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July 10, 2009

Kerrigan primed for big year

Due to minor injuries mainly, defensive end Ryan Kerrigan feels like he's yet to put a complete season together.

In 2009, he hopes to change that.

It was a high-ankle sprain that contributed to his slow start last season, before he turned it on in the second half to finish with team-highs in sacks (with seven) and tackles for loss (11.5). An earlier lower-leg injury, along with inexperience, slowed him during his rookie season in '07, although he still showed plenty of promise then.

But the 6-foot-4, 263-pound junior says he's feeling healthy enough now for a breakout season.

"The time is now for Purdue to do something special," the Muncie, Ind., native said, "and I definitely need to be a big contributor to that."

Kerrigan's off-season, however, hasn't been without incident. After the season, in which he had 56 tackles and was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media, Kerrigan came down with mononucleosis. He still wasn't fully recovered by the start of spring practices, as the sickness had sapped him of some weight and strength.

But defensive line coach Terrell Williams said that Kerrigan started to look like his old self again in the spring's final week.

"I just saw him the other day, he came by my office," Williams said, "and he looks like you want a defensive end to look. … Next to Michael Neal, he's the strongest guy on the defensive line, maybe on the football team."

From appearance, Williams' assessment would look to be correct. As of mid-June, Kerrigan said he had regained most of the strength he had lost and his weight was back up into the 260s.

"That (mono) kind of derailed me a little bit, but I'm getting back to the strength I had at that time," he said. "I feel pretty good right now, but there's a long way to go this summer and I have to still continue to get bigger, stronger and in better shape so I can go my hardest every play."

Kerrigan credits his strength gain to the work he's put in with strength and conditioning coach Jim Lathrop. Not only that, but he says Lathrop's helped him gained much-needed speed as well. At Muncie Central, where he had 19 sacks and 90 tackles as a senior, Kerrigan wasn't much more than a bruising-type end who barreled toward the quarterback.

Particular emphasis on quickness the last two off-seasons, however, has changed that, he hopes.

"That's an area I really needed to work on," Kerrigan said, "and I've improved my speed since I've been here too, but also my strength. I've changed a lot since my freshman year and it's definitely for the better.

"That's key for a defensive lineman, because you have to beat the offensive lineman off the corner sometimes. That's what Coach Lathrop really helped me do, because in high school I was never really explosive or anything. But now, I feel pretty explosive and I can move a lot better than I could in high school."




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