Purdue Personnel Preview: Offense

IrishEyes breaks down Purdue's starters and key offensive contributors for Saturday's matchup in South Bend.

Our first look at the Boilermakers offensive players of note.

Skill Position Starters

Purdue lost talented junior tailback Ralph Bolden to a torn ACL in the spring. Also gone from last year's squad is wide receiver/punt returner Aaron Valentin, who hurt the Irish with a 36-yard catch-and-run touchdown and two long punt returns. Valentin has been replaced in the lineup by junior Justin Siller, a former quarterback who sat out 2009 due to an academic violation.

The Boilermakers returning running back unit has just seven career carries to its credit.

  • Quarterback – #9 Robert Marve: His first start? 2008 in The Swamp as the Miami Hurricanes QB vs. defending national champion Florida. His last start was also in 2008 as a Hurricane; the 6'1" 210-pound high school star started 11 games as a redshirt-freshman at The U, then transferred amid two separate run-ins with the law. Now Purdue's main man after a competitive spring and stellar August camp, the dual-threat QB is the program's third starting quarterback in three seasons, following 5th-year seniors Curtis Painter and Joey Elliot, both of whom were productive directing the Boilers' spread attack.

    "I tried to recruit him to Cincinnati," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said of Marve. "I think it starts with his ability to keep plays alive; he's shown he has great athletic ability." Marve finished his 2008 season at Miami with six wins in his 11 starts. The multi-talented Marve will attack a revamped Irish defense that finished 82nd in the nation in pass efficiency defense last fall. Marve's top target Keith Smith noted that the junior signal-caller has performed a complete 180 from the tentative quarterback he witnessed in the spring.

  • Running Back – #25 Dan Dierking: One of three offensive captains, the 5'10" 195-pound senior is favored by head coach Danny Hope for his "blue-collar work ethic." Dierking finished with just three carries last fall as the Boilers' third team running back; also tossing an interception in the end zone vs. Ohio State in Purdue's upset of the visiting Buckeyes. Dierking also caught four passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Dierking could see action out of the I-formation that will be used by offensive coordinator Gary Nord more this season than in 2009.

  • Running Back – #5 Al-Terek McBurse: The true sophomore had his redshirt lifted at the midway point of 2009 and immediately provided a spark for the kick return unit, averaging nearly 25 yards per return including an 87-yard touchdown. Dierking will likely start, but look for McBurse to be the focal point of the Purdue ground game vs. the Irish.

  • Wide Receiver – #7 Cortez Smith: The JuCo transfer from Kilgore college finished with 17 receptions as Purdue's fourth receiver last fall. The 6'2" 180-pound senior earned his first start at Michigan in early November and responded with 85 receiving yards, including 54-yard touchdown catch in Purdue's first Big House win since the Johnson Administration.

  • Wide Receiver – #8 Keith Smith: The most physical wide receiver the Irish will face this season, Smith burned Notre Dame with 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown last September. The 6'2" 226-pound target casts an imposing figure on deep in-routes; has sure hands, and is a load to tackle after catching the Boilers' plethora of tunnel and bubble screens, as well as any quick look off the line of scrimmage.

    The 2010 Co-Captain led the Big Ten in receptions (7.6) and yards per game (91.7) last fall, ranking 13th nationally in the latter category. Smith began as a quarterback and moved to safety before finding a home at wide receiver.

  • Wide Receiver – #2 Justin Siller: Former starting quarterback (three games in 2008) represents a second powerful target (6'4" 220 pounds) for Marve over the middle. Siller was dismissed from the squad in the spring semester of 2009.

  • Tight End – #85 Kyle Adams: 6'4" 251-pound Co-Captain caught 29 balls last season to rank third on the squad. The 12-game starter caught four balls vs. the Irish last September.

Offensive Linemen

The Boilers are tasked with replacing three starters from last year's unit, including both tackles and 5th-year senior center Justin Zwilling. Dennis Kelly and Ken Plue combined for 24 starts last season but no other Boilers blocker started a contest in 2009. 5th-year Justin Pierce has made eight starts in his Purdue career.

  • Left Tackle – #68 Dennis Kelly: 6'8" 301-pound junior started 12 games last season.

  • Left Guard – #72 Justin Pierce: An intermittent starter during his college career, the 6'4" 320-pound 5th-year senior has settled in at left guard ahead of sophomore Rick Schmeig

  • Center – #67 Peters Drey: 6'6" 300-pound sophomore appeared in 12 games as a redshirt-freshman reserve tackle last season.

  • Right Guard – #73 Ken Plue: Massive 6'7" 340-pound junior is a member of the 2010 Outland Trophy Watch List (as is right guard counterpart Trevor Robinson for the Irish). Plue started 12 games as a true sophomore last fall and was named the Boilermakers most improved player as well as an honorable mention All-Big 10 selection. Has played in 24 consecutive games, starting 18 since his freshman season.

  • Right Tackle – #62 Nick Mondek: The 6'5" 300-pound junior converted from defensive tackle in the spring.

Key Reserves

First-year players populate the Boilermakers backup receiver group.
  • Tight End – #88 Jeff Lindsay: 6'4" 245-pound target is a quality pass-catching tight end though lacks the blocking acumen of starter Kyle Adams. The redshirt-senior caught 16 passes last season including a career-best four receptions for 74 yards at Michigan, including a 56-yarder on 3rd and 5 to set up the game-sealing touchdown. Lindsay has played in 37 consecutive games, starting four since 2008.
  • Quarterback – #15 Rob Henry: 6'2" 200-pound redshirt-freshman runs a reported 4.55 40-yard dash with a 39-inch vertical leap.
  • Running Back – #33 Reggie Pegram: 5'10" 222-pound freshman offers a battering ram alternative to the outside speed of Burse.
  • Wide Receiver – # 13 Antavian Edison 5'11" 175-pound elusive sophomore will operate out of the slot this season.
  • Wide Receiver – #4 O.J. Ross 5'10" 175-pound true freshman was a three-star prospects according to Scout.com
  • Wide Receiver – #6 Gary Bush: 6'0" 175-pound redshirt freshman
  • Wide Receiver – #80 Xavier Reese 6'3" 190-pound redshirt freshman
  • Guard – #76 Rick Schmeig 6'3" 315-pound sophomore from Cincinnati started vs. the Irish in last year's contest.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories