If you saw the past few days on Twitter (and judging by the paucity of questions, you didn't) I am trying to restart the idea of the mailbag column. I would like to make this a regular feature on Fridays, so if you have questions feel free t send them to HammerandRails@gmail.com. I'll pretty much take any question, so feel free to ask anything.
This week there were four people that e-mailed in, so let's go with them.
Can Purdue hire an Assistant Coach whose only job is to scour the country for competent out-of-bounds sets that actually work? I feel like this is Painter's worst coaching area. Why can't we get the ball in bounds without throwing it past half-court? - Sam Wehrspann
Very good question, but I think this comes from the inbounder being more safe than sorry. They panic and it becomes the safety valve to avoid a turnover. It has been an issue for Painter for awhile, but I guess I didn't notice it as much this past season when there were so many other glaring issues.
A lot of it comes down to screens and movement without the basketball. Both are things Purdue has not done very well in the past couple of seasons. It is an ugly situation regardless. I am not sure how much the assistants draw up plays but the entire offense has been rather stagnant and lacking for fundamentals for some time. If we have to avoid turnovers by throwing the ball into the back court, so be it.
1. How many football games do we win this year?
2. Who will emerge as our leader on this FB team? Gelen Robinson, Ryan Russell, etc?
3. When will Blough be our starter?
4. When will Mitch Daniels and Purdue wake up and get rid of Morgan Burke? - Matt Curtis
I haven't started looking football previews just yet, but it is around the corner. In preliminary looking I can tell you that the schedule is much more favorable this season. As long as Indiana continues to not field a defense they can lose to anyone. Illinois and Northwestern combined for two conference wins last season and the non-conference triumvirate of directional schools isn't that scary even for a team like ours.
That is why I am going to be both ambitious and conservative at the same time. I want to say we find a way to six wins, but we were 1-11 last year, so even 2-10 might be conservative. I guarantee that Purdue wins at least four games. They are, from most to least likely, Southern Illinois, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Illinois.
As for being a team leader I think the winner of the quarterback battle (and I think it can be a three-way battle) will become the offensive leader and I want to see a linebacker, any linebacker, become a leader on the defense. It is a glaring hole that we addressed in recruiting, but we're still going to be awfully young. Purdue will not get better at all until the linebackers improve.
As for Blough, I thought he was going to redshirt for sure until I saw him in the spring game. He really looked poised and polished with good pocket presence behind an offensive line that was awful. I still think Etling or Appleby makes it through the entire season as the starter, but Blough absolutely could challenge to play immediately. Based on the spring game alone (which means little, I know) I have him second behind Etling, and Etling stays in front because of experience alone.
As for Burke, he is not going anywhere. I think we have him until he retires or he gets caught smuggling Rotel across the Canadian border when we play in the next Pizza bowl because he worked out an even trade for poutine.
1. Now that AJ has announced that he will be returning for his junior year, and the fact that there are numerous skilled freshmen coming in, what would the starting lineup be if Travis Miller is the head coach of the Boilers next year?
2. Where do you think Ronnie Johnson will end up?
1. What's your favorite snack food and why?
2. Will the Cubs win the World Series in this decade? I'd like to believe so. - Grant Evans
I love the multiple question format. It is almost like the lightning round. As for the starting lineup, here is how I would go:
Center - Hammons - You can't go to the NBA if you don't start.
Power Forward - Basil Smotherman - Yes, I want to go small and have Smotherman's athleticism wreck havoc on both ends of the floor. I just tell him to be a defensive pest and relentlessly go to the basket for rebounds.
Small Forward - Rapheal Davis - I think Davis really becomes a leader on the team and he develops more of an inside-out game this season. If anyone can put in the time to improve his range, it will be Davis.
Shooting Guard - Kendall Stephens - Kendall needs a reliable 15-footer so he becomes more than just a three-point guy. He also needs to at least do SOMETHING defensively.
Point Guard - P.J. Thompson - I think he is skilled enough to start as a true distributor from day 1.
Bonus bench order - Bryson Scott (I want him as a high energy bench guy and defender), Vince Edwards (backup to Ray D.), Dakota Mathias (hit me some threes, son), Isaac Haas (hopefully he kicks Hammons in the ass every day from day one).
As for Ronnie Johnson, I suspect he will end up somewhere where his career will end in insignificant fashion along with Jeremy Hollowell.
My favorite snack food is honestly tortilla chips and hummus. I try to keep it a little healthy with the baked chips.
Finally, for the Cubs, I really hope so, but everything has to come together. I just know they killed my grandfather and they are coming after me next. I have always said that if the Cubs win the World Series it means the world will end, but at least I'll die a happy man.
One for Basketball:
With a player at each position in the 2014 class and no seniors on the roster, what are the priorities in the 2015 class? Is Painter more focused on in state recruiting?
One for Football:
What is the most important position battle that isn't quarterback? - Kevin Spry
Painter seems to be drawing back to Indiana and Ryan Cline as a shooter is a pretty good place to start. I'd love to see him get Cline and Hyron Edwards from up at East Chicago. He needs to get after Caleb Swanigan for 2016 too because if we don't get on him right now he will leave the state.
For football the biggest position battle, even bigger than quarterback, is offensive line. Right now it would be more effective if we installed a turnstile or an old woman to tell stories that would distract defensive ends. We could move Drew Brees back there tomorrow and he would be ineffective with our offensive line. We have got to hope Hedelin and Clements are not only both ready to play, but good.