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August 25, 2009

Boilermakers return to practice field

Beginning its game-week practice routine, Purdue returned to the practice field Tuesday after its customary in-season Monday off.

Coach Danny Hope said his team looked like a fresh, well-rested one as it scrimmaged in Ross-Ade Stadium. After practicing during training camp on Purdue's new FieldTurf field, the Boilermakers ran around on real grass for the first time Tuesday.

"The big thing today was that when we came out into Ross-Ade Stadium, we picked our tempo up," Hope said. "It's just something that has to happen naturally for our football team. We talked about it last spring before our spring game, that any time we walk out in the stadium, it has to be something special, whether it's a game, a scrimmage or a practice. I think the guys responded to that and we had a great day today."

After the scrimmage, Hope said he and his coaching staff "left the field feeling good," after the first-team offense fared well against the second-team defense and the second-team offense was shut down by the starting defense.

Purdue also worked some goal-line situations into the scrimmage, Hope said, followed by two-minute work.

"Our defense really rose to the occasion and pressured us with their rush and got to our quarterback some," Hope said of the two-minute drills. "The defense really cranked it up in the two-minute game and that's what we're looking for, to see that tempo to end practice."

Quarterback Joey Elliott starred Tuesday, Hope said, estimating the senior to be 14-of-17 passing for the day, "about half of it" coming against the No. 1 defense.

"Joey's doing excellent, he really is," Hope said. "He has his arm strength back. He's been very accurate with his passes, with a lot of zip, and he's had fresh legs."

Hope said the coaching staff incorporated some Toledo-specific "looks" into practice as the Sept. 5 season opener against the Rockets approaches.

Tuesday was the last time prior to the season that the No. 1 offense will be absorbing full contact, as Hope fears few things more than injury.

"We're going to take our No. 1 defense and tackle some of our down-the-line (offensive players) to continue working on our tackling," Hope said. "We call those guys 'rabbits.' They can go tackle some rabbits."

Injury report

Senior linebacker Jason Werner was kept out of the scrimmage, but it had nothing to do with his long-troublesome back. Hope said Werner has a mild ankle injury.

Others held out of practice - Hope intimated that all are minor injuries - were wide receiver Antavian Edison and running back Al-Terek McBurse.

"We're being precautionary on a lot of our guys," Hope said, "trying to make sure we're healthy going into Game 1."

Practice notebook

When asked if any other freshmen beyond those frequently mentioned - Edison and fellow receiver Gary Bush, linebackers Dwayne Beckford and Antwon Higgs and cornerback Josh Johnson - had emerged to the point they'll play this season, Hope said not at this point, but that things could change as the season unfolds.

Sophomore Ralph Bolden remains No. 1 on the depth chart at running back, but Hope again praised seniors Jaycen Taylor and Frank Halliburton and junior Dan Dierking.

"The two seniors made a big difference," Hope said. "When Jaycen Taylor came back healthy and Frank Halliburton took his game to a different level, that really increased our running back pool for the '09 season. They're tough guys."

When asked about the competition between Kawann Short and Nick Mondek to start opposite Mike Neal at defensive tackle, Hope said it's "close."

More on Mondek and Short to come tomorrow.

Regarding special teams, Hope said his team is "further along from a technical standpoint than most of the teams I've been around going into the first game."

Hope said offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, who was held out of Purdue's last scrimmage, was full-go in the scrimmage Tuesday.

"He did very well," Hope said of Kelly, who battled mono in July. "He's been cleared to practice and he's done a great job sucking it up in camp, but you could see him wearing down. He'll give you everything he's got. You can never question the fight or the want-to in that guy. The coaches pulled him out to get him a couple days of rest. He looked a lot better today. His feet looked quicker."

Middle linebacker Chris Carlino, who'd been slowed during camp by a sore hamstring, is back "for the bulk of it," Hope said.

"He's not getting all the reps yet," Hope said, "because of that hamstring. He looks like he's going to be just fine and we don't want him to re-injure it right now."

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