Coach Darrell Hazell hasn't been one to hide anything. He offers praise when it's due and criticism if warranted. With this, many of the top spots on the depth chart shouldn't come a surprise. Purdue's starters for Cincinnati are set.
Boiler Sports Report offers a look at each position as Purdue approaches its first game of the Darrell Hazell era.
The quarterbacks always get the glory, and such was the case when Darrell Hazell held a press conference to name fifth-year senior Rob Henry the Boilermakers' starting quarterback. The linemen never get a formal presser. But the news at this position isn't at the top spot.
At the end of the quarterback competition, Henry separated from Austin Appleby and Danny Etling. But the question remains—how far behind were the two freshmen? If Henry were unable to play, which quarterback listed with the ‘OR' would become the starter? The old saying for a backup is that they're one play away from seeing the field. Both Appleby and Etling must continue to improve in practice. If each freshman struggles like in camp, the Boilermakers are in trouble.
There really wasn't much doubt that Akeem Hunt would become the Boilermakers' starting tailback. The junior has been a dynamic runner in a backup role and could be a breakout star for Purdue this season. John Shoop's offense is built for Hunt to be the playmaker. After finishing camp, the Boilermakers must like their depth in the backfield.
Junior Brandon Cottom, the bruising back, and fleet-footed freshman Dalyn Dawkins will work behind Hunt. Cottom stands at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, looking like a defensive end in the backfield. Dawkins, the four-star prospect who joined Hazell's first class late in January, resembles current Kent State star Dri Archer. It will be beneficial for him to get carries in his first year.
Back in the spring, when Darrell Hazell held his first practices, the new head coach made it known to his players that no roster spots were guaranteed. Each starting job had to be earned. The Boilermakers' wide receiver depth chart is proof of that claim. Seniors Gary Bush and Dolapo Macarthy, Purdue's two leading receivers from last season, are put into backup roles. In fact, Macarthy isn't even the lone man at the second-string ‘X' spot.
Give credit to Shane Mikesky and B.J. Knauf, who worked hard and offered consistent performances to earn their starting nods. Mikesky brings great size in his 6-foot-4 speed while Knauf offers speed at the other receiver spot. Give credit to freshman DeAngelo Yancey, who will see plenty of snaps. He performed well and earned the chance to play.
Macarthy and Bush will certainly see their share of targets, too, but the fact that both are placed into reserve roles definitely raises an eyebrow.
"We're done talkin' about it," the words that coach Gerad Parker has said repeatedly to senior tight end Gabe Holmes. But the talk will only continue as Holmes aims for a career year. He entered Purdue with plenty of potential and hasn't reached it just yet. But this year, Holmes is the go-to guy in an offense which favors the tight end position. Coach Hazell has said a 60-reception season is expected of Holmes. That would certainly give the Boilermakers' offense quite the boost.
Behind Holmes is Justin Sinz, a 6-foot-4 junior who has reliable hands. He'll be counted on as a key piece of the offense, too. Both tight ends must produce in the passing game and be steady blockers in the run game. Then, there will be nothing but good talk.
The unit which struggled the most in spring drills made the greatest strides in the fall. Purdue's offensive line found consistency. Now, its starting group is set. Sophomore Robert Kugler is the leader of the pack as the starting center. Around Kugler, it's all seniors, with—listed left to right—Kevin Pamphile, Devin Smith, Trevor Foy and Justin Kitchens.
The battles at each guard spot were particularly close. Jason King, the redshirt freshman, worked in for Devin Smith as he battled injuries during camp. Jordan Roos, also a redshirt freshman, pushed Foy for the starting nod and would fit right in with the line.
Of course, it's worth noting that the Boilermakers plan to work a rotation on the offensive line. It's conceivable that each player listed on the two-deep will see playing time.
There aren't many surprises on the defensive line. Ryan Russell and Bruce Gaston are familiar names who could be in for big seasons. Ryan Isaac and Greg Latta are newcomers to starting roles, but each proved to be worthy of the nod. Latta is the player I'm most interested to watch. The former college basketball player brings great athleticism as a pass rusher and is wise beyond is few years of playing the game of football.
Beyond the starters, Purdue doesn't have much for depth. Jalani Phillips, Eric McDaniel and Ryan Watson will be serviceable backups who will work in the rotation. Jules Williams, the walk-on who was once a rugby player, is an intriguing player to watch.
1.) Armstead Williams
2.) Colin Link
Throughout camp, Purdue searched for continuity at linebacker. The starters have been named but the unit lacks stability. Junior Joe Gilliam is the key, as he must man the middle and offer stability for a young unit. Gilliam must be a leader on the defense. More importantly, he must stay healthy, allowing Sean Robinson and Armstead Williams to grow into their starting roles on the outside.
Robinson, the converted quarterback, has done a terrific job developing into a Big Ten linebacker. He checks in at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds for the opening game. Williams, a sophomore, won over the strongside job over several other candidates. Andy James Garcia and Will Lucas are versatile players who can be plugged into each spot.
1.) Ricardo Allen
2.) Normondo Harris
There are really no surprises in the secondary, where Jon Heacock's unit seemed set in the spring. Ricardo Allen is the leader of the defensive backs—and the leader of the defense—and must be a playmaker for the group.
Frankie Williams will likely be the first man on the field opposite of Allen, but Antoine Lewis has earned plenty of playing time, too, and could be the Boilermakers' nickelback (that role is not listed on the depth chart). Taylor Richards returns as a starter at safety, as does Landon Feichter. Behind Landon is his little brother, Evan Feichter.
With any special teams unit, consistency is the key. Paul Griggs will be the one kicking field goals, though Sam McCartney could be the long-range kicker. Cody Webster returns as the Boilermakers' punter, as he has impressed through camp. Thomas Meadows brings a big boot as Purdue's kickoff leg. In the return game, Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert form a dangerous duo for kickoffs, while B.J. Knauf and Frankie Williams will be a threat as punt returners.