God bless the internets. With out it, any assessment of Purdue would really be through ESPN/FoxSports colored glasses. With it, I can give you actual insight into Michigan's next opponent.
Off the Tracks and I got together for an internets style sit down to pro and con our respective football teams. Six questions a piece, nothing off limits. You can find my answers to Travis's questions here. Now sit down, turn off the overhead lighting, turn the chair around and turn on that overheated 150 watt bulb to shine in the bad guy's eyes.
No. Not OTB. O - T - T. Off the Tracks, You Addictive Gambler, You.
1. After four games against "the spread" Michigan is 2-2. The pure spread attacks of ASU and Oregon shredded Michigan. The kinda sorta spread attacks of Northwestern and EMU were frustrating but didn't turn into losses. What kind of offense is Purdue? Painter's not a runner, but he can if necessary. Is Purdue a USC type spread offense or it's own hybrid? How's Painter fit into all of this? I've managed to confuse myself, so please enlighten me.
OTT: Purdue's offense is kind of their own special hybrid, in that I know there are some plays in the playbook that we can use to confuse the hell out of teams, but it was frustrating as hell we did through everything out there last week to try and make things work. It's almost like the coaching staff decided that falling behind 17-0 meant we just packed it in and hoped we scored with our base package. We have so many weapons we should be running trick plays all over the field. I've seen us run with #9 Dorien Bryant and #24 Kory Sheets both lined up in the shotgun next to Painter and run a sort of spread option. I've seen us go five wide. I've seen us under center more often this season than the past four years combined. There's even been some talk of good ol' I-formation at times.
Basically we have a ton of receiving weapons and options. We even have #6 Desmond Tardy, who often plays in the slot like Bryant, as a former High school quarterback who has been known to pull up and throw from time to time. Painter was very dangerous as a runner the last two years, but we have hardly had him run this year. Could this come out on Saturday? Who knows. He had success two years running option plays for Brandon kirsch after he was benched. Even though they were successful we went away from it. If he can learn to tuck and run at the right time like Drew Brees was an expert in doing he will take even more of a step forward.
As a short answer to the question though, yes, we are a more traditional spread the ball and throw it all over the field team, with a bit more of a running game in the past because of Kory Sheets. Six different guys have 11 or more catches this year, and Painter has thrown 19 touchdowns to nine different receivers.
2. Purdue was supposed to have one of the best receiving corps in the Big Ten, if not the country going into the year. Who the hell are these guys? You're putting four wide outs and a tight end on the field who are racking up huge numbers, and I have no idea what any of their names are. Who are your receivers 1-4, what are their strengths and weaknesses? Tight ends too!
OTT: As I said above, no one is putting up playstation numbers because everything is very balanced. Our top guy is Bryant with 42 catches for 446 yards and four touchdowns. He also has a kickoff return for a touchdown and he often lines up in the slot position. He has been known to run the ball at times, but only has 49 yards rushing this year.
Our number two target, and in my opinion our most dangerous receiver, is tight end #28 Dustin Keller. Bryant has a tendency to have at least two easy drops each game, but Keller is sure handed, strong, a beast to tackle, and very athletic to boot. Go to Spoilermaker.com and do a search under video clips for Keller. He very rarely gets tackled in one-on-one situations and has 27 catches for 420 yards and five scores. Keller was probably one of two guys that actually had a good day against Ohio State, as he had more than 100 yards receiving.
The second guy that had a good day against Ohio State was #21 Greg Orton. Orton is really becoming a nice possession receiver and deep threat. He has 28 grabs for 324 yards and two scores so far, but had 10 catches for 91 yards against the Buckeyes. He has size at 6'4" and I really like his work ethic this year.
Our number 4 guy is a little frustrating as he is the enigma that is #1 Selwyn Lymon. Last year he set a record for Notre Dame opponents with a 238 yard 2 TD day in Notre Dame Stadium. He had one TD catch the rest of the year in the final game at Hawaii and in the offseason got arrested for a bar-fight in which he got stabbed in the chest. He also was nearly blinded in a strange paintball type incident last season that caused him to miss a few games. He's the most talented receiving recruit we've ever had at Purdue, but let's just say he hasn't made the best decisions at times. The guy obviously has next level talent, but he needs to get his head together to become the total package.
