Author: TW Hague
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
GO TO PART II: 2009 Purdue Spring Game: The Defense
Great day for a football game! We were up in the suites (many, MANY thanks to the Wongs for that treat) so I won't even guestimate at what the crowd was.
Since it was a scrimmage and not an actual game, I thought I'd just keep individual thoughts and observations on position and individual players. And as always, I loaded those observations on the Offensive side of the ball. Note I'm probably ranking the positions as well by how they're reported (best on top and so forth).
Joey Elliot - Had a good day. Seemed to read the defense well and put the ball on the money the majority of the time. No real signs of the shoulder injury, stretched the field on a couple of occasions. Had a nice couple of quarterback keepers (which in this system now seems to be mandatory) where he evaded the D, used his blockers and found the holes, all while showing a little bit of speed & moves. Had one nice run that was for plus 10 yards. Good heads up play in leading the offense on a very "Vanilla custard" kind of day.
Chris Bennett - I'll probably get a lot of disagreement here, but to my untrained eye, Bennett had a better day than Terbush did (or at least he looked better doing it). Realizing that part of his success may have been because he was playing against the 3's, Chris still looked very confident in the pocket with the ability to throw a nice, tight "on the rope" spiral for those short passes that are so critical to a spread offense. Chris found his receivers and tight ends, and they didn't have to work too hard to catch the ball. Maybe one, possibly two tough passes that he threw in to traffic, but other than that, looked pretty good.
Caleb Terbush - In addition to playing the 1's and 2's, Caleb probably suffered from some "inflated expectations" on my part per the spring camp press reports. On the plus side, he's got an arm, he can move and he's not afraid to throw the ball. On the minus, he rushed some throws (and seemed somewhat "rushed" all day), put some high or low off the receiver and made at least one he shouldn't have. One of the interesting things to note is he looked to be throwing sidearm. If that increases your accuracy and zip on the ball, okay. But if you can't find the safe passing lanes your O is opening for you (or they aren't opening them), it makes me nervous. He tried to force a deeper one to Bolden that was in heavy coverage. You're obviously going to have to do that at some time.at this point, I'd say he's not quite ready for it. And note, they may be as much a timing issue with his receivers, as well (are they where they're supposed to be WHEN they're suppose to be.) Caleb did take a nice keeper for first down yards, scrambling well and keeping the D off of him. On the TD pass to Keith Smith, he scrambled, took his time and found his man in the end zone, so that was a definite plus.
Ralph Bolden - Wow! What can you say. I'll start by saying I don't want to discount ANY of what he did, but I will note that it would have been interesting to see what Mr. Taylor could have done with that O-line (not to mention ATM). Now, having said that, Mr. Bolden played an exceptionally good game. He found his holes, attacked them, had some good moves and good speed. He also showed a nice set of hands on both passes out of the back field and a few that were a little deeper. He had some GREAT YAC on one play, accelerating past his defenders and making a guy miss. He also moved the pile after one catch, taking it from the teens down to the 2 or 3. Ralph showed and excellent ability for picking his spots and running to them on numerous occasions. He also showed guts and strength on straight line, straight ahead running. He hits hard and keeps his legs churning; he has a motor and he can play. Prior to spring ball, I think everyone would have agreed Taylor was projected number 1 with our four star Clearinghouse casualty ATM a "wishful" number two. Now I'd say that even healthy, if Bolden can fall camp as good as the spring game (or hopefully, even get BETTER) it will be tough for Jacelyn to unseat him. We may get another tandem set of running backs.
Dan Dierking - Dan started slow and had a fumble in the first half. He also had a reversal where he didn't quite have the speed to break the corner. The second half saw a marked improvement. Dan caught a nice pass or two and started following his blockers to the holes. He also seemed to be running "smarter" in the second half; in the first half, he was running with authority and putting a lot into it, but it was usually into the thickest part of the pile or right into the arms of the D. Second half, his vision picked up considerably and he had a couple of very nice runs, one where he was "shoe string" tackled and if he hadn't been, he probably would have gone for 6.
George Brigandi - A couple of nice runs, nice blocks.
I really don't pay much attention to who's doing what on the O-line, with the exception of Center (which I comment on below). I was looking for Ken Plue, but the only time I think I really focused on him was when someone said he got flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct. But I will say this; The O-line provided good protection to the QB, and more importantly, they opened up some lanes. As noted above, Ralph did a good job at RB, but I can't say that a healthy Taylor might not have done as well. The O-line was pushing and holding coverage. The D-line put pressure, but I think they only came through a few times, and then around on the edges a couple of times.
Jared Zwilling - On the drive up to the game, I mentioned to dad that one of the real bright spots for the team over the last 5-6 years (maybe longer) was the fact that we'd seemed to have gotten over the 'bad snap" bug; i.e., unlike too many games during the Brees and after eras, we weren't giving the opposing team a play by muffing the snap.
I might as well have sacrificed a small animal and made the incantation right there in the car.
Zwilling put a couple of strange snaps up; I don't know if it was to the QB or the RB, but the ended up somewhere in between (how confusing for the opposing D.not to mention the QB and the RB!) The QB bobbled one and kept it and lost another. This is his first year doing it, buts since he and Elliot are roomies and Evansvillites, I'm confident that can be corrected.
Jeff Panfil - Seriously impressed with Jeff. A converted QB, he has size and hands. Made several VERY nice catches and then dragged a few guys with him for YAC. Just looked really, really good. And he's BIG out there.
Jeff Linsday - Another big body to throw at. Nice hands, elevated well for a high one and came down with it on a third down, over the middle in traffic. I'd say he and Panfil were interchangeable, and will bring back the TE to the offense in a BIG way. If Colton and Adams were the projected starters, we are going to have a VERY good TE corps. Nice to see the critical over the middle throws, as well as some long balls to them, too.
Aaron Valentin - Hard not to put this guy first on the list, but truth be told, Keith Smith had a very good day, too. Aaron had a couple of initial drops, but then stepped up and made some good to great catches with some speed afterwards.
Keith Smith - Very impressed with Keith. Got off the line quick, ran his routes well and held on to the ball. Start of the second half had two very nice catches showing his speed and athletic ability. Was able to get separation in the end zone, critical for red zone points.
Royce Adams - Was used on the reversal play. Has some great speed, just needs to put more stickum on his hands. He did have one bobble on a reception, then pulled it in for a nice catch and YAC. Heard footsteps on one play and kinda did the "Not mine" bit when the ball got there, missing the catch (which, after playing on the other side of the ball, can possibly be understood).
Adam Wolf - Two nice catches, got TAGGED on one play after the reception but bounced up from it.
TJ Barbarette - Couple of nice catches, including a deeper one.
And that's it for the offense. Very vanilla, and as Coach Hope mentioned in his post game press conference, we are without about half of the projected wide receivers. From the game, it looks like we have the talent and capacity at the RB (with guys that have good hands so they can play "safety valve") and TE positions to set up some good plays; now we just need to cement a possession receiver and a deep ball guy to keep the opposing D honest.
Next up, the defense, special teams and overall thoughts.