet again. Dwayne has been suspended indefinitely, which the fifth year senior will probably be cut from the team soon. And seeing as he was one of the best pieces to a defensive unit that hopes to carry the Boilermakers to another bowl game, losing Dwayne is already a huge hit to trying to accomplish our goals this season.
Anyways, before I get too angry, let's turn to the Kickoff Countdown. With four days left until the first football game in West Lafayette, one of today's featured players is a guy who, like Beckford, was suspended and reinstated to the team in the offseason, but for different and supposedly less heinous reasons. And he actually seems to be doing just fine. Junior receiver O.J. Ross looks to come back to the Purdue football team in style and have a huge season this fall. The other guy we are examining is sophomore Safety Taylor Richards, who also hopes to have a great season as he eases into his new starting role at Free Safety.
O.J. Ross - Jr.
Hometown: Ormond Beach, FL (Mainland HS)
5'10", 188 pounds
2012 projection: Starter at Wide Receiver
In the wake of this breaking news about Dwayne Beckford's most recent arrest, it is important to mention O.J. Ross's name beside his for comparison. Both players were suspended from the team during the bowl game late last season, then dropped from their scholarships and had to work their ways back to being reinstated, both on the team and academically. But while Beckford had straight-up accrued another run-in with the law and a second strike from Coach Hope after his OWI charge back in December, the reasons behind Ross's suspension, removal from scholarship and later reinstatement were less clear.
All anyone knows is that it was due to "breaking undisclosed team policies and rules", with Ross having "academic related issues." So, whatever might be the case for O.J., it seems that his problems have been resolved and he has his full attention now placed on the upcoming season. For Beckford, however, clearly his focus was not kept on football and it is likely we will never again see him put on a helmet with the the Block P logo on the side.
Turning our attention back to Ross, it looks like #4 could have a fantastic, breakthrough season for the Boilermakers. O.J. is now the #2 receiver behind Antavian Edison, he is a favorite target for all three of our healthy former-starting QBs, and he looks primed to build on his successful sophomore campaign last year--where Ross caught 33 passes for 356 yards and 3 TDs in 12 appearances and 10 starts as the #3 (slot) receiver.
O.J. definitely has all the skills to significantly improve his game and produce even bigger numbers for the Purdue offense. He is one of the fastest guys on the team, he has great hands and body control in traffic and he is also one of the best route-runners on the team.
There isn't enough great things you can say about the guy. He is arguably our best, most solid option at WR and he has the potential to develop into even better of a football player. At the very least, Ross has the potential to have a spectacular season in 2012.
Taylor Richards - So.
Hometown: Lake Mary, FL (Lake Mary HS)
5'10", 192 pounds
2012 projection: Starter at Free Safety
Taylor Richards is also looking to build on a solid 2011 season. Last year the true freshman from Lake Mary, Florida saw a significant number of snaps and excelled in that time on the field. And that is why he has been the favorite to start at the Free Safety position alongside senior (and also new starter) Strong Safety Max Charlot.
While making 10 appearances as a reserve at Safety last season, Richards recorded seven tackles, including three solos, and one interception that came against Western Michigan in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. Come to think of it, #4 came up big in the bowl game last December. On top of the interception, he also made three tackles and two solo stops.
Taylor definitely showcases his abilities when it mattered most last season. He was a big reason we won that bowl game and he certainly put the coaches on notice with his performance. Coming into this season, both Safety positions were vacant after seniors Albert Evans and Logan Link finished their Purdue careers. There were many competitors, but after ironing out the details, Richards looked like one of the favorites to be named a starter by the coaching staff.
Taylor has a ton of pressure to perform in his new starting role this season. He beat out plenty of talent to get the FS spot, and guys like E.J. Johnson, Chris Quinn and Landon Feichter are going to be breathing down his neck all season long, waiting to possibly pounce on the chance to take his place when he makes a mistake.
But, Richards is one of the most solid Safeties we have. He is a great tackler, he performs well in coverage, he has good hands and can go up and fight for the ball in traffic. Hell, he has an attraction to be near the football. Definitely look out for #4 Taylor Richards to make a splash as a starter on this defensive unit this fall.