The Irish will tackle the Boilermakers on September 30 at home. Irish fans found great pleasure in watching Notre Dame pound Purdue 49-28 in West Lafayette last season and are hopeful the 2006 Irish team can impose a similar beating on the Boliers this season. What can we expect from Purdue in 2006?
Joe Tiller's spread offense is now being questioned (Are you listening, Urban Meyer?). It will be interesting to see if newly appointed Offensive Coordinator Bill Legg, promoted from O-line coach, continues the spread attack. I believe he will, as Tiller had the final say in Jim Chaney's offensive play-calling last year, and he will once again have veto power over Legg's.
Purdue is young everywhere, and interesting fact considering they were also young last year. At quarterback, it should be sophomore Curtis Painter (6-4, 212) with red-shirt frosh Joey Elliot waiting to step in if need be. Painter displayed a strong ability to distribute the ball and made particularly good use of the tight end in his starts last year.
Dorien Bryant (5-10, 175), the senior wideout, has game breaking ability (80 catches for 960 yards and four touchdowns in 2005) but was recently arrested for suspicion of battery. While he may well sit out a game or two, expect him to be in the starting lineup in South Bend.
Sophomores Greg Orton (6-4, 195) and Selwyn Lymon (6-4, 190) sat out last year with academic issues. They are big, fast targets who could cause the Irish some problems. They have similar athletic to Bryant, although not quite as fast, with superior size and aggressively pursue the ball.
Purdue needs both to be productive to fill the hole left by the apparent departure of Kyle Ingraham. Junior Dustin Keller (6-4, 245) will start at tight end but he must remain healthy to be a consistent weapon. The bottom line: they are extremely thin at receiver. However, the talent and size level is there to present match-up problems for the Irish secondary.
Sophomore running back Kory Sheets (6-0, 210) should continue to be the workhorse. Purdue certainly hopes so as red-shirt freshman Dray Mason (5-10, 180 - converted DB) and JUCO transfers Jaycen Taylor and Dario Camacho will be the next option.
The O-line looks to be the most solid group on either side of the ball. Uche Nwaneri (6-3, 313), Robbie Powell (6-5, 283), Mike Otto (6-5, 309), Sean Sester (6-8, 290) and Garrett Miller (6-8, 278) should provide both fine pass protection and drive blocking ability.
Defensive Coordinator Brock Spack might be gone by the time you read this. He has been offered the defensive coordinator position at an unnamed rival Big Eleven school. He bleeds black and gold. He was an All Big Ten linebacker for the Boilermakers and became the defensive coordinator in 1997. He wants to be the head coach at Purdue some day (in 2011 as Tiller's contract ends in 2010). The trouble is, he feels he isn't being given serious consideration for the position and he may well be right. We'll know soon enough if he moves on or remains...hopeful.
Don't let last year's abhorrent defense fool you. The man can flat out coach. With all the premier defensive players recruited into the Big Eleven each year, Purdue's rank in total defense among Big Eleven teams was third in 2000, third in 2001, first in 2002 and third in 2003. Forgetting last year (something we have been wanting to do in many of the prior eleven years), he was a key component in eight straight years of bowl attendance following his arrival as DC. This year's defense may make Boilermaker fans forget 2005. Unfortunately, they may also long for it.
The defensive tackles look to be comprised entirely of underclassmen: Alex Magee (6-5, 275), Ryan Baker (6-6, 267) and Jermaine Guynn are all sophomores, and Michale Neal (6-4, 245) and Jared Zwilling (6-4, 260) are redshirt freshmen. Meeting us on September 30 will give them all important game experience but they are very young. Defensive end offers significantly more experience with senior Anthony Spencer (6-3, 262), junior Gene Bright (6-4, 250), senior Nick Cavallo (6-3, 256) and red shirt freshman Keyon Brown (6-3, 230) appearing solid but not spectacular.
The heart of the defense is the linebacker corps of junior Dan Bick (6-1, 215), senior George Hall (6-2, 250) and junior Cliff Avril (6-3, 231). They remind me of our own linebacker corps of 2005 - extremely able and bringing the lumber. They will need to be top notch to help plug holes left by the defensive line and... what may well be the least experienced secondary the Irsh will face this year.
Once again, we are looking at a group of relatively untested athletes: Corner Zach Logan (6-1, 174) and safety Torri Williams (6-2, 200) are sophomores and JUCO transfers Brandon Blackmon, Markus Dawes and Justin Scott will have to meld into the mix quickly.
Games like this used to scare the hell out of me. We will be a facing a team which, on paper, we should easily handle. We seem to have an advantage at virtually every position. "Davieham" taught us all to be very wary of these match-ups. We would simply play down to the level of our competition, often finding a way to lose.
The era of undue wariness is over. The Weis era is upon us. Notre Dame will play this game at their level and Purdue will not be able to compete with Notre Dame's talent level, coaching level or home field advantage. I believe Notre Dame will completely control the line of scrimmage offensively and run the ball very effectively. Quinn and company will have a memorable day. The defense will be in the fifth game of the season and the secondary should be vastly improved by then, possibly highlighting a shutdown cornerback for the first time in many years. I believe the Irish will dominate this game throughout.