Summer Snapshot '11: Purdue Boilermakers

The Boilers return to the schedule this season. So we take a look at them today.

Yes, THAT Drew Brees.

The Past Few Seasons…

Say what you want about which team brought the spread offense to the Big Ten. But there is really no debate. Under Joe Tiller, no team in the Big Ten had ever quite spread the ball like Purdue. Three hundred yards through the air was pretty much the norm in West Lafayette, never more fun to watch than when Drew “Super Bowl MVP” Brees was taking the snaps. Four and five receivers, bubble screens, forcing defenses to cover more space than ever before. This wasn’t three yards and a cloud of dust. Far from it.

Tiller made an immediate impact, leading Purdue to 33 wins and a Rose Bowl berth in his first four years on campus. Purdue had been to five bowl games in the 110 years of football before 1997. In the 12 years under Tiller, the Boilers earned 10 bowl bids. It was an unprecedented run for the Gold and Black. But the initial success by Tiller began to fade somewhat as the Big Ten adjusted to Purdue’s style of football. The spread offense was becoming more common, so opponents didn’t have just one week per season to practice against it.

The first losing season came in 2005, when many were calling for Purdue to win the Big Ten with all 11 starters back on defense and an offense that everyone expected to simply reload after losing Kyle Orton to the NFL. It was a disappointment, as the Boilers went 5-6 after reaching No. 11 in the polls in September. Tiller still had one last push left in him after ’05. Purdue won 16 games the next two seasons. But it was clear that Tiller was nearing his exit. After the worst season under Tiller’s guidance–a 4-8 record in 2008–the man who thrust Purdue into national prominence stepped aside.

Danny Hope (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Danny Hope was named the successor before the ’08 season, so the transition was smooth, much smoother than Hope’s first two seasons in charge. In 2009, Purdue went 5-7, losing five of its first six games, including at home to Northern Illinois. The Boilermakers did shock the world beating Ohio State in Ross-Ade Stadium, going on to win four of the final six games. That momentum carried over to 2010, but couldn’t sustain itself past mid-season.

Last year, Purdue lost a bad one at home to Toledo in week four. But 4-2 wasn’t a terrible place to be, until that is, Purdue went on to lose all six remaining games, four of them by double-digits. After such a promising ending to season one, season two didn’t go quite as the Purdue faithful had “Hope’d.”

What to Look For in 2011…

Purdue should scare the crap out of every team on its schedule this year. Yes, I’m aware that the Boilers have to play Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. But Purdue returns seven starters on offense, and nine on defense. Those starters include both starting quarterbacks, a 2009 All-Big Ten running back, four offensive linemen, and pretty much the entire defense. Aside from one major star lost–DE Ryan Kerrigan to the NFL–this year’s Purdue team returns nearly in-tact.

The defense should be stronger than it was last year, but might not have the flash it did with Kerrigan tearing apart opposing offenses. Experience will be the key here, led by all four top tacklers returning–Logan Link, Dwayne Beckford, Joe Holland and Ricardo Allen. All of those players are in the back seven, which should help a defensive line that will miss its best player. The secondary is the only unit on the team that returns all of its starters, so Purdue should have little trouble defending even the best passing attacks.

On offense, Rob Henry returns to direct the unit at quarterback. But should he not work out, another returning starter is ready and waiting to get back into the game. Robert Marve transferred from Miami, FL, and was expected to be the quarterback Purdue needed. But he tore his ACL in week two. Taking the handoffs should be another returning ACL victim, Ralph Bolden, a 2nd Team All-Big Ten running back in 2009. With four starters on the offensive line back this season, there’s no reason to expect anything less than a much improved offense.

As for the schedule, it’s all about getting through the non-conference schedule and Big Ten opener 4-1 or better. It’s a possibility, with Notre Dame a hot team coming into this season but definitely beatable early in the season. But the new divisional alignment hands Purdue a tough slate, with Wisconsin and Ohio State looming later in the year. Penn State and Illinois are going to be tough outings, but both of those teams face uncertainty after mediocre seasons in 2010. The best-case scenario for Purdue this year looks to be around 9-3. The worst-case falls near 5-7.

09-03-2011Middle Tennessee StateWest Lafayette, IN
09-10-2011RiceHouston, TX
09-17-2011SW Missouri State (FCS)West Lafayette, IN
10-01-2011Notre DameWest Lafayette, IN
10-08-2011MinnesotaWest Lafayette, IN
10-15-2011Penn StateUniversity Park, PA
10-22-2011IllinoisWest Lafayette, IN
10-29-2011MichiganAnn Arbor, MI
11-05-2011WisconsinMadison, WI
11-12-2011Ohio StateWest Lafayette, IN
11-19-2011IowaWest Lafayette, IN
11-26-2011IndianaBloomington, IN
Indianapolis, INB1G Championship Game
Season Totals

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