3. Joey Mustache wasn't too happy with the offensive line after the Ohio State game. You watched it. I didn't (ND/UCLA). Was the line as bad as Tiller is making it out to be? OSU only got three sacks and two extra TFLs. Was OSU blitzing the hell out of Purdue or getting pressure and stuffing the run with its front 4/5? what's the status of your offensive line?
OTT: The offensive line has been pretty solid all season, and I think a big reason for their struggles last week was that Ohio State's defense is just really, really good. Another reason is the coaching staff reverted to the irritating tendency of completely abandoning the running game at the smallest sign of struggle. This allowed Ohio State to simply tee off most of the time because they knew we were going to pass on 6 out of every 7 plays. There were a ton of hurried passes and the OSU defense just knew their front four could handle the run. Most of this was due to predictable playcalling.
4. Speaking of offense, it's rumored you have a running game. Is this true? If so, elaborate on who powers this silent killer and why it went into hiding last week.
OTT: Kory Sheets is having a pretty good season with 535 yards rushing and five TD's, but he has had to step up since #33 Jaycen Taylor broke his arm against Central Michigan. Amazingly Taylor may return as early as next week even though he was originally thought to be lost for the season. Sheets has been over 100 yards in three games and was actually running well last week before the coaching staff gave up on running the football. The loss of Taylor puts us dangerously thin at running back, as now number 2 on the depth chart is true freshman #25 Dan Dierking. Dan is the son of former Purdue legend Scott Dierking and has already rushed for 179 yards and two scores... against the scrub defenses of Toledo, Eastern Illinois, and Central Michigan. Since he was thrust into the #2 role he has done well in spot duty, but he needs to develop more to be a true threat against good teams. If we stick to running the ball and don't give up on it we become even more dangerous, but that is a big if should we fall behind.
5. Over the last five years Purdue seems to have undergone this weird transformation from dominant defense to dominant offense, with nothing left on the other side of the ball. Over the last four games Purdue's given up 22, 31, 19, and 23 to Central Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and OSU. What gives with the defense? Who stands out, good and bad?
OTT: I take most of those numbers with a caveat because except for the game against Ohio State we gave up just 20 points in the first halves combined of our first five games. 14 of those came in the opener against Toledo when we once gave them the ball on the 20. The rest of the time the defense has simply slacked off with a multiple touchdown lead and allowed things to get sloppy. Minnesota and Central Michigan have proven they can move the ball a bit this year, so we weren't going to completely shut them down. Notre Dame and Ohio State each had receivers make some amazing catches in tight coverage that you can simply attribute to a great play made.
Last week against Ohio State the defense, especially after giving up the first two scores, really settled in and did a fine job of keeping everyone in check. If you had told me we were going to hold Ohio State to just 23 points I would have thought, with our offense, we would have been right there in the game with a chance to win. I feel we're worlds better this year because we really can't be much worse than the past two years. Last season we were ranked solidly in the 110's nationally in almost all defensive categories. This year we're in the 40-65 range. While that's not great it's a marked improvement.
I really like #2 Torri Williams' play so far, especially considering what he has had to face. He missed all of 2005 with a broken leg. Last season big things were expected from him at safety, only he had a gruesome knee injury in the opener against Indiana State that nearly cost him his career. He may be the best player in a secondary that is starting to become a group of ballhawks as we've picked off more passes in the secondary than we did last year.
Keep an eye on #42 Anthony Heygood as well. Heygood converted from running back after last season and instantly became our most productive linebacker this season. He's very instinctual and will only get better as he learns the system.
6. A Boilermaker is a beer cocktail consisting of a shot of whiskey, tequila, or vodka, and a glass of beer. If you could the name of your team to any shot or alcoholic beverage, what would it be? Michigan's is obivious, the Mind Eraser. After the first two weeks of the season, what else could it be? What about Purdue?
OTT: First off, a Boilermaker is a disgusting concoction. It tastes like pencil erasers mixed with beer. I much prefer my wife's school drink of the Hurricane. In Miami's Coconut Grove at a place called Sandbar they serve Hurricanes by category (1 through 5) A category five consists of light rum, dark rum, spiced rum, Bacardi 151, Coconut rum, Triple Sec, Grenadine, and grapefruit juice. This compares to Purdue's season (except the Ohio State game) because they get you going in a hurry then you don't really care what happens because you've already done enough to win.
Awesome. Thanks again to Travis for his thoughts on the game. Go Blue!