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The T-bag: May 16

The weekly (hopefully) mailbag for Hammer & Rails.

At the suggestion of @CofWhite45 in Twitter the official Hammer & Rails Mailbag has been renamed the T-bag. I did this for two reasons: 1. I am always cognizant to the will of the readers and appreciate feedback and suggestions, and 2. Internally, I am 12 and cannot resist a dirty joke.

So with that in mind, here are the questions I got this week:

I am ridiculously optimistic, but I can see Purdue going 6-6 and scraping its way into a bowl game. That is the absolute best-case dream scenario. Yes, it is unlikely, but there is a chance if you look at it this way:

Southern Illinois, Western Michigan, Central Michigan - Even a marginally improved Purdue team has to be able to win these three games. No Big Ten team ever has a valid excuse for losing an FCS game, and Western might have been one of the few FBS teams worse than Purdue last year. That leaves a Central Michigan team that struggled to get to 6-6 in the MAC. At the very least Purdue needs to win these three games to show us Hazell has them pointed the right way. A loss in any of these three would be devastating.

Illinois - The Illini are 1-21 in their last 22 Big Ten games and their one victory was by four against us last year as one of the worst Big Ten teams ever. Even in our shitiness we were still close to them last year. If Hazell in year 2 is better than Beckman in year 3 we need to win this game.

Indiana - It's Indiana. They are the worst major conference team of all-time and they have a great offense, but the defense is absolutely terrible. Find a way to stop 4 drives in a game and you can beat Indiana because their defense can't stop a Pop Warner team.

Northwestern - We get them at home and they vastly underachieved last year. Unfortunately, they had a 2010 Purdue level of injuries.

Notre Dame - We have no reason to be in the same ballpark as them, but we inexplicably kept it close the last two seasons. If Purdue finds a way to win in Lucas Oil it can be a huge leap forward, especially if the other three non-conference games are wins.

As for freshmen playing, I think JaWhaun Bentley and Gelen Robinson are virtual locks to play. Corey Clements and David Hedelin, though not freshmen, are newcomers that probably should start. I also really like Tim Cason to find some time in the secondary somewhere

It is right here.

Who is the most likely to break out on the football/basketball teams?

What is a best case scenario for Purdue FB/BB next year?

Should Painter get more creative in his recruiting? - Jimmy Quenichet

Let's address these in bullet points:

  • I am on bard with Isaac Haas and I think he can play well enough to finally light a fire under A.J. Hammons' ass. It really is a win-win situation. If Haas plays well (and he has publicly said on Twitter he is asking for Purdue workout plans and such) he either earns more minutes or makes Hammons play to his full potential so Hammons can stay on the floor. With A.J., that's where we need to be. He is entering his third year at Purdue. Either be good A.J. all the time or hit the pine. I think Haas can push him more than Travis Carroll or Jay Simpson ever did.
  • For basketball, we need to make the NCAA Tournament. Even this year we won 15 games and that means five more wins to be in serious discussion for the tournament. Purdue should be a tournament team every year. Period. For football, at least win four games and show some fight in others. I think they could win six games if everything goes right, but everything going right means we have an actual offensive line unlike last year.
  • What do you mean by more creative? If you mean find ways to lure 5-star talent that are less than reputable, but go unnoticed and equal Final Fours and championships, then yes. I am not naïve. It is 2014 and there are dozens of programs that find any of 14,123,087 loopholes to get the best guys on campus. I have had enough of losing. I just want to win.

T-Mill you've mentioned that, as an optimist, Purdue has a decent shot at making a bowl game. I know some folks elsewhere think this a pipe dream considering the disaster that was last year, but I agree with you. Purdue is very likely to start 2-0 with bakery visits from Western and Central Michigan as neither is as formidable opponent as the were in the previous Pizza Pizza/Motor City Bowls. Then we have the Domers in Indy who have had a tough time with the Boilers last couple of years, so as delusional as it sounds, a win is conceivable. Then the Salukis from Southern Illinois come to town (likely a harder game than Western Michigan) which should be a win. Then we have a combination of Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, and Indiana to get at least three wins unless Michigan State decides it wants to be upset in the same vein as Ohio State. Six wins seems possible, especially when Wisconsin and even Nebraska are also considered to be "down." Besides the offensive line, which position group needs the next most improvement to ensure that we get to six wins with a likely date in Detroit against Pitt, Boston College, or Carolina school in December? - Andrew Fultz

We need actual living, breathing Big Ten linebackers. You cannot win in the Big Ten without great play at linebacker. Otherwise you're Indiana. We haven't had even a serviceable linebacker in over 10 years now. It is ridiculous and I can't believe this has not been a priority in recruiting before. That's the biggest deficiency in the program right now because even the line has some interesting pieces to put out there. At linebacker we have guys who have not done much in their careers and new guys. Most good Big Ten teams have a middle linebacker that is a stud and leader of the defense. Purdue has lacked that for over a decade.