I'll just walk you through the positions (thanks LawBuck) so you know why I'm right here. While questions remain at quarterback, Purdue might lose multi-talented star Ralph Bolden for the year, making the backfield full of question marks. The O-line will have to replace three starters off a pretty decent 2009 unit. On the other side of the ball, Purdue's erratic and oft-overran defense will be without DT Mike Neal and almost all of the graduated secondary. The linebackers, although scrappy and experienced, haven't fortified the middle of the Boilermaker defense like a solid LB corp should in '08 or 09.
So in the discussion of strong units, I am left to discuss the young men who will be catching the ball. It's a simple discussion that starts with...
6'2'' and 226 lbs of pure space-finding wide receiver, Smith broke out in a big way last year to grab 1st Team All-Big Ten honors. So what if he has a huge cast on his arm/hand this offseason? His tremendous value was proven over and over again last year while picking up 91 catches for 1100 yards. His connection with Joey Elliot was so strong you'd have thought they met on E-Harmony....ohhh yeah, been waiting to use that one.
What does he bring to the table? Solid hands, wonderful route running ability, and most importantly, the ability to pivot and juke himself into free spaces. I know his YPC isn't off the charts, but that's the product of the offense. Smith is more than a possession receiver. Whether it was comeback routes on the sidelines or simple Basketball on Grass slants, Smith proved himself to be the complete package at wide receiver. Every Boiler fan will remember the key drives when he would accumulate 3-4 catches, helping slowly move the Purdue offense down the field.
Not to go all Mel Kiper on you, but this guy has intangibles like leadership and hard work oozing out of his personality and on-field performance. Told he was going to be a workhorse in 2009, Smith lost 20 pounds and gained quickness. Asked about his role during this offseason, the injured Smith referred to himself as an assistant coach and praised the other Purdue wide receivers. And if Smith was able to develop such amazing chemistry so quickly with Elliot, I have no doubt he'll be able to do the same with Marve and/or Caleb TerBush.
He played high school running back, I believe, which would explain why his play in 2009 was slightly erratic. Prone to drop passes thrown into the numbers, Carlos surprised many by catching a ton of short sit down routes and piling up 21 catches in only 9 games played. Unfortunately, Bolden's injury has pushed Carlos back into the backfield, but don't despair...there is a silver lining. No team throws the ball to it's running back better than Purdue. Bolden and Jaycen Taylor combined for 40 catches and almost 400 yards receiving last year. Tiller-Ball, now Hope-Ball, makes it easy for a QB to find his RB in the passing game. Elliot dumped the ball off fluidly and even found his backs for long gains using the "roll one way, throw back the other way to the streaking RB who everyone forgot" play. So this aspect can only be helped by having a solid pair of hands like Carlos coming out of the backfield.
As Hope breaks in new quarterbacks, running backs, and offensive lineman, it must be of some comfort to have a 30 catch tight end returning. Don't confuse him with Dustin Keller, the Purdue product whose otherworldly athleticism and glue hands have forged him into a stud NFL player. And although tight end isn't a vocal point of any Purdue offense, Adams' Boy Scout personality and experience with the offense has to be of some comfort to Danny Hope.
This from the vaunted TRE boards:
Not only does Purdue have Marve, but we have talented and capable back-ups behind him. At receiver, we will have more talent and depth then we’ve had in the last 20 years. Beyond Smith Purdue has a stable of athletic and talented young Florida guys who be a threat to score every time they touch the ball. This could be a year when we throw the ball 40-60 times a game.
And this from the Hammer and Nails Spring update:
Receivers - With Keith Smith out and Keith Carlos moved to running back, several of the young guns are getting a chance to play. Xavier Reese had a great Friday scrimmage, but fumbled. Gary Bush had a great game on Wednesday. Cortez Smith had a good Friday scrimmage as well. Keith Smith is an unquestioned starter. Cortez Smith was great in the last three games last year. It seems like Bush and Reese are making a move now, but we still have O.J. Ross and the Mainland guys coming in the fall.
Big time Florida recruits??!! Electric returnees like Cortez Smith? It's all a testament to the obvious excitement generated by the Purdue receivers in 2010.
MONDAY: Spring Field Guide
TUESDAY: Purdue's Greatest Strength
WEDNESDAY: Purdue's Greatest Weakness
THURSDAY: MVP Profile
FRIDAY: Keeping the Enemy Close - Rival Blogger Interview
More Big Ten 2010...
Indiana | Michigan | Illinois | Minnesota