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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Likes and Dislikes

Five and Five: Purdue

What are five things I like about Purdue in 2010? What about five things I don’t? This list has all the answers.

Likes

1. This should mean something to those familiar with the number of productive pass-catchers Purdue has produced in recent years: this might be the deepest Purdue receiver corps in a decade. Senior Keith Smith does most of the heavy lifting, but the Boilermakers have several first- and second-year players talented enough to have a sizable impact in this year’s offense.

2. All three linebackers return: Jason Werner on the strong side, Joe Holland on the weak side and Chris Carlino in the middle.

3. Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. He was outstanding in 2009, easily ranking among the most underrated defenders in the country, and leads a solid Purdue defensive front. Mike Neal must be replaced, but Purdue has several intriguing prospects auditioning for his former starting role; one, Brandon Taylor, has good bloodlines.

4. How Danny Hope has made a point to comb Florida’s fertile recruiting grounds. The Boilermakers have added more than 20 Sunshine State prospects over the last two recruiting cycles, making inroads into a talented area that could boost this program for the next decade.

5. The idea that last season’s narrow setbacks will go Purdue’s way in 2010. There is something to be said for the experienced gained in defeat, experience the Boilermakers could use to pull out a win or two in the fourth quarter in 2010.

Dislikes

1. As high as I am on sophomore Al-Terek McBurse, Purdue will miss running back Ralph Bolden. While he could return at some point during the season, Bolden, who tore his A.C.L. in April, won’t be the same until 2011.

2. There’s no doubting Robert Marve’s physical gifts. He certainly has the ability to duplicate the numbers Joey Elliott produced as Purdue’s starting quarterback a year ago. I have two worries, however: one, I wonder whether Marve is fully recovered from last season’s knee injury; and two, how rusty the former Miami (Fla.) transfer will be after sitting out all of last season. Not huge concerns, but concerns nonetheless.

3. I like Ken Plue, and left tackle Dennis Kelly is an all-conference candidate, but the offensive line must address a few holes following the departure of three of last season’s starters. There is not a tremendous amount of experience — outside of the aforementioned pair, of course — for Purdue to work with.

4. While the offensive line will have a slightly different look, no group on Purdue’s roster will face a complete overhaul quite like the secondary. All four starters must be replaced, with junior free safety Albert Evans the only returning contributor of any consequence. Look for Hope and his defensive staff to leave the competition open well into the fall, after the coaching staff has gotten a nice, long look at this year’s incoming freshmen.

5. While Purdue is in good shape heading into the fall, the improvement of several Big Ten opponents could make it difficult for the Boilermakers to improve upon last season’s 4-4 mark in conference play. Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana — the final trio of the season — will be stronger in 2010 than a year ago, though it does help Purdue to face the Wolverines and Hoosiers in West Lafayette.

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