Purdue Has Talent Despite Loss Of Key Players

The Purdue Boilermakers invade Memorial Stadium Saturday. They are 4-3 on the season and have won the last five meetings between the two teams. While they have suffered several devastating injuries that have hurt their effectiveness, they are still a formidable foe. A big win at Northwestern proved that point.

P>Illinois fans are advised not to put the Purdue game in the win column prematurely. Under the leadership of Danny Hope, the Boilermakers have a capable defense and have moved the ball well on the ground this season. They will seek to rebound from an embarrassing loss at Ohio State last week.

PU lost its starting quarterback, running back and top receiver to season-ending injuries, and yet it has still played respectably. Redshirt freshman Rob Henry (6'-2", 200) has performed admirably replacing early starter Robert Marve, leading his team in rushing three times.

Henry is listed as the starter even though he suffered a laceration of the index finger of his throwing hand last Saturday. Assuming he will play, Henry is likely to put great pressure on the Illinois defense with his option attack and strong running ability. He has gained 382 yards rushing, averaging 5.5 yards per rush. And he has completed 49 of 97 passes for 501 yards.

If he can't play, true freshman Sean Robinson (6'-3", 208) will get the call. He completed 6 of 10 passes subbing for Henry last week. Justin Siller is just returning from an injury and will work at quarterback as an emergency backup. He started some games there in 2008.

Senior Dan Dierking (5'-10", 195) is the starting running back. Son of former Purdue star Scott, Dierking has gained 353 yards, a 6.2 average. Senior Keith Carlos (6'-1", 200) backs up Dierking. The Boilers gained over 200 yards rushing in five straight games before being held to 30 by the Buckeyes. Overall, they are averaging 177.7 yards per game on the ground.

PU lost its star receiver Keith Smith to injury, but there are still remnants of the vaunted passing attack utilized so effectively by former coach Joe Tiller. Purdue still has a number of talented receivers on board, including senior Cortez Smith (6'-2", 180), sophomore Antavian Edison (5'-11", 175), and freshman O.J. Ross (5'-10", 175).

Senior tight end Kyle Adams (6'-4", 251) is tied with Smith with 21 catches on the year. He has caught at least one pass in 14 straight games. He is backed by senior Jeff Lindsay (6'-3", 245).

Junior guard Ken Plue (6'-7", 358) anchors the Purdue offensive line. He is on the Outland Trophy watch list. Senior Justin Pierce (6'-4", 320) is his guard counterpart, while sophomore Peters Drey (6'-6", 300) snaps center. The tackles are juniors Dennis Kelly (6'-8", 301) and Nick Mondek (6'-5", 300), both Illinoisans.

The Purdue front seven is strong, and senior defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (6'-4", 263) is their all-everything candidate. Nicknamed "Superman" by his teammates, Kerrigan is among national leaders in sacks and tackles for loss.

His 27.5 career sacks is fifth all-time at Purdue, and his 47.5 tackles for loss is 7th. He needs to cause one more fumble to tie the UI's Simeon Rice and Iowa's Bob Sanders for first in Big 10 history with 13.

Junior Gerald Gooden (6;-3", 235) is Kerrigan's bookend. Sophomore Kawann Short (6'-4", 305) and freshman Bruce Gaston (6'-2", 300) are the tackles. Gaston spurned Illini overtures to attend PU.

The three linebackers are among the top six in tackles. Sophomore middle linebacker Dwayne Beckford (6'-1", 228) is the team leader. Junior Joe Holland (6'-1", 225) is the WILL linebacker, and senior Jason Werner (6'-4", 232) is the SAM.

Junior safety Logan Link (6'-1", 204) is the second leading tackler on the team. Junior Max Charlot (6'-0", 190) is the free safety. Freshman cornerback Ricardo Allen (5'-9", 175) has made a big splash in his first season. Sophomore Josh Johnson (5'-11", 191) mans the other cornerback spot.

Junior placekicker Carson Wiggs has hit 7 of 11 field goals and all 16 of his extra point tries. He shares punting duties with freshman Cody Webster, a lefty Illinois recruited at one point. Ross and Al-Terek McBurse (6'-0", 190) are the kick returners. Johnson handles punt returns.

The Boilermakers have struggled at times due to all their injuries. But if the Illini take them lightly, they could regret it. There is talent on this team, and they will be primed for the upset.

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