For Purdue receiver Justin Siller, sometimes it's OK to bully.
No, that doesn't he should beat up on the small and weak, unless they happen to be opposing defensive backs trying to stop him. Mostly, it's about playing to his 6-3, 215-pound size.
“It's a mindset,” he said. “Every play, whether you know you're getting the ball or not, you have to go as hard as you can to try to defeat the man in front of you.”
Given that Siller once played running back and dual-threat quarterback for the Boilers, he has that mindset. Adapting it to the receiver position, where he's only played six college games in his career, has been a process.
Saturday's game at Rice (0-1