Last season Purdue played a lot of freshmen at receiver. That could be a benefit going into this season. Word has it that coach Hazell is going to go to more of a spread offense, and that means you need multiple quality receivers. Last year three freshmen and a couple of sophomores played significant minutes, so that benefit can hopefully pay dividends as we enter 2014.
Purdue returns its top seven receivers in terms of receptions and everyone that caught at least 100 yards worth of passes is back. In fact, only Gary Bush, who saw his production drop dramatically after his junior year, departed and he had just 10 receptions for 57 yards. Of Purdue's 15 touchdown catches, only Kurt Freytag, who had one, is gone.
The offensive turnaround can begin with the targets that the winner between the Appleby-Etling derby will throw to.
Top contributors (all numbers are career numbers):
Justin Sinz (TE)-Sr. - 48 receptions, 413 yards, 5 TDs
DeAngelo Yancey - So. - 32 receptions, 546 yards, 2 TDs
Cameron Posey - So. - 26 receptions, 297 yards, 3 TDs
Danny Anthrop - Jr. - 18 receptions, 338 yards, 3 TDs. 60 yards, 1 TD rushing
B.J. Knauf - So. - 14 receptions, 136 yards, 1 TD. 96 yards, 1 TD rushing
Gabe Holmes (TE) - Sr. - 46 receptions, 374 yards, 3 TDs
Those six guys don't have earth-shattering numbers, but considering that three are sophomores, Purdue is in a good position to have some solid production for many years to come. Both Yancey and Posey have been bigger outside receivers than we're used to having and Etling seemed to develop a rapport with both of them as the season went on. Yancey especially had some good games with three 100-yard receiving outings against Northern Illinois, Nebraska, and Indiana. Those games accounted for 23 of his 32 receptions during his freshman season.
Another steady, and often overlooked reaction, is Justin Sinz. When Gabe Holmes was lost after two games due to a wrist injury last year Purdue needed a tight end to step up. He ended up leading Purdue in receptions with 41 and touchdowns with four. He was as close to reliable as anything in the offense was last year. He is back, along with Holmes, so Purdue has a couple of good underneath options and safety valves for when the quarterback is under pressure.
As we know, the quarterback was on the run from defenders quite a bit last year. That's probably why Sinz was such a reliable option. Knauf did some of his best work underneath as well, but he has been hampered by injuries and suspension. He at least has the look of being a Vinny Sutherland-type of slot receiver that relies on speed.
Shane Mikesky - Jr. - 19 receptions, 191 yards, 0 TD
Dolapo Macarthy (TE) - Sr. - 29 receptions, 258 yards, 1 TD
Charles Torwudzo (TE) - Sr. - 2 receptions, 19 yards
Dan Monteroso - So. - 1 rush for -1 yards
Bilal Marshall - So. - 1 pass attempt
Carlos Carvajal (TE) - So. - 1 ACL tear
Both of these players are top reserves that can have a surprising game or two in them. Macarthy had a big second half of 2012 as a receiver before falling off the map last year. He is now listed as a tight end, but will probably be more of a reserve behind Holmes and Sinz. The same is true for Torwudzo, who is also a move over from receiver.
The problem with that is Purdue's top four tight ends are all seniors. Someone needs to play, a tleast a little, if only to have some experience in 2015.
As for Mikesky, the former state track champion in the hurdles is a tall, fast receiver that can be used as a deep threat if there is ever time for the quarterback to throw. Outside of freshman walk-on Alex Egurbide, Mikesky is the tallest player listed at wide receiver. With his speed he could see more action and last year he did have 17 receptions.
Marshall and Monteroso are both interesting prospects. Monteroso played in five games last season and even had a very good fall camp, but never caught a pass and only had a single carry. He is another tall, outside receiver. Marshall is a former quarterback, one of the four that came in in a single class. His move to receiver has seen him buried on the depth chart, but he did play in seven games and even attempted a pass on a trick play.
Finally, we have Carvajal, who despite being a 4-star recruit he has done absolutely nothing in two years at Purdue. In fact, he tore his ACL in March and may miss most of the season.
Myles Norwood (RS)
Cole Herdman (TE)
Matt Burke (TE) (RS)
Hart has slot receiver all over him and put up huge numbers for his small, private high school that won a Texas state championship. In 2012 he caught 108 passes for 2,044 yards and 29 touchdowns. Last year he had 54 receptions for 1,064 yards and 14 TDs, plus nine other touchdowns via rushing, defense, or returns. His team went 14-0 and won the private school state championships.
Norwood is another small Texas receiver that put up big numbers for a small Texas private school. Phillips has gotten some solid press early in camp, but can he earn playing time with so much experience ahead of him?
I don't know a whole lot about the freshman tight ends, but I expect they will get a lot of practice reps as they prepare to be contributors in 2015.
There is a lot of experience and talent here. Austin Appleby and Danny Etling may be locked in a quarterback battle, but the winner will have plenty of targets. Even better, the targets will be young. Yancey, Posey, and Knauf could all three be four-year starters along with Etling. Big years for them in 2014 meant hat Purdue could be flat out dangerous in 2015 or 2016.
The question, as always, is the offensive line. Etling was the most sacked quarterback in the Big Ten last year. If he doesn't have time to throw to all these receivers it won't matter who is out there. The key unit will be discussed tomorrow in more depth.