The season is drawing to a close and for the fifth time in seven years, Purdue will not be playing in a bowl game. This year, Purdue has 21 seniors that will play their final game Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium. Some have played a lot. Some have played a little. All of them do have one thing in common:
They are Boilermakers.
We know their careers are not ending like we all hoped when they came to West Lafayette four (or five) years ago, but they have all worked hard. They have given us everything in that time, so on Saturday, get to the stadium early and give them proper honor. Here are the 21 guys:
Brandon Cottom - Running Back - Cottom is the senior that everyone wonders why he has not played more this year. He had battled a torn ACL in his career (not the only one in this group), but has been a regular contributor. As a freshman he only had 70 yards rushing in a limited role, but as a sophomore he played in all 13 games with 209 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught seven passes for 79 more yards and two more TDs. Last year he was one of Purdue's leading rushers with 154 yards and a touchdown, but has had a limited role this year. In fact, he has been so limited that he had two catches for 10 yards, but he did catch a touchdown against Notre Dame.
We all wish he would have played more, but it seems like he has been phased out of the offense as other players have passed him up. Still, I am glad he came to Purdue. His career highlight will go down as an 87-yard TD run against Eastern Michigan in 2012. It will go down as one of the longest runs in Purdue history.
Josh Davis - Offensive Line - Davis has battled injuries for most of his career and was unable to play this season at all after being a reserve on the offensive line for most of his career. He will still be honored on Saturday with the rest of Purdue's seniors.
Jack DeBoef - Offensive Line - We got DeBoef from State College, PA, where he played high school ball for the Little Lions. At the time, I thought it was a steal of a recruit from Penn State. Unfortunately, DeBoef hasn't developed into a starter after five years. He has been a regular reserve and when given a shot to start coming into fall camp he was unable to nail down the job at left tackle.
Landon Feichter - Safety - When you talk about players that have developed look no further than Feichter. He came to Purdue as a walk-on and will leave as a possible all-Big Ten safety. He is among the conference leaders this year with 87 tackles and he is tied for the conference lead with five interceptions. He has become a leader for the defense and an invaluable member of the team.
It is not like it has taken him this long to get here, either. He played extensively as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and had a pick six as a sophomore in 2012. If he intercepts two more passes he can finish third in his career for interceptions at Purdue. He already has 10 career picks. When you consider that he played last year against Notre Dame with two broken hands (and later broke his leg in that game), he is clearly playing with a ton of heart. He exemplifies how hard every player on the roster should play.
Parker Flynn - Punter - We weren't sure who was going to replace Cody Webster as a punter, but Thomas Meadows won the job. Flynn, who is a former kicker at Arizona State, was in the running as a fifth year graduate transfer, but hasn't made it to the field at all. He'll be gone after this year, but he at least gave it a shot and got a free year of grad school from the deal.
Joe Gilliam - Linebacker - This was supposed to be Gilliam's year. The fifth year senior came in as Purdue's most experienced linebacker and was supposed to be a starter and a leader. Instead, he got beat out by Ja'Whaun Bentley before tearing his ACL and being shut down for the season. The senior from Southport has been a solid four-year contributor, however, on a defense that struggled during almost his entire tenure.
Gabe Holmes - Tight End - Holmes has been a flashpoint for criticism for his entire career. Each year was supposed to be his breakout year, but he never became the dominant tight end that most projected him to be. Last year a wrist injury ended his season after two games just as he was coming along. This year he has 12 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He'll be more remembered for his drops though. This year he had a ton of drops at Nebraska. He can make the difficult catches, but he often struggles with the easy ones.
Akeem Hunt - Running Back - Hunt will leave Purdue as one of its most prolific ballcarriers. He has a chance to reach 2,000 yards for his career rushing and reach 1,000 receiving with over 1,000 on kickoff returns. That's a pretty damn good career is you ask me. For his first two seasons he averaged over 8 yards per carry before last season completely wrecked that average.
One of the best things about Hunt is that he has been electrifying. You feel like he can score any time he touches the football. He has two kickoff returns for touchdowns and a total of 19 for his career. He is also the only player on the roster to score a touchdown three different ways in his career (rushing, receiving, kickoff return).
Mike Lee - Linebacker - Lee barely played at Purdue. he got into one game as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and had a tackle against Southeast Missouri State during a 58-0 blowout. He then suffered a concussion serious enough that it ended his career. Purdue still honored his scholarship and kept him on board as an undergraduate assistant coach. He will be honored with the rest of the players on Saturday.
Antoine Lewis - Cornerback - Lewis, unfortunately, is a lot like his classmates. He was a career reserve that never blossomed into a career starter and he lost his job this year to Leroy Clark. He is still having his best season to date with 26 tackles, a sack, and two forced fumbles. As a top reserve he still has some time to make a play, and he did have a long interception return two years ago against Indiana to help Purdue retain the Bucket.
Collin Link - Linebacker - Another career walk-on, Link is the younger brother of former walk-on starter Logan Link. It took him more time to reach the field than Feichter, but Link was playing regularly as a linebacker last season and even started twice. This year he has played mostly on special teams with 13 tackles. That is often the ceiling for a walk-on, as few explode like Feichter has. Last year he had 25 tackles in his best season.
