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Purdue Football Spring Report
by Tom Stryker - 05/03/2006
tâ€™s only May, but you might want to start studying now, because there are a whole bunch of new things to be seen when Purdue football camp opens later this summer.
Fresh off last Saturdayâ€™s annual spring game, the Boilers have plenty to prove.
You have to remember last preseason when Purdue was judged to have as attractive a Big Ten schedule as anyone in the league. You have to remember that Coach Joe Tiller had eight straight winning seasons in West Lafayette. You have to remember that the Boilers had all 11 starters back from one of the Big Tenâ€™s best defenses the previous year.
The Boilers promptly went 5-6 and the steam was quickly erased from the Purdue engine.
Looking back, both returning Purdue players and returning coaches point to â€œcancersâ€쳌 among players and coaches alike as the cause for all the 2005 problems. Among those were: Bad chemistry, selfishness and players who simply werenâ€™t coachable. The end result confirms those suspicions.
You may need a scorecard to identify new players and new coaches when fall, 2006 rolls around. Tiller has five new assistants, recruited about a half-dozen junior college transfers and heâ€™s working hard on bringing back the attitude that made Purdue a league contender under Drew Brees, Kyle Orton & their companies.
But there is plenty of familiar talent back in the fold and anxious for September.
Junior quarterback Curtis Painter, who became the starter about one third into last season, is back again. He performed well in the spring game, completing 18 of 30 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. For the record, Painterâ€™s Black team beat their Gold counterparts, 23-17.
Remember Dorien Bryant. The flashy running back/receiver will return. Bryant ran for 36 yards and caught six passes for 93 more in the spring game. Those two will be the go-to guys on the offensive side of things this fall for Purdue.
Defensively, much has to change, and Tiller had to smile when his Black defense turned the ball over on downs on two of the final four Gold drives during the spring game.
Linebackers Dan Bick and Andy Deeds looked like they were ready for September, each registering nine tackles last Saturday.
There was a change in the Purdue offense last fall - a move away from the wide open throttle that Brees and Orton used to pull. The attack was more balanced and more of the same may be in store for this fall. In fact, the Boilers gained 276 yards on the ground in the spring game. Anthony Heygood led the Black team with 96 yards on 19 carries.
Running back Jaycen Taylor and cornerback Aaron Lane were award-winning newcomers during spring drills - a couple of new names to look for in the fall. Defensive end Anthony Spencer was judged the outstanding hitter of spring and tight end Jerry Wasikowski and cornerback Brandon King received most improved honors.
After just one losing season, the change in mood and tenor around West Lafayette was obvious this spring. Returning players seem to have bought into Tillerâ€™s plea for teamwork and trusting your teammates - ingredients even he admitted were sorely lacking last year. Purdue never gets the kind of talent that Michigan and Ohio State get annually, but Tillerâ€™s system produced plenty of victories in his first eight seasons with the Boilers. Itâ€™s easy to see why his shots are called and listened to this spring. No one in Boiler land enjoyed 2005 - most seem committed to reverting to the winning ways of previous seasons.
There is enough talent at the skilled positions to threaten any Big Ten defense. And there is a renewed resolve along the defensive side - the biggest letdowns a season ago.
Purdue opens with four straight home games (Sept. 2 is the first against Indiana State) before traveling to South Bend and playing Notre Dame in week 5.