Purdue Preview

A preview of the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers

#13 Notre Dame vs. #22 Purdue
Fighting Irish   Boilermakers
Saturday, September 9th
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN.
6:45 EST


Purdue On Offense:

Category '05 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense #24 210.00 yards
Passing Offense #61 217.67 yards
Pass Eff. Offense #72 121.61 yards
Total Offense #33 427.67 yards
Scoring Offense #16 38.33 points

Joe Tiller brought basketball on grass to the Big Ten in 1997. Since that time, nearly every Big Ten program has adopted some form of the spread offense – even Michigan. When Tiller's offense is clicking, it is very difficult for defenses to slow down, as Notre Dame fans witnessed last season in South Bend. In the first part of the season Tiller has attempted to establish the run, even forcing the issue. They have run the ball well against inferior competition, but struggled to really get the ground game working against Minnesota. Tiller has added several option and misdirection plays to his offense to take advantage to Brandon Kirsch's mobility.

Kirsch takes over the offense for Kyle Orton. Kirsh is a good looking quarterback and he has plenty of experience running Tiller's offense. He isn't as dynamic as Michigan State's Drew Stanton, but in time he'll really get things going for the Boilermaker offense. This is the type of quarterback that always gives Notre Dame fits; he's mobile and can throw on the run. While Tiller will run the option, Kirsch is not a running quarterback; he is a pocket passer that is very mobile.

The running backs aren't spectacular but effective in this offense. Tiller seems to really like sophomore Kory Sheets' big play ability, but if I were Tiller, I'd keep him on the sideline and let Jarod Void and Brandon Jones power for chunks of yardage. All the running backs can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Purdue's receivers really aren't very impressive. Dorian Bryant will be great one day, but other than that, this group of receivers shouldn't give the porous Notre Dame secondary much trouble. Tight end Charles Davis is outstanding and could give the Irish trouble. Senior Ray Williams has a ton of potential, but he hasn't stepped up for the Boilers.

Purdue's offensive line took a huge blow when last year's starting left guard Uche Nwaneri was suspended from the team. Instead of needing to replace two starters from an already thin unit, Purdue had to replace three players. Two of the new linemen are struggling early, but they are serviceable. Kirsch won't hold onto the ball long, so pass protection isn't really a problem. This group will have difficulty moving the ball on the ground against Notre Dame.

Key match-ups: Dorien Bryant vs. the Notre Dame secondary.
The Notre Dame defensive tackles against Purdue's left guard Robbie Powell.

Anticipated Depth Chart. Returning starter = +.

  Brandon Kirsch, Sr 44-84-638 4/3 52.4
  Curtis Painter, So. 1-3-15 0/0 33.3

While Brandon Kirsch (6-3, 208 pounds, Lebanon, Pa.) is considered a new starter for the Boilermakers, he does have six starts in the three seasons he held the clip board for Kyle Orton. His career stats are fairly solid: 184 of 316 for 2,443 yards, a 58.2 completion percentage, with 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Kirsch is an accurate passer, he has a strong arm and he can throw the ball one the run. He is very mobile, and he will tuck it a run. He won't take on defenders because he has had some shoulder problems. He is actually similar to Pittsburgh's Tyler Palko.

Tiller has added the option to his version of the spread. Tiller has added some of the plays that Utah runs. Kirsch will keep it from time to time, but more often than not, he'll pitch the ball. Notre Dame must hit Kirsch even after he's gotten rid of the ball. Kirsch must be careful not to challenge Brandon Hoyte.

Kirsch needs to be cautious because there isn't any experience behind him. Notre Dame took a look at Curtis Painter (6-4, 212-pound So., Vincennes, Ind.) before deciding to go in a different direction. The Purdue staff is fairly high on him, but it's unlikely the Irish will see him this Saturday.

  RB Hgt/Wgt Rushes-Yards
  +Jerod Void, 5th 6-2/212 36/234, 5TDs
  Kory Sheets, So. 6-0/201 32/172
  Brandon Jones, 5th 5-11/236 19/86 0TD

Fifth-year senior Jared Void is a really nice back and he has been a perfect fit for the Boilermaker offense. He is a strong powerful runner that picks up four and five yard chunks as he moves the pile forward. Jared won't have a bunch of long runs, he isn't going to make a lot of moves with the ball, but he is effective. He won't create his own space and he needs a little room to get his yards.

