The Purdue Boilermakers are up next in our "Know Thy Foe" series, where we get an early look at the teams that dot the Badgers' 2012 schedule. Purdue has drawn some polarizing positions from different analysts this year. Some see the Boilermakers as a dark horse in the Leaders division race, while others see Danny Hope's squad taking a step back after attaining their first winning season since 2007.
Luckily, BadgerBlitz.com brought in an expert on Purdue football to give us an early look at the Boilermakers. Brian Neubert publishes Gold and Black Illustrated on the Rivals.com network, and we're certainly grateful for his insight as we preview the 2012 season.
Know Thy Foe: Purdue
What do you think the expectations are for the Boilermakers as we head into 2012, and how do you think the team is shaping up? What kind of experience does Purdue have to work with?
Brian Neubert: Well I think to the first point about expectations, I think it was pretty big deal for Purdue last year to squeak out a winning season, get back to a bowl game, and win a bowl game. There's a pretty positive feeling about the state of the program and whatnot, and the way things are headed. Obviously they hadn't had a winning season since 2007 … so that was the first step. It wasn't an overwhelming winning season by any means … Purdue just kind of found a way. It's not like they were great last season, they were just kind of good enough. I think now the reasonable expectation is that they're able to keep that going, and not take a step backward. This was a program not that long ago that was used to going to bowl games every year. And I think that's obviously where Purdue wants to get back to.
What do the Boilermakers have to work with at quarterback this year? I've read that there's supposed to be a bit of a logjam under center this year.
BN: I think it's kind of hard to tell at this point. They have three quarterbacks coming back with starting experience, which is guess is kind of a good problem to have. It's also kind of a difficult spot to be in. Caleb TerBush started all of last season … Robert Marve is coming back, and he's the most talented of their quarterbacks … Rob Henry was supposed to start for them going into last season, but he hurt his knee and he's significantly different from the other two. He's more of an option guy … At this point in time it's really hard to know what to expect.
It sort of all starts with the quarterback. What Purdue did last year was they started TerBush and they rotated in Marve with the public explanation being that you always want to have a second guy getting experience in case the first guy gets hurt. And that certainly stands to reason at Purdue, considering how many quarterback injuries they've had over the years. I would anticipate that … they're going to keep playing two quarterbacks.
If you had to put some money on it, who do you think gets the first snap under center for the Boilermakers?
BN: I think TerBush will … that's what head coach Danny Hope has said will happen more or less. He kept TerBush at No. 1 during the spring, and when spring broke he kept calling TerBush 'No. 1.' He hasn't absolutely guaranteed (it) yet. That doesn't mean someone couldn't beat him out in the first game … I think in least in terms of starting week one he has a leg up going into camp.
Could you talk about coach Hope for a minute? His time at Purdue has certainly been less than stable.
BN: I think now that Purdue has gotten back to a bowl game, that's what people are going to start to expect again, whether or not it's a realistic expectation. I think, obviously once you start winning the fans want to keep winning, and for good reason.
In terms of how he's perceived at Purdue, they went back to a bowl game this past year, but we were still talking a couple of weeks before the bowl game about whether or not he'd be back this season, because he was only going to have three years left. So Purdue either had to extend his contract or go in another direction. Purdue gave him a two-year contract extension before the bowl game, so he's signed for a couple more years. We all know that the contracts aren't always worth the paper they're written on, but … until he has that year where they win eight or nine games, I don't know if it's ever really going to be a slam dunk.
The Purdue defensive staff went through a lot of changes during the offseason, losing a coordinator and two position coaches. What can we expect to see out of the Boilermakers on the defensive front this season?
BN: They hired a coordinator from the CFL named Tim Tibesar. He was formerly the coordinator at Kansas State under Ron Prince before Prince was let go. We aren't quite sure what they're going to do defensively- they're not going to tell us. The new coordinator has a lot of history with 3-4 schemes, traditionally Purdue has had a 4-3 based team. So what I think they're going to do is they're going to implement some 3-4 stuff. I don't think they're going to go straight up 3-4. If you're going to do it, this is a good year to do it, because they've got a guy who might be the best defensive tackle in the country in Kawann Short. They don't have a lot of depth at linebacker so if you go 3-4, you might be stretching yourself a little too thin there.
What do you think the best-case and worst-case scenarios are for Purdue this year? I know we've already covered what a step forward would look like, but what would it take for Purdue to 'fall off the wagon'?
BN: Falling off the wagon would probably be four or five wins, and if that happens it wouldn't be good. Purdue has a schedule set up where they should start out no less than 3-1. They have Eastern Michigan, Marshall, Eastern Kentucky, and at Notre Dame. Winning there would seem like an awful lot to ask. But one problem Purdue has had the last few years is they've always lost a game they shouldn't lose. They've always won a game they probably shouldn't win … but that's something they absolutely can't afford to do in September. If you're able to start 3-1 in non-conference, you have Michigan and Wisconsin coming to your place for the first two Big Ten games. You have them at your home field, it's conceivable that you'd be able to get one of those games. That would give you some pretty good momentum going into the rest of the Big Ten season.
How are you feeling about the Wisconsin-Purdue matchup this year? You mentioned it before, but what are the chances that Purdue can end their losing streak and upset the Badgers at home?
BN: Well, now knowing what O'Brien is going to look like at quarterback, but I would think that if Wisconsin plays like how they always play … that's certainly going to be a handful for Purdue. What Purdue and everyone else in the Big Ten couldn't handle was Wisconsin's balance. If they are able to throw the ball like they did last year with Russell Wilson, that's going to be a lot for Purdue to handle. I don't know how physical Purdue is going to be across the board … I think they're pretty happy with what they have. I just don't know from a physicality standpoint how Purdue is going to stack up in that game. But you have the game at home … that's going to be a pretty big two game swing for Purdue.
Thanks again to Brian for his insight. For more news on the Purdue Boilermakers, go to Purdue.Rivals.com.
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