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April 1, 2009Chris Carlino didn't expect his freshman season to go as it did, but the middle linebacker isn't complaining as he goes through his first spring practice.
"I just wanted to come in and do what I could do and help as much as I could, but I got in a lot more than I thought I would," said Carlino, who started five games last year. "Coming in as an 18-year-old playing against guys that are 20, 21 and 22 - it's going to be demanding on the body and the mind, but I had to do what I had to do.
"It would definitely be harder this spring if I was coming out here not knowing what to expect from the Big Ten linemen and the Big Ten running backs."
Carlino played in all 12 games and started five times, compiling 36 tackles and two tackles for loss. He's aiming to build on his freshman season and solidify himself as the starting middle linebacker heading into fall camp.
"That's everybody's goal," Carlino said. "Everybody is fighting for a spot. We've got a lot of guys, young and old, but they're all fighting for a spot."
Carlino played well in games against Michigan State (nine tackles), Ohio State (seven) and Iowa (seven) last season, but saw limited action in some other games due to personnel decisions that led Purdue to not use the middle linebacker against certain, more spread-oriented offenses.
Coach Danny Hope doesn't anticipate having to take Carlino off the field often this season.
"We can do more with him," Hope said. "There were some calls last year and some situations we wouldn't put him in last year that we have more confidence in this year."
Hope said his confidence in Carlino comes from his playing experience last year, noting he now knows how to handle different defensive packages.
"We should be able to make some blitz calls and expect our linebackers to be in the right spot," Hope said.
Carlino, who finished last season weighing 215 pounds, said he is now close to 225 pounds.
"He's rising to the occasion," Hope said.
Siller misses practice
Starting quarterback hopeful Justin Siller missed Wednesday's practice, as he took care of some schoolwork, Hope said.
"He had some academic responsibilities he needed to take care of that he hadn't taken care of," Hope said, "and he wasn't going to practice 'til he did. It's very important he did."
Hope said he expects the sophomore back for Friday's practice.
"We've got some other guys, though," Hope warned, "that down the road, if they don't get caught up and take care of their academic business, they're going to sit and do their schoolwork instead of practice.
"They've got to be eligible and they've got to get good grades. Sometimes, (the coach has) to do that. I'm not saying Justin has had academic apathy, but if a guy does have academic apathy you have to equate his academic performance with playing time. That's a last resort, but we will do that if we have to. But that's the last resort. We don't begin with that."
Converted cornerback Royce Adams has impressed Hope in his move to wide receiver.
As Adams exited the Mollenkopf Athletic Center field Wednesday, Hope went out of his way to offer encouraging words to the senior as he switches from defense to offense.
At cornerback, Adams backed up classmates David Pender and Brandon King last season, and the situation likely would have been the same this season.
Later, Hope listed Adams among those players who've "caught his eye," saying that he's been catching the ball very well in practice lately.
"He was too good a player to be sitting on the bench," Hope said, "and that's what he was doing too much of on the defensive side of the ball. A couple months back, we talked about (a move) and he was excited about the chance to compete for a starting position. He's fast and he's tough and he wants to play real bad. He has a lot of want-to."
Adams is being trained as an outside receiver, though Hope said he'd like for all his receivers to be flexible enough to move around.
In the return game
Who'll fill in as kick returners remains to be seen, but as of right now, Hope said, wide receiver Aaron Valentin and running back Ralph Bolden are showing well.
It's hoped that Purdue's incoming freshman class will impact the return game, too, and Hope has high hopes for incoming junior college receiver Keith Carlos for returns, as well.
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