Head Coach: Danny Hope
2011 Record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 Big Ten Leaders
2011 Bowl Result: Beat Western Michigan 37-32 in Little Caesars Bowl
Odds to win Big Ten Leaders Division Title: 8/1
Odds to win Big Ten Championship Game: 30/1
All Odds Courtesy of Bovada
Last Season, Purdue had a forgettable 7-6 season, under coach Danny Hope. Apart from upsets over Illinois and Ohio St, nothing really stood out last season. The Boilermakers were upset by Rice early in the season, and ended the season with a 37-32 win over Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl.
Purdue could be better this season as most of the offense returns except on the line. Who knows, with Penn St and Ohio St on probation and not eligible for the postseason or the Big Ten Championship game, Purdue could make a run at the Leaders division title. Let’s be clear though, Wisconsin is the clear favorite in this division.
Last year, Purdue was 33rd nationally in rushing averaging almost 182 yards a game. The Boilermakers scored 26.9 points per game, under offensive coordinator Gary Nord.
Depth at quarterback will not be an issue for the Boilermakers, as they have three players with significant starting experience. Senior Caleb TerBush completed 61.7% of his passes last year for 1,905 yards, with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also had 83 carries for 219 yards and a rushing touchdown. He was sacked 22 times last year. Sixth year senior Robert Marve was 61/109 (56%) for 633 yards with 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, and also added a rushing touchdown. He has had 2 ACL surgeries in his career. Junior Rob Henry missed all of last season with an ACL injury of his own. He was the starter in 2010 when Marve was out. He completed 53.1% of his passes for 996 yards with 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He also did damage with his legs as he had 104 carries, 547 yards, and 4 touchdowns.
As of this writing, it wasn’t decided who would be the starter. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. TerBush is the most steady of the three. He won’t make many big plays down the field but he also won’t make many crucial mistakes either. Henry is more of a run first quarterback, but can throw it when necessary. Marve makes some plays where you wonder why he isn’t the full time starter, but then will do something reckless on the next play like throwing into quadruple coverage. Some combination of two or even all three will see action this season. The Boilermakers will also use some wildcat formations with 2 quarterbacks on the field at the same time.
The top three running backs return for Purdue. Ralph Bolden had 148 carries for 674 yards and 6 touchdowns, and also caught 13 passes for 129 yards. His status is uncertain though after an April arrest, and a knee injury that kept him out of the bowl game for Purdue. Akeem Shavers had 111 carries for 519 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with a touchdown catch. Shavers rushed for 149 yards in the bowl win over Western Michigan. Akeem Hunt had 33 carries for 287 yards, and 2 touchdowns. With those three and quarterbacks TerBush & Henry, the running game should still be one of the best in the conference.
The leading receiver will again be Antavian Edison, who had 44 catches, 584 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He also rushed for 124 yards on 22 carries with 2 touchdowns. He had some legal issues with weapons charges but they were dropped in May. O.J. Ross had 33 catches, 356 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Gary Bush had 29 catches, 310 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. The tight ends will be led by Crosby Wright (16 catches, 223 yards, and 2 touchdowns) and Gabe Holmes (11 catches, 133 yards, and a touchdown.) Raheem Mostert was a fantastic kick returner last year, but wasn’t used much in the passing game. He did have two rushing touchdowns though. Expect him to get more targets in the passing game.
Purdue was able to have a good running game despite an offensive line that struggled at times at both run blocking and pass protection. The line loses 3 starters to graduation, but really can’t get much worse. The line will be anchored by junior right tackle Justin Kitchens.
Last season, apart from the line, the Purdue defense struggled. They were 63rd against the run and 81st against the pass, and allowed 26.8 points per game. Defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel was fired and replaced by Tim Tibesar, whose last job was defensive coordinator for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. He looks to install a 3-4 defense, but this year might use multiple sets to confuse opponents because, honestly, Purdue doesn’t have a lot of depth at linebacker.
The defensive line will be led by tackle Kawann Short who had 17 tackles for loss last year, including 6.5 sacks. He will be a future first round NFL draft pick barring injury. The move to a 3-4 could be risky because tackle Bruce Gaston will have nowhere to play despite having 7 tackles for loss and 3 sacks last year. Sophomore end Ryan Russell is a star in the making after he forced 3 fumbles and had 4.5 tackles for loss last year. Brandon Taylor, Robert Maci, Jalani Phillips, and Ryan Issac will also be in the end rotation.
The linebacking corps was given a boost when middle linebacker Dwayne Beckford was reinstated after being kicked off the team after a DUI arrest. He was the second leading tackler for the Boilermakers last year. Outside linebacker Will Lucas had 82 tackles last year including 10 for loss. Joe Gilliam, Maci, and Sean Robinson will also get some time at linebacker.
Cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson return for Purdue. They had to make way too many tackles last year. (Allen had 81 tackles and Johnson made 64 last year.) The two combined for 5 interceptions and broke up 13 passes. Both safeties do need to be replaced though. Max Charlot, Landon Feichter, Normondo Harris, and E.J. Johnson will compete for the two safety spots. Charlot (strong) and Harris (free) look to be the favorites
Purdue must replace kicker Carson Wiggs who made 34 of 44 field goals over the last two years. Freshman Paul Griggs was one of the most coveted kicker recruits in the country. He made a 57 yard kick in high school, but Wiggs will be tough to replace.
Punter Cody Webster averaged 42.9 yards per punt last year. He was second team All-Big Ten last year.
Raheem Mostert became arguably the best kick returner in the nation last year as a freshman. He averaged over 33 yards per return with 3 touchdowns. Mostert will compete for the punt return job with cornerback Will Allen.
Purdue opens with 5 of the first 6 at home. The only road game is at Notre Dame. The Boilermakers have home games against Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Marshall, Michigan, and Wisconsin in that stretch. Next up is a two game road trip to Ohio St and Minnesota. The Boilermakers host Penn St before traveling to Iowa and Illinois. They close at home against rival Indiana. That is 7 teams that went to a bowl last year.
Purdue will likely be 3-3 after the first six games. That means they need 3 wins in their last 6 to go back to a bowl. Minnesota and Indiana are projected to be the Big Ten bottom feeders so that is two pretty good chances right there. Then, that would mean Purdue would just have to pull a mild upset over Penn St, Iowa and Illinois. I think 6 or 7 wins is very realistic, and another bowl bid.
Our college football picks are available now from our handicapping experts.