Key Depatures: Patrick Bade (Graduating)
Additions: Cole Herdman, Flint Hill (VA) High School
Summary: In a season full of doom and gloom, Purdue received a big break with the news that Gabe Holmes would be granted a fifth year of eligibility. One of the Boilermakers' most talented players will make the offense a bit stronger, providing a key target for Danny Etling. Holmes was injured after two games of the 2013 season, one which had potential to be his breakout year. Now, Holmes joins fellow senior Justin Sinz, Purdue's leading receiver, as the top tight ends.
Looking Ahead: In an offense of young, promising players, the tight end position is led by two seniors—a boost for the entire offense. Both Holmes and Sinz have showed the potential to be important targets in their senior years. While Holmes has never quite reached his potential, perhaps a year of familiarity with the new regime could help his growth. Meanwhile, Sinz became Etling's go-to guy last season, racking up a team-high 41 catches and four touchdowns. The future at the tight end position could be redshirt freshman Matt Burke, who's recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season.
At the beginning of last season, play-caller John Shoop touted the importance of the tight end position in Purdue's offense. This was supposed to be good news for Gabe Holmes, then still in search of his breakout year.
Things didn't go as Holmes or any of the Boilermakers had hoped, when the senior tight end was shut down for the year with a season-ending wrist injury. Fortunately, he received a rain check for one more year. Perhaps it all could come together for Purdue's tight ends.
The Boilermakers' offense will be much improved, with a stronger offensive line, a more seasoned passing attack, and little more run support. Which leaves us wondering, how much more can the tight ends do in this West Coast system?
What Purdue does have in this position is a great young coach in Gerad Parker and two consistent veteran players, not to mention the younger prospects getting another year to learn. The future at tight end is bright, but now the Boilermakers must find a way to use it productively.
The evolution of modern offenses has included unique ways to incorporate the tight end position, whether it's as a primary blocker, an H-Back, or top target creating mismatches in the secondary. Purdue has a little bit of everything at tight end.
In Holmes, the Boilermakers have a big 6-foot-5, 243-pound target with good speed. Put him into the secondary and force an undersized safety to stop him. John Shoop is a bright offensive mind and must find a way to make this work.
As for Sinz, the 6-foot-4, 251-pounder proved he's a solid blocker in addition to being a sure-handed target. Last season, he served as a short-yardage threat for Etling as the quarterback was under pressure in the pocket far too often. The Boilermakers found a way to best utilize Sinz, and must continue to do so in 2014.
One thing the Boilermakers didn't try nearly enough in 2013 is moving the tight ends to the slot. With Holmes healthy in the West Coast offense, this is something which could happen a bit more. It would be wise to see what the big guy can do in the open field.
In any offense, the tight end position can create the greatest mismatches in a defense. This threat opens up great possibilities for the rest of the offense.
What Purdue has is promise at its tight end position. Now, it's time to make it all work.