Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: After failing to earn a bowl invite in his first two
seasons as head coach at Purdue, the third time was the charm for Danny Hope
and the 2011 Boilermakers.
The team finished 7-6, showing a lot of heart following tough losses. Early-
season losses at Rice (24-22) and home against Notre Dame (38-10) dropped the
Boilermakers to 2-2, but the very next week they responded by routing
Minnesota, 45-17. A tough loss at Penn State (23-18) in mid-October was
followed up with a gritty home win over then 6-1 Illinois (21-14). The next two
weeks saw Purdue fall handily at Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined 98-31,
which dropped the team below .500 on the season. However, an overtime win
against Ohio State on Nov. 12 (26-23) got things back on track, and the
Boilermakers wrapped up their regular season by beating Indiana on the road to
become bowl eligible. That final victory earned them a trip to the Little
Caesars Pizza Bowl to face Western Michigan. The Boilermakers rallied to win
that game, 37-32, claiming the school's first bowl victory since 2007, and
setting the stage for what the team hopes is an even more successful 2012
OFFENSE: Despite a wealth of depth at the quarterback position, Hope said at
his Big Ten media day press conference that last year's starter, Caleb TerBush,
will enter the fall as the No. 1 guy.
"(TerBush) started every game, didn't throw an interception in the last four
and a half games, threw for 62 percent of completions," Hope said. "Really
improved throughout the course of the season and did a fine job."
While TerBush's passing numbers weren't off the charts -- 1,905 yards and 13
touchdowns -- it is his sound decision-making and ability to orchestrate the
offense that sets him apart from the rest of the field.
Purdue ran the ball fairly well last season (33rd nationally and fifth in the
Big Ten), but there are some questions at tailback. Leading rusher Ralph Bolden
(674 yds, 6 TDs) tore his ACL in the regular-season finale and likely won't be
able to contribute until later in the year, if at all. That leaves senior Akeem
Shavers (5-11, 203) as the probable lead back. Shavers ran for a modest 519
yards and six scores in 2011, but nearly 30 percent of his season's rushing
total came in a 149-yard outburst in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. With Bolden
out of the picture, Shavers got a career-high 22 carries and made them count.
The coaching staff is hopeful that is a sign of things to come in 2012.
Plenty of experience returns to the wide receiver position, headlined by senior
Antavian Edison who caught 44 passes for 584 yards and three TDs a year ago.
Three starters return to the offensive line.
DEFENSE: Hope fired defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel and parted ways with
most of last year's coaching staff on that side of the ball. Tim Tibesar is the
new coordinator after spending the last three seasons coaching defense in the
CFL. The hope is that Tibesar's experience in the wide-open CFL will have the
Boilermakers better prepared for the rapidly growing number of spread offenses
in the Big Ten.
Ultra-talented tackle Kawaan Short (6-3, 310) anchors a deep defensive line,
although Tibesar will need to figure out how to get more pressure on opposing
quarterbacks -- Purdue ranked 77th in the nation in sacks last year.
The Boilermakers are in good shape at the linebacker position, where they
return two of their top three tacklers from a year ago in senior Dwayne
Beckford (91 tackles, three sacks) and junior Will Lucas (82 tackles, one
While the team must find two new starting safeties, it does return both
cornerbacks in junior Ricardo Allen and senior Josh Johnson. Those two form one
of the conference's top tandems, as Allen is coming off a three-interception,
79 tackle season, while Johnson posted 64 tackles and paced the team in passes
SPECIAL TEAMS: Purdue led the nation last year in kick returns thanks to
freshman sensation Raheem Mostert, who averaged a robust 33.5 yards per return,
including one touchdown. However, the new kickoff rules may negate some of
Mostert's big-play potential.
Punter Cody Webster will try to improve upon last year's impressive numbers, as
he averaged nearly 43 yards per punt to rank second in the conference. Losing
kicker Carson Wiggs to graduation is a big blow to the special teams. His job
will likely be taken over by freshman Paul Griggs.
OUTLOOK: Hope expressed confidence that if the Boilermakers can become a more
disciplined team, he feels the pieces are in place to make some noise in the
"I believe we have the talent," Hope said. "I believe we have the experience.
We're a very fast football team: a lot of fast guys on our team on both sides
of the ball. We have a very big strong defensive front, experienced secondary,
great experience and potential at the quarterback position. So all of the
pieces are there. We have to put it all together and make it happen on the
team. That's on the coaches and that's on the players."
The schedule shapes up nicely for the Boilermakers with seven home games.
However, October is a rather daunting month with Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio
State on the docket in consecutive weeks. Keeping in mind that Ohio State and
Penn State are ineligible for postseason play, the Leaders Division looks to be
fairly wide open.
Purdue must take care of business in its non-conference slate in order to set
itself up nicely for the back stretch. More than likely the Boilermakers are
looking at another bowl game and, if things shake out right in the Leaders
Division, they could even earn a spot in the Big Ten title game.
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