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March 24, 2010
The Boilermakers had enough talent last fall to earn a bid, but Purdue was undone by a poor turnover margin (87th in the nation), the worst rush defense in the Big Ten (173.4 ypg) and a 1-5 start. That all led to a wildly inconsistent season that saw Purdue beat Ohio State, fall to Northern Illinois and lose five games by seven or fewer points.
With a veteran roster and forgiving schedule, nothing but a bowl bid will suffice this fall.
Here's a look at the Boilermakers heading into spring drills.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH
There is some promising skill-position talent on offense. Bolden and sophomore Al-Terek McBurse form a strong running back duo. Seniors Keith Smith, Keith Carlos and Cortez Smith are a strong trio of receivers, while tight end has two good options in Adams and fellow senior Jeff Lindsay. The front seven on defense looks strong, with Kerrigan and Short leading the way. Kerrigan looks like a future NFL first-rounder.
HELP IS NEEDED
Is Miami transfer Robert Marve the answer at quarterback? He is the favorite to win the job this spring but will be pressed by sophomore Caleb TerBush and two redshirt freshmen. The offensive line has three holes to fill. Defensively, all eyes will be on a secondary that must replace all four starters and returns only six scholarship players.
THREE GUYS TO WATCH
FS Albert Evans: He's one of Purdue's most experienced defense backs, but Evans - a junior - really hasn't played much. The Boilermakers need a leader to emerge for a secondary that must replace every starter, including a likely NFL draft pick in cornerback David Pender.
QB Robert Marve: Marve is a junior who transferred from Miami, where he was a starter in 2008. If he lives up to billing, the Boilermakers have a chance to be excellent on offense. He's a rare talent at this school, but watch how he plays this spring coming off an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
C Rick Schmeig: Purdue has to replace three starters up front, with center being the key spot. Enter Schmeig, a redshirt freshman who likely will get first crack at the job.
THE PRESSURE IS ON
LBs Chris Carlino and Joe Holland: They're returning starters, but by the end of last season, freshmen Dwayne Beckford and Antwon Higgs were making a legit push for more playing time. Carlino and Holland are juniors, but Beckford and Higgs are more physical and more athletic. Can the junior duo of Carlino and Holland hold off the youngsters?
Few players will be more scrutinized this spring than Marve, a former Florida "Mr. Football" who led Tampa Plant to a state title in 2006. He's a dynamic combination of athletic skills who could make this one of the top offenses in the Big Ten. But Hope also must work at rebuilding the offensive line and secondary if Purdue hopes to get back on the bowl track in 2010.
Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.