Everybody watch your ACLs.....it's Purdue Potluck time.
Iowa's Most Hated Rival (thanks to Jim Delany) had a roller-coaster 2011 season -- a loss to Rice, a win over Ohio State, a bowl win, a contract extension for Coach Danny Hope....it was a fairly eventful year in West Lafayette.
So what better way to celebrate than with a Boilermaker (whiskey chased by beer) themed Potluck? (Feel free to follow the dish links to actual recipes). Follow the OTE writers and special guest BoilerTMill from Purdue's SB Nation site Hammer and Rails below the jump for 4800+ words on the red-headed step-children of football, the three-headed CaRobRob MaHenBush monster, contract extensions, another edition of the annual "how bad does MSULaxer27 think Purdue is going to be" game, and how to improve our favorite teams' mascots/colors/logos....
We all know what happens next.....SNAP. Sobs. Tears ACL.
1. Beer Battered Onion Rings: Special teams are the red-headed step-children of football -- easy to overlook or ignore, but they can occasionally murder you in your sleep and/or save you from a burning building. (That's what red-headed step-children do, right? Or am I just irrationally wary of gingers?) Purdue's special teams embodied this perfectly last year: having a game winning FG blocked against Rice; blocking an extra point against Ohio State to get a much-needed (for bowl eligibility) win; Raheem Mostert led all FBS with an average of over 33 yards per kickoff return; and in the Pizza Pizza Bowl versus Western Michigan special teams stole the spotlight -- Mostert had a 99 yard kickoff return for a TD, Carson Wiggs kicked three FGs (including one 49 yarder), and Purdue recovered two onside kicks. Can Purdue's success on special teams (Rice notwithstanding) continue in 2012? Or is the departure of Carson Wiggs going to hurt the Boilermakers? And how does a team/coaching staff (like Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech) develop consistent success in the special teams area?
Ted Glover: Wiggs was probably the best kicker you've never heard of, and replacing him will be difficult to do. Kickers, for whatever reason, aren't nearly as good at the collegiate level as they are in the NFL, and a good one is very tough to replace, yet so important. That's going to be a bigger issue than a lot of people care to think right now, but hopefully whoever wins the job can step up. Special teams is only good if the head coach emphasizes it, and we have two recent examples in both directions. Jim Tressel preached that the punt was the most important play in football, and one of the hallmarks of his legacy is that OSU had stellar special teams while he was there. On the flipside was Rich Rodriguez, who eschewed special teams in a way I had never witnessed at the major college level. In his last season Michigan's kickers were a horrid 4 of 13 in FG attempts. Hope's teams stress it, and a huge play on special teams can change the mometum of a game in an instant -- look no further than Purdue-OSU last season. And for Purdue, special teams can help be a great equalizer when they are an underdog, which will happen enough in conference play this year.
KennardHusker: I freaking loved the Pizza Bowl. Of all the inane early bowls, that bowl kept things fun the whole time (or at least for the better part of the whole time). I mentioned this in the comments section, but I think if a coach spends time perfecting special teams, he can really make a difference on the field. Give Hope and Company an inch, they'll take a mile (or something like that). With the kickoffs moving up, I have zero idea how the return game will be affected. I'm under the impression that coaches are going to go for the pooch kicks with less distance to hit someone approach, so returns will go down, but it could also go the NFL route where returners say, "eff it," and take it out from 8 yards deep and still get TD's. Sorry, what was the actual question here? Oh right, success, special teams, consistency. Sure, why not? Beamer has done it for years, and if you practice it, you'll be good at it. The SEC is still working on that one.
BabaOReally: I would be surprised if Purdue's success on special teams continues into 2012. The new kickoff rules will negate most of the advantages of having a solid kickoff return game. Purdue will also have a new kicker next year, as Carson Wiggs won't be back. It sounds like Paul Griggs, a freshman will be the man in 2012. Even if he is good, I doubt he will be Wiggs' equal in his first year kicking on a relatively big stage. I don't know the secrets to building a consistently good special teams unit, but I would think devoting a lot of practice time to special teams would be a step in the right direction.
Jonathan Franz: The tired meme we're used to hearing about special teams is that they're an "overlooked" phase of the game. I'm no coach, but I have a hard time believing that a notorious group of control freaks routinely leave a 1/3 of their preparations to chance. I think the real reason that special teams take a back seat in our collective consciousness is that they represent parts of the game that are (traditionally) the farthest removed from the scoreboard. Blistering punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns and blocked kicks notwithstanding, we tend to identify better with offense and defense because there's a clear measure of success or failure on each and every series. Special teams results are often harder to quantify, and accordingly, easier to forget. But wait -- you might protest -- Coach X doesn't put his first-teamers on kickoff coverage, surely this proves he doesn't care as much about special teams. No. It just proves he's risk adverse and doesn't want to put his stars in harm's way any more than he has to. It's a strategic sport. Everything is calculated.