Dolapo Macarthy - Tight End - Macarthy is in the same boat as Cottom. He had a big season two years ago with 28 catches for 252 yards and a touchdown, but he has been severely limited under coach Hazell. He dropped to one catch for five yards last season and really only played this year late in the Central Michigan game, where he had four catches for 39 yards. In my opinion Macarthy is a better TE option than Holmes, but Macarthy has barely played this year. It's too bad.
Ian MacDougall - Kicker - McDougall is a lot like Flynn. He transferred as a graduate transfer from Wabash College and pushed Paul Griggs for the starting kicker's job right up until the first game. Unlike Flynn, MacDougall got into games and served as the kickoff specialist before Griggs, too, won that job. He has had 11 touchbacks in 23 kickoffs, so I am not sure why he isn't kicking now.
Raheem Mostert - Running Back - The Fastest Man in the Big Ten, he moved to running back and it has paid off this year. He has 500 yards rushing and three touchdowns, plus he has been the big play threat that we all hoped he would be. While he has not broken a kickoff return for a touchdown yet this season, he will leave Purdue as the all-time leader in kickoff return yards. Mostert has been a better receiving threat with 15 receptions for 107 yards out of the backfield. He, like Hunt, probably has an outside chance of landing on an NFL team as a returner.
Jalani Phillips - Defensive End - Phillips has done fairly well in making his first season as a full-time starter. He has not gotten to the quarterback much with only one sack, but he also has 27 tackles. He has made a handful of big plays playing at the rush end position, where sometimes he drops back as a linebacker on some plays and rushes on others. Phillips has been steady there: not great, but not awful.
Taylor Richards - Safety - Richards is kind of the prodigal son, as I was surprised he even made the roster after his offseason DUI. That led to a two-game suspension going into his final year, where he has been up and down. The good: He has had 38 tackles and has been a strong member of the secondary, which has been gashed at times. The bad: Since Purdue is missing a bowl game, it might be his fault, as his dumb penalty on third and long 40 yards from the play kept alive the game-winning drive for Minnesota. Still, Richards has been a solid player for four years now and will be missed.
Sean Robinson - Linebacker - What else can you say about Robinson? In 2010 he was a true freshman quarterback that saw his redshirt get burned when Caleb TerBush was ineligible and both Robert Marve and Rob Henry got hurt. He eventually made one start (though it was really three considering the circumstances of the Illinois and Michigan games) well before he was ready at the position. In 2011 he was still a quarterback and even got a snap or two there before redshirting. Seeing a logjam at quarterback ahead of him and wanting to help out the team he switched to linebacker.
Sean was never the most talented linebacker on the field, but he played with a ton of heart and was playing very well this year with 42 tackles and a sack before he was lost to a torn ACL at Illinois. Robinson had a lot of detractors in his career, but he also had a lot of heart. He was a true leader on this year's team and the defense has missed his leadership in the second half of the season. He will be missed.
Ryan Russell - Defensive End - As a redshirt freshman Ryan Russell had a huge game in the Little Caesar's Bowl against Western Michigan. He was expected to evolve into our next great defensive end, but for whatever reason that hasn't happened. He has been a solid player for four years now. He has 34 tackles and two sacks this year, but he is a lot like Holmes in that more was expected and it never came. On potential alone he could get a look in an NFL camp next summer.
Jesse Schmitt - Long Snapper - As I have long said, A long snapper is at his best when no one knows his name. Remember Andy Standifer? He was the guy that had the awful 1998 Alamo Bowl and was pretty much the reason Kansas State even had a chance to win. Schmitt has been a four year starter and most people probably couldn't pick him out of a lineup. He does his job extremely well and that might get him a shot as a specialist in the NFL.
Justin Sinz - Tight End - Few people remember that Sinz was another one of Danny Hope's quarterbacks recruited, as he was all-everything at his high school in Wisconsin. He has evolved into a solid tight end that now has a lengthy stretch of games where he has caught at least one pass. This season he has 27 receptions for 218 yards and a touchdown after leading Purdue in receptions in 2013 with 41 for 340 yards and four TDs. For the past two seasons he has been both consistent and sure-handed, which is not something you can say about many players.
Charles Torwudzo - Tight End - The fifth-year senior from Brownsburg has never been able to break into the regular rotation, but has always been close. He moved to tight end this season and does not have a reception. In fact, for his career he has two receptions for 12 yards, both in 2012. Still, he has been a solid practice player that has always had a great attitude.
Players Lost: These are the guys recruited along with these 19 that have left the program for one reason or another and never made it to Senior Day:
Chevin Davis - Never qualified academically.
De'Ron Flood - Left the program.
E.J. Johnson - Left the program.
Jonathan Linkenheimer - Transferred to Southern Miss
Reggie Pegram - Transferred to North Texas
O.J. Ross - Left the program.
Doug Gentry - Left the program.
Randy Gregory - Originally signed in 2011 but did not qualify. You know the rest of the story.
Armstead Williams - Transferred to Duquesne.