I know everyone is excited about the 2019 recruiting class hitting campus (and rightfully so) but I thought it would be interesting to look at the guys already on the roster and predict a break out player for each position group.
The general rules (which I reserve the right to break at any time) for these articles are that a player can’t be a freshman or a premier returning player (basically I’m not going with Rondale Moore as a break out wide receiver).
I’m looking for guys that have paid their dues, hung out on the roster, and waited for their opportunity to shine. Talented freshman are great, but for program stability you need older guys to step and give the youngsters time to acclimate. If you’re constantly recruiting over guys, it either means you missed on your evaluation or have been negligent in your player development.
I’m starting with Tario Fuller at the running back because I’ve been capping for him since he signed with the Hazell staff in the 2015 class out of Lanier High School in Buford, Georgia. For all the other problems, Hazell and crew did a decent job of finding talented running backs, even though they had a hard time figuring out how to deploy them once they made it onto campus.
Tario Fuller - 6’0, 200 - 5th Year Senior
Freshman - Redshirt
RS Freshman - 10 carries for 30 yards - 5 receptions for 51 yards
RS Sophomore - 43 carries for 261 yards and 2 TDs - 5 receptions for 37 yards
RS Junior - 14 carries for 34 yards - 5 receptions for 45 yards
The Roman Philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” and Tario finds himself in a lucky situation this season.
He’s the only back on the roster with a start, in fact, he’s the only healthy scholarship back (or at least the only healthy back that started with a scholarship) left on the roster until reinforcements arrive in fall camp. Tario has spent four years preparing for this opportunity and now is his time to shine.
Fuller brings all the physical skills to the table. He’s big enough to drop a shoulder and level a linebacker or defensive back and he’s fast enough to go the distance if he gets an opening. He’s got soft hands and can pull in swing passes out of the backfield. I thought he was going to get more run last year, but Knox and Jones stepped up and there wasn’t enough carries to go around.
In case you forgot what Tario brings to the table; here are a few clips from his Sophomore season.
Tario chopping up the Ohio Bobcats in a crucial game
Fuller abusing a Bobcat for the first down
Fuller breaks off a 35 yard touchdown against Missouri with ease.
Tario in the screen game
Tario running hard
Why has he had such a weird career?
Fuller has one of the strangest career arcs you’ll find in college football.
He was an afterthought in the Hazell offense as a redshirt freshman, picking up a few garbage time carries. He looked like the third choice back in his recruiting class behind Markell Jones and Richie Worship. Hazell and company tended to play as few guys as possible for some perplexing reason, so I was worried you might never hear from Tario again.
When the Brohm staff came to Purdue, Fuller ended up being the surprise starter at running back as a redshirt sophomore. As you can see from the above clips, he put up 2 outstanding performances in the first 3 games before his season ended with a broken ankle on a meaningless run at the end of the Missouri game. It appeared that Fuller had a firm grasp on the starting position before his injury.
I expected to see Fuller featured in the running game last year, but he couldn’t get on the field. I’m not sure if his ankle was still bothering him, he was being outworked in practice, or Brohm was more comfortable with his more experienced backs, but Fuller was an afterthought in the Purdue running attack. Fuller not playing was one of the more surprising personnel in the 2018 season.
Now with the graduation of Jones and Knox, Fuller finds himself back on top of the depth chart by default. He’s going to have to fight off some young guns like King Doerue and Da’Joun Hewitt to keep the top spot in the rotation (I see Horvath and Armour as more situational backs), but I would be shocked if he isn’t the starting running back at the start of the 2019 season.
Purdue desperately needs the 2017 version of Fuller next year to take some pressure off of a pieced together offensive line. The Boilermaker offense works better when the running game is complimenting the passing game. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Fuller will be the first 1,000 yard rusher in the Brohm era. If Fuller can put it all together in his final campaign, I think he has a legitimate shot to be on one of the All-Big10 teams at the end of the season.
It’s now or never for Tario’s football career.
My money is on now.