But I digress. The reason I mention this is because I believe, like anything else, good special teams are a product of sound coaching, superior talent, and a little bit of luck. I can't predict which way the ball will bounce for the Boilermakers in 2012, but I do know that the loss of Carson Wiggs (like any impact player) is a sizable obstacle they must overcome.
MSULaxer27: Special teams are one of those marginal areas that can bring great reward if you focus on them. How many times (in college and the pros) have we seen a return man with a great reputation affect the coaching decisions of the other team? Think Devin Hester. Mostert is now a known commodity and will probably see fewer kicks next year. MSU had a similar situation this season with Keshawn Martin, who coming into 2011 had 45 KR for 1070 in his career, nearly a 25 yd. return avg. In 2011, he had two (2!) KR's for 30 yards total. Teams kicked away from him and Nick Hill, a redshirt freshman, gained the majority of the KR yards for MSU this season (and second most in school history). If Purdue is going to replicate their KR magic in 2012 it will probably have to come from the other side of the field when teams kick away from Mostert. Also not to take anything away from Mosterst, but if we delve into his stats last season over half of his return yards (and the TD) came against 3 teams: IU, WMU and Wisconsin (on the bad end of a blowout). Against everyone else he was a little more ordinary. The requirement to replace the kicker is a tough position to find yourself. Kickers are rarely highly ranked or strongly recruited so I would imagine you will see a bit of drop off initially, at least until the new kicker becomes comfortable in the role. I think it's a mindset to develop success in the special teams area, just like any other position, but I do think success breeds success. If Wiggs' replacement is as good as he was then maybe it begins a trend of success in the position and makes Purdue a place where kickers want to go. Again pointing to State, our last three starting kickers have made the league (at least for a minute), that has to help us recruit guys for the position.
2. Whiskey Glazed Sweet Potatoes: It appears that Purdue is heading into 2012 with CaRobRob MaHenBush as their starting quarterback. When you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback. But when you have three (in this case, Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve, and Rob Henry), what do you have? Crippling indecision? An opportunity to play rock/paper/scissors for the QB position with every drive? A chance to infuriate 2/3 of your fanbase at any given moment? How do you see Danny Hope deciding between these three (underwhelming?) choices at quarterback? And since it may have different answers, what's the best decision for Purdue this year at QB vs. going forward for the long-term (remember, Marve is a senior)?
BoilerTMill: TerBush is also a senior, with Henry being a junior. It's a difficult scenario because TerBush has been steady, but lacks the big play ability. Marve can make the big play with his arm or his feet, but he can also force a crippling interception. My personal preference is Marve. He is the highest rated of the three in terms of raw talent., but has never in his career had a chance to showcase it as THE guy. I would like to see us have Henry play a role similar to Justin Siller last year, where Siller was a receiver and occassionally lined up under center in a Wild Siller formation. Henry is more of a runner and we need to find creative ways to get the ball in his hands on the field, but he's also the likely starting quarterback next year unless we go with one of the 2,430 freshmen QB's we're bringing in that will likely redshirt. I think Marve and his big play ability gives us the best chance of pulling an upset or two, but the coaches have been saying TerBush is the starter and played the best in the spring. Who knows what will happen. I hope we simply pick a guy and stick with him, while sprinkling in a Wild Henry play or two for his running ability.
Ted Glover: When you have three quarterbacks, you have a hot mess. That's what you have, and it doesn't allow any guy to step up and become the leader of the team. They're all looking over their shoulder, and become too afraid to make mistakes. When that happens, you start playing not to lose, as opposed to playing to win, and the Boilermakers need to be aggressive if they are going to challenge in the Leaders division. look, all three guys have talent, and I understand that they all eserve a shot, but I think the team would be better off knowing that there is one guy, with two capable backups if the starter goes down.
JDMill: Oh Purdue, your recent quarterback soap opera has been quite a mess. Do you realize that it's been two years since Marve was named the starter at Purdue after his transfer from Miami and then sitting out a season due to the transfer? This guy was good enough to be the starter then, but couldn't stay healthy. He was good enough to be the starter last year, but wasn't yet healed when the team needed him. Time has not been on this guy's side, but by all reports he's healthy heading into the summer, and I have to believe that he will emerge as QB1 for the Boilers this fall.
KennardHusker: Someone needs to photoshop CaRobRob MaHenBush. I mean, it just really needs to happen. I think a three headed monster (in the literal, as in ugly, form) at QB is a terrible idea. At this point, all three seem to be about the same thing. Some upside running the ball, some downside throwing the ball further than eight yards, and a penchant for injury. I think that Hope needs to pick one guy and ride it until that one guy fails miserably. As for who that is, I'll let the Purdue bloggers answer that. They all look like iffy choices in my book.
