Did the Purdue offense falter last season because of inconsistent quarterback play or because the receivers didn't have much talent? It is probably a little of both. For the second straight season there was a mid-year quarterback change that had mixed results. Also in midseason Purdue lost two very dynamic receivers to injury in Danny Anthrop and B.J. Knauf. When you had that DeAngelo Yancey and Cameron Posey both had a lackluster sophomore season it is no wonder that the passing game was abyssmal in the final two games. Appleby struggled to throw and the receivers he did hit couldn't catch the clap from a Thai hooker.
So where does that put Purdue going into 2015? Well, Anthrop is a proven receiver and a possible all-Big Ten candidate. As for everyone else... well, there are gigantic question marks. The group has some talent and there is hope for production there, but like everything else with this team, there are doubts until that production is seen.
The Definite Starter:
Danny Anthrop - Sr.
Career stats: 56 receptions, 954 yards, 7 TDs. 70 yards rushing, 1 TD.
Anthrop has had an interesting development path in his career. As a freshman in 2012 he had more rushes (7) that receptions (1), but had a touchdown each way. In each of the last two years he has had an 80 yard TD reception that showcases his big play ability. He was Purdue's most prolific receiver by far last season before sustaining a major knee injury that cost him the last 3 games of the year. He has also been used as a kick and punt returner at times.
His injury last year showed just how little depth Purdue had at the receiver position. In a three game stretch against Illinois, Michigan State, and Minnesota Purdue averaged over 34 points per game and Anthrop had 16 receptions for 299 yards and two scores. After getting hurt against Nebraska Purdue scored only 60 points TOTAL in the final four games.
So how healthy is Anthrop? Reportedly the surgery was for more than a torn ACL. Also, we saw just how much Cameron Posey was affected by his own injury and surgery last season. Regardless of how healthy Anthrop is Purdue needs someone else to step up. Even if Anthrop has a 100-1000-10 season or somewhere in that range the offense will not get better unless other receivers emerge. If the injury bothers him more then Purdue needs even more production elsewhere.
DeAngelo Yancey - Jr.
Career stats: 44 receptions, 693 yards, 5 TDs
Cameron Posey - Jr.
Career stats: 45 receptions, 485 yards, 4 TDs
Both Yancey and Posey had promising freshman seasons in 2013 during what was an otherwise dismal year. They were true freshmen that were among the few players that could reliably move the football that year. Both virtually disappeared from the offense in 2014.
Yancey in particular had a disappointing year. After having three 100-yard receiving games in 2013 he barely had 100 yards for the season in 2014. Over the final seven games of 2014 he had just five receptions total. He admitted that he was reading his own press a little, but he, like many Purdue receivers, remained stuck to defenders like a difficult plastic trash bag remains stuck together as your try to open it.
As mentioned above, Posey was feeling the effects of a torn ACL in the previous spring, so he was somewhat limited. Yancey had no such injury. He simply sucked, and he has to get better.
Gregory Phillips - So.
Career stats: 10 receptions, 151 yards
Bilal Marshall - Jr.
Career stats: 1 pass attempt, no receptions
Anthony Mahoungou - So.
Career stats: JuCo transfer
Domonique Young - Jr.
Career stats: JuCo Transfer
Trae Hart - So.
Career stats: 9 receptions, 80 yards
Phillips had the best game of his young career against Northwestern last year when he had 4 catches for 69 yards. Hart did not play much until late, but had six receptions for 29 yards in the final two games. Young and Mahoungou were brought in to play immediately, but they must separate themselves from everyone else here. Both are big, strong outside receivers at 6'3" that should have a physical edge on corners.
As for Marshall, he has had supposedly the best spring and summer and could vault into a starting role. He came to Purdue as a quarterback in Danny Hope's recruiting class of all quarterbacks, but has played little in three years (one of them being a redshirt year).
Shane Mikesky - Sr.
Career stats: 19 receptions, 191 yards
Alex Hilger - Fr. (RS)
Jarrett Burgess - Fr.
Malcolm Dotson - Fr.
Dan Monteroso - Jr.
Career stats: 1 reception, 4 yards
Myles Norwood - So.
Career stats: 2 games played
Keenan Schon - So.
This is mixed bag here. Hilger, Dotson, Schon, and Burgess are all walk-ons so I don't expect a ton, except that Burgess is an interesting case. He is a 25 year old former pro baseball player that hasn't played organized football in over a decade, but is still good enough that he was able to earn a roster spot and is even getting some looks here in fall camp. He is, quite literally, out of left field.
Mikesky is a player I have always had high hopes for because of his track speed, but he didn't catch a pass at all last year and appears to be passed on the depth chart by a lot of players. Ah well. At least he will be an extra guy on scholarship for track. He could still likely play in a pinch as one of the more experienced guys. Monteroso has become the latest Gabe Holmes in that he must be fantastic for all the press he gets in practice, but has done little on the field.
Jordan Jurasevich - Sr.
Career stats: 1 reception, 2 yards
Cole Herdman - Fr. (RS)
Matt Burke - So.
Micah Budzinski - So.
Jess Trussell - Fr.
Brycen Hopkins - Fr.
Jonathan Curry - Jr.
As you can see, the first pass that a tight end catches in 2015 will likely make that player the most experienced on the roster. As a result Purdue is expected to run more sets with 4 WRs if they are going to have pass catchers out there. Jurasevich is more of a blocking TE and Curry is reportedly in line to be more of a short yardage fullback and lead blocker. That leaves Herdman, who is currently getting first team reps, as the best option. Purdue is not just thin at tight end, it is anorexic.
Trussell and Hopkins could very well play as true freshmen. Hopkins looks like he has a lot of promise, but he is still a freshman.
There are some pieces here, but Purdue's pass catchers are probably the biggest question mark on the team aside from quarterback. It is no wonder that expectations are low because there is a question as to whether Purdue will have an effective passing game or not. We don't know if we have a quarterback and we only have one proven receiver, who is coming off of a major injury.
If all goes well then Austin Appleby or David Blough seizes the QB position. Blough plays like a freshman Drew Brees or Kyle Orton while Appleby elevates to Billy Dicken or Joey Elliott. Because of that, Yancey, Posey, and Anthrop have three great seasons and the offense is surprisingly potent. Do I believe this can happen? Absolutely!
If all goes poorly then Anthrop is slowed by injury, while Posey and Yancey revert to 2014 form. Also, Appleby starts, is ineffective, and gives way to Blough, who struggles as a freshman. Do I believe this can happen? Absolutely!