Kory Sheets has jumped above Brandon Jones because he is a change of pace for the offense. He has more speed and can make more big plays than the other backs. Sheets had an 88-yard run against Minnesota last week, but he other than that he didn't impress. He isn't a very strong runner and he is generally brought down rather easily.

Brandon Jones is the other familiar face for Irish fans. Jones is a fifth-year player and he's been effective against the Irish. He's heavier than Void but he is very similar in terms of running style. He isn't a creative runner, but he moves the chains. I like both Void and Jones a lot and they can be frustrating players to defend. Both catch the ball well out of the backfield and they both can block well.

  WR Hgt/Wgt Stats
  +Dorien Bryant, So. 5-10/175  18 rcpt/247 yds/ 0TDs
  +Kyle Ingraham, Jr. 6-9/228  8 rcpts/133 yds/0 TDs
  +Ray Williams, Sr. 6-2/193  0 rcpts/0 yds/0 TD
  Andre Chattams, Sr. 6-0/204  2 rcpts/27 yds/1 TD
  Kevin Noel, 5th 6-3/203  1 rcpts/8 yds/0 TD

Dorien Bryant might be the best receiver Notre Dame has faced this year. He has very soft hands and he makes something happen once he gets the ball. He has superior speed, so he's a threat to go deep, but he'll also go over the middle without fear. Tiller works to get him the ball in a number of ways; at the line of scrimmage, deep passes, he'll come out of the backfield, and even throw the ball. He's Taylor Stubblefield with more speed and more size. He was third on the team in receptions last year (38), and he leads the Boilermakers in catches this season with 18.

I do think Tiller might try to do too much with Bryant, he isn't real big and Minnesota battered him. It's nice to have the home run threat coming out of the backfield but if Bryant is used too like this, he won't last the year.

Kyle Ingram was second on the team in receptions (51) last season. At 6-9, he can be a difficult match-up for corners, but he has average speed and he isn't a strong receiver. He just doesn't impress me much.

Ray Williams is a player that has a ton of talent, but he has really underachieved during his career. Tiller has been looking for someone to step into the third receiver slot, but no one really has. Williams did catch five passes against the Irish last year, but he only had 14 receptions on the season. He has 37 career receptions in three seasons.

Noel was kind of handed some playing time because no one else earned it. He's listed at 6-3, but he plays much smaller. Chattam has decent size, but he isn't much of a threat.

This is not a group that should hurt the Irish secondary. They are very similar to Pitt's in that they have one star and a bunch of role players. Bryant is exceptional, but beyond that, the group is thin on talent and short on playmakers.

  TE Hgt/Wgt Stats
  +Charles Davis, 5th 6-6/260 9 rcpts/247 yds/ 1TDs
  Dustin Keller, Jr. 6-4/245 3 rcpts/53 yds/2 TDs

Charles Davis didn't do much against Notre Dame last season, but hey, why knock yourself out when everyone else is doing the damage. However, Davis did make a bunch of plays the rest of the season as he caught 34 passes and three touchdowns. Davis is an outstanding player. He can run, catch and block. He might be the most complete tight end that the Irish face this season, and he is one of Kirsch's favorite targets. Because Purdue lacks the talent at wide receiver, they will try to exploit different match-ups with Davis. Tiller will split him out and move him around.

Keller is a wide receiver turned tight end and he's still trying to fill out. He should not be much of a threat, although he does have two touchdown catch this season. If you see hi in the game, expect a pass.

  Offensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  +LT Mike Otto, Sr 6-5/292 28 Starts
  LG Robbie Powell, Jr. 6-5/283 3 starts/ Limited Exp
  +C Matt Turner, 5th 6-3/290 27 Starts
  RG Jordan Grimes, So. 6-3, 313 4 starts/Limited Exp
  RT Sean Sester, So. 6-8, 282 3 starts/Limited Exp

Kokomo, Ind. native Mike Otto, is in his third season as the starting left tackle. Otto isn't really powerful, but he certainly is an effective blocker. He moves his feet really well and maintains his balance. Otto is a very good technician and a solid overall player. This will be a tough match-up for Chris Frome, but Otto won't drive him off the ball. He looks very lean this year.

Robbie Powell wasn't expected to start this season, but due to a suspension, he was thrust into duty. He is the weak link along the line. Powell isn't a really strong or powerful run blocker, and if a play gets blown up, you can generally trace it back to his man. He also struggles in pass protection and he'll find himself backing into Kirsch. Expect both Irish interior linemen to give Powell fits. They should come out of this game with a couple tackles for a loss.

Matt Turner is a really solid player. He seems to move really well, and he's a decent run blocker.

Although Otto is the gray beard of the group, at 313 pounds, Jordan Grimes might be the best player of the bunch. He moves and pulls really well. He's able to block defensive backs in space. Grimes gets into defenders and finished his blocks. He isn't very feisty, but once he develops a nasty streak, he'll be an outstanding lineman.

Sester is a nice looking prospect, but he'll have his hands full with Victor Abiamiri. Simply put, Sester is a true sophomore that isn't ready to play against top competition. He's a lean 282 pounds and he needs to add some strength.

Behind this group, there is absolutely no depth. Three of the next five are former walk-ons, and none of the reserve lineman have meaningful experience.

Purdue On Defense:

Category '04 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense #41 112.33 yards
Pass Eff. Defense #84 139.06 yards
Total Defense #87 417.67 yards
Scoring Defense #82 30.00 points
Pass Defense #113 305.33 yards

Purdue defensive coordinator, Brock Spack is one of the best defensive coaches in the Big Ten and there isn't a guy in the country that gets more from his players than he does. His unit basically returns intact from a group that was very solid in 2004. Last season the Purdue defense was No. 17 in the nation in scoring defense (17.17 per game), and No. 14 in rushing defense (105.33 per game). The Achilles heal for the Boilermaker defense was their pass defense that was rated No. 89 in the country by surrendering 240 yards per game.

The Purdue front four is outstanding. They are two deep on at both defensive end spots, but Ray Edwards and Anthony Spencer are potential NFL guys. Both are high energy players that can get to the quarterback and are difficult to run at. They tend to charge hard up field, so you can take advantage of their aggressiveness.

The defensive tackles, Villarreal and Grover won't win any beauty contests, but they really get after it. They consistently make plays in the backfield and their tackle totals are unusually high for interior players. There is a ton of experience and they can really bottle things up in the middle. I was very surprised that Minnesota ran right at these guys and really dominated them. If Notre Dame can win this battle, it will be a long day for Purdue.

The Purdue linebacker group is deep, but there aren't a lot of playmakers. They are solid and they get the job done, but they won't change the game. The real talent is with the younger guys. You'll see all six linebackers from the two deep Saturday. This group consistently missed plays against Minnesota. Part of the problem was the defensive line was getting pushed back into them, but they frequently found themselves out of position. They did not play inspired football.

Last year's secondary is this year's secondary. Last year's problems are this year's problems. Akron threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns. Opponents have completed 58 percent of their passes and scored nine times through the air. Minnesota's balanced attack was able to do just about everything they wanted against this secondary. Ultimately the entire defense started giving up big plays. The defensive backs are big and they are very good tacklers, but they do not make many plays.

This unit will be as good as the defensive line; that is where the playmakers are.

Key mach-ups: Brady Quinn vs. The Purdue secondary
Quinn has average 365 yards passing his first two games against Purdue. If Purdue sells out to stop Darius Walker, he could throw for 500 yards on Saturday.