BabaOReally: I honestly don't know who is the best bet at QB next year. I like the idea of having of a running QB, as Rob Henry was in 2010, but he will be only a year removed from tearing his ACL. Even if he comes back fully healthy and good as new, his passing needs to be better than it was two years ago or he won't be the starting QB. I see Hope using Henry in a similar fashion to the way Northwestern used Kain Colter this year. I doubt Henry will be as effective a WR, but his running could help move the chains and keep the opponent's offense off of the field.
Between TerBush and Marve, I really don't know. Before the 2010 season, Hope couldn't stop talking about Marve. He said he was the most talented QB he'd ever seen or something similar. Then Marve tore his ACL for the second time and he wasn't quite healthy last year. Based on reports, he had a good spring game, but the coaches at this point see TerBush as the #1. TerBush was a decent, but not great QB last year. He was thrust into the starting position when Henry got hurt in August and Marve wasn't quite healthy enough to start the early games. TerBush did a much better job than Marve in not making stupid mistakes, and he improved as the season went along.
I would say the job is up for grabs going into fall practice. I do not want a two-QB system like we had this year. If I were the coaches I would choose a starter for the first game based on performance in practice. The first game is against Eastern Kentucky (an FCS team) so it would be a good game to split in half. Whoever performs better in that game is the starter. Unless the starter plays poorly enough to get the hook, keep him in the game. I don't mind switching QBs if something is not working, but planning on playing two QBs a game is a bad idea.
MSULaxer27: I'm going to be a bit more judicious than last year. I'm not sure how the QB situation will play out for Purdue...I'm not sure I'm much different in this regard than the PU coaching staff or any of their fans. Best-case scenario: The three push each other enough that one stands out (and leaves hope with a couple of change of pace options). The worst-case scenario: Hope can't make up his mind, leaves his QB's to hang in the wind, sniping, and infighting commences destroying all three's confidence and sowing salt in the position for the near future. To be brutally honest, I'm not particularly impressed with any of the three. Marve has battled injuries and clearly hasn't lived up to anyone's expectation. Henry has been injured and has a career line of 11 games, 86 for 162, 8 TD, 7 INT, 966 yds. TerBush hasn't been able to claim the position for his own even though he has had the most opportunity (which may be a function of Hope's coaching acumen or lack thereof).
MUSTACHES RIDES FOR EVERYONE!!!!!
3. Big Bud's Beer Can Chicken: All Hope-related puns aside, last year's 7-6 campaign was a much needed bounce-back for Danny Hope. Indeed, it landed him a two-year contract extension (through December 31, 2016) before their Pizza Pizza Bowl appearance. Purdue certainly has the defensive playmakers to succeed in 2012 (Kawann Short is a NFL first-rounder after this year, and the same could be said about Ricardo Allen at CB), but their 3-headed QB monster, offseason issues (WR Antavian Edison's arrest on a weapons charge, O.J. Ross's grades), and injuries (Ralph Bolden's torn ACL) make the offense a large question mark. Also, looking at the schedule, the home conference schedule is brutal (Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State all come to visit) and even the "winnable" games based solely on expectations seem to be on the road (at Notre Dame, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio State, the latter of whom Purdue has some weird magic over lately). Purdue and Hope could backslide considerably in 2012, even if the team is better. Was the extension for Hope premature? What level of achievement does Hope need to reach to justify that extension in 2012? And, more importantly, how do you see Purdue turning out in 2012?
BoilerTMill: Our weird magic over OSU ends at the Tippecanoe County line, as we haven't won in Columbus since 1988. Also, don't forget Dwayne Beckford's arrest before the bowl game. The Edison arrest is looking more like it was his uncle's gun, not his, but he was driving the car (hence responsible). I think the offense can be decent if we settle on a QB and the Akeems (Hunt and Shavers) continue to show improvement. Akeem Hunt rushed for 100 yards against IU last year, and Akeem Shavers was pretty awesome in the bowl game, but that's against IU and a MAC team.
I am cautiously optimistic that we might sneak into the Big Ten title game. It will take some luck, but OSU is ineligible, Penn State and Illinois just changed coaches and are in disarray, and IU is still IU. That leaves Wisconsin, whom I think is the heavy favorite in the division. If we beat Penn State at home and shock Wisconsin, who knows what will happen. We might slide into the title game at 6-2 or even 5-3 (losing to OSU, Michigan, and Iowa) with some help at that point because of OSU's issues. Sure, it might be through the crawl space instead of the back door, but I'd take it.
