In a somewhat stunning move Purdue has decided to go completely for the future when it comes to next Saturday's home game against Nebraska. Not only is Danny Etling now No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback, Rob Henry has switched jersey numbers from No. 15 to No. 22 and has moved to the defensive side of the football according to Mike Carmin:
We have our QB answer. Rob Henry is wearing white No 22, which means he's on defense #purdue— mike carmin (@carminjc) October 2, 2013
Henry's move is a huge surprise, as it likely means he will be playing safety, where Purdue is very thin after the injuries to Landon Feichter. Still, he hasn't played defense at all in his career. At the two safety positions on the depth chart Purdue had Feichter and his brother Evan Feichter at one spot (both are walk-ons) and Taylor Richards with Anthony Brown there. The only other safeties on the roster are freshman Austin Logan and walk-on Ashkan Mizani. Freshman Leroy Clark may also see time there, but Purdue could not be more thin at the position.
As for Etling, he will likely get his first career start against the Cornhuskers, and he couldn't ask for a better team to start against. Nebraska is giving up 284.2 yards per game and has had both UCLA and Wyoming bomb away on them. Here is how Purdue quarterbacks have done when getting their first start as a freshman (redshirt or otherwise) dating back to the start of the Tiller Era:
11/6/2010 Sean Robinson vs. Wisconsin L 34-13 (19 of 38, 1 TD, 3 INT, 141 yards)
10/9/2010 Rob Henry at Northwestern W 20-17 (6 of 18, 1 INT, 47 yards, 132 yards rushing and TD)
10/22/2005 Curtis Painter at Wisconsin L 31-20 (23 of 44, 1 TD, 3 INT, 212 yards, 60 yards rushing and TD)
10/19/2002 Brandon Kirsch at Michigan L23-21 (17 of 33, 1 TD, 172 yards, 81 yards rushing and TD
11/24/2001 Kyle Orton at Indiana L 13-7 (31 of 62, 1 TD, 263 yards)
9/2/2001 Brandon Hance at Cincinnati W 19-14 (14 of 25, 117 yards, rushing TD)
The good news is that two of those guys lost their first starts, but went on to not only make the NFL, but they are still on rosters as backups today. Hance did not finish the 2001 season as the starter and transferred to USC, where he warmed the bench behind two guys (Matt Leinert and Carson Palmer) who eventually won Heismans. Kirsch battled Orton for two full seasons before getting the job in 2005, losing it to Painter, declaring early for the NFL, and ending up in the Arena League. Robinson and Henry now give us more experience at quarterback on our defense than on our offense.
I would bet that in an absolute worst case scenario Henry is now the No. 3 quarterback behind Etling and Austin Appleby, mostly because there are no other scholarship QBs on the roster.