Anticipated Depth Chart. Returning starter = +

  Defensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  +DE Anthony Spencer, Sr. 6-3/263 12 Starts
  +NT Brandon Villarreal, 5th 6-2/289 15 starts/40 Gms
  +DT Brent Grover, 5th 6-3/303 37 Starts
  +DE Ray Edwards, Jr. 6-6/270 15 Starts/25 Gms

Anthony Spencer blew up last season turning in 7.5 sacks and 33 total tackles. He had a big day against the Irish with two sacks and a forced fumble. This season the spot light has been turned on and at least early on, Spencer has been fairly quiet. He does have 2 sacks, but he only has four tackles. He plays to the whistle and he's difficult to run at. Ryan Harris should have his hands full.

Brandon Villarreal should be one of the best linemen in the Big Ten. He is a tenacious player that is generally very difficult to move off the blocks. He's been very tough on Notre Dame over the last couple years. Last season he had 50 total tackles and 17.5 tackles for a loss. This year he is third on the team with 18 tackles; that is impressive for an interior lineman. That being said Minnesota ran right at him. While he had 11 tackles on the day, many of those were when he was pushed two and three yards off the ball. He is a battler, and I expect him to bounce back with a big effort against Notre Dame.

Brent Grover is very similar to Villarreal; he's a guy you want to go into battle with. He's very difficult to move off the blocks, and he can make plays in the backfield. He's started the season strong with nine tackles, but like Villarreal, he was pushed around by the Minnesota offensive line.

Ray Edwards has all the potential in the world – a great athlete. He's big and he's fast, and he has room to get bigger. He rushers the passer as well as he defends the run. He flat out gets after it. Last season he gave LeVoir all he could handle which makes this year's rematch very intriguing. Edwards might be a future first round pick.

Spack has no trouble rotating his second group of lineman into the game. Rob Ninkovich is a former JC player that is a very solid player at defensive end as is Eugene Bright. Jermaine Guynn and Ryan Baker just don't have the strength to battle good offensive linemen. It's nice that Spack wants to get players experience, but I think it was a mistake to put these young guys in for long stretches during crucial moments of the Minnesota game.

  Linebackers Hgt/Wgt Experience
  SLB Bobby Iwuchukwu, 5th 6-2/246 11 starts/ 24 Gms
  +MLB George Hall, Sr. 6-2/250 16 starts/ 39 Gms
  +WLB Stanford Keglar, Jr. 6-2/227 15 Starts

Stanford Keglar is a nice player, but you want your linebackers to make plays, and he really hasn't done that yet. Last season he was fourth on the team with 61 tackles, but he only had four tackles for a loss. He seems to get lost in traffic.

George Hall plays hard, and he might be the best of the group. He is a big player and he can finish off a ball carrier. If the defensive tackles do their job, he will clean up. If they don't, he'll struggle.

Bobby Iwuchukwu missed a couple games due to a knee injury, so he might be slow coming back. He finished ninth on the team in tackles in 2004. He had 40 tackles, but only four were for a loss.

Kyle Williams was the All-World player that signed with Iowa out of high school, didn't qualify and then ended up at Purdue. He's a nice player with good speed, but he is too easily blocked and needs to read the play better. He is fourth on the team in tackles (17). Cliff Avril looks taller than he's listed. He looks like a good athlete, but he's finds himself out of place too often and he looks for the ESPN highlite too often. Avril is tied for eighth on the team with 10 tackles. The other backer that you'll see rotate in is Dan Bick.

  Defensive Backs Hgt/Wgt Experience
  CB Zach Logan, So. 6-1/174 0 Starts/Limited Exp
  +CB Brian Hickman, 5th 6-0/178 15 starts
  +FS Kyle Smith, 5th 6-4/216 16 starts
  +SS Bernard Pollard, Jr. 6-2, 226 27 starts

Strong safety Bernard Pollard is the best of the secondary players. He does well in run support, but struggles in pass defense. He'll come out and lay a lick on a receiver given the chance. The question is whether he makes plays when the ball is in the air. In his third season as the starter, he has one interception. He's second on the team in tackles with 20. Last season he lead the team with 96 tackles.

Free safety Kyle Smith is a solid player. He has two interceptions already this year, but he isn't going to make many plays. Last season he was third on the team in tackles (76).

The corners have good size, but average coverage skills. Logan took over for an ineffective Paul Long. Brandon King could also get a look at corner.

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