Ted Glover: Yeah, but two years isn't a big deal, because his salary isn't so big that they would be hamstrung budget-wise to go get a new guy if they so chose. Since Purdue rallied and got to a bowl last year, I would think that would be the standard this year. Purdue's magic over OSU doesn't extend past the borders of West Lafayette, so I don't see that as a win. And when you look at their schedule, getting bowl eligible isn't impossible, but it's not even close to in the bag, either. I can see them getting as few as 3 wins, but I can also see them getting as many as 6 or 7. Illinois and Minnesota will be better, Indiana is a rivalry game so anything could happen, and they have a lot of questions on offense. Hope has the talent on his roster to beat teams of equal athletic ability (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota) but I'm not sure that he is the smartest guy on either sideline in any of those matchups, either.
JDMill: Don't extensions for college football coaches almost always seem premature? These things get done at least a year ahead of schedule because everybody is so deathly afraid of what kind of impact it will have on recruiting if the coach's future is in limbo. None of it matters, of course, because if Hope craps the bed in 2012... he gone. In fact, if Morgan Burke wants any guidance on this, outgoing Minnesota AD Joel Maturi can give him some advice as Maturi extended both Glen Mason and Tim Brewster just a year before showing each of them the door.
In any case, was Hope's extension premature? Yeah, probably. But there's nothing to say he can't earn it after the fact. If Hope can take the Boilers to another bowl game he'll be given more time. The problem, of course, is that Purdue's schedule isn't necessarily 6-win friendly. The easiest path for PU to get back to a bowl is by winning all 3 of their non-con home games (Marshall, Eastern KY, and Eastern MI), winning 2 out of 3 games against Minny, Illinois & Iowa on the road, and finishing up at home with a win over Indiana.
It's too bad we're putting aside Hope-related puns.
BabaOReally: I don't think the extension was premature, unless there was a substantial increase in his buyout. The buyout is really the only thing that matters in these contracts, as far as I am concerned. I would imagine the extension would help in recruiting, so that incoming freshman would know that their coach would be under contract for their entire collegiate career.
4. Bourbon Balls: The biggest news in West Lafayette lately seems to be the re-branding of Purdue's mascot and logo, with basically every fan hating the new attempts at re-imagining each. Since the fans are the ultimate arbiters of this, tell me what you think about your team's mascot/logo/colors. Would you like to see some changes? What would you change? (For purposes of this exercise, you are dictator and can change your team any way you want).
BoilerTMill: No need to change anything. I am not too upset with the logo, but I think the programs that historically are strong never change their logos. Look at the Yankees. They never change and are one of the most storied teams in sports. Then you have the Miami Marlins....
I am thankful that they went back to the old Pete. If they ever change the Boilermaker Special, however, heads will roll. Fortunately, it received a major overhaul last year that didn't tweak too much of the overall design, and should be fine.
Ted Glover: OSU's colors, mascot, and logo are all timeless, at least to me. Drastic changes will spark a revolution. If there is one change, I would change the home stripes on the sleeves back to all gray, and on the road uniforms thay'd be all scarlet. The scarlet, black and white iteration they went to for both uniforms in 2006 wasn't something I was a big fan of.
JDMill: I'm not one who gets excited about laundry, and the rotating pro-combat, flavor-of-the-week jersey combos are a bit disgusting and overdone as far as I'm concerned. But when Minnesota released their new jerseys for the upcoming season I was pleasantly surprised. The new look goes back to a more classic, basic Gophers look, and adding the matte maroon helmets is pretty bad-ass if you ask me.
As far as Goldy, he's decent. I've been trying to find the old football logo for the Gophers from my childhood (late 80's) when the Goldy used for football was more buff than other Goldy's, he had an angry look on his face, and he was stiff-arming whatever was coming at him. You know, exactly the opposite of what a real gopher is like in the wild, but exactly what you'd want you football playing college mascot to look like.
KennardHusker: As far as football uniforms go, nothing really needs to change. I appreciate that Nebraska will don an alternate Uni for the players (and pocketbooks of Adidas/Nebraska), but why mess with a classic look? Red and white just work. The only thing I would change about the brand at Nebraska would be the abomination of a mascot that is Lil' Red. It wasn't cool when it started, it wasn't cool when people thought it was a novelty act for kids at events, and it won't be cool when it starts shooting lasers out of its eyes and massacres the town of Lincoln.
BabaOReally: As a Purdue fan, I am pretty happy with the color scheme. Black shirts, gold pants, and gold helmets have always looked good on the field, regardless of how the team performed. I don't really like the modified jerseys that the Boilers wore last year, but they could be worse. The helmet looked better when it had a black stripe with a white stripe on either side of it. It looks weird now with just a black stripe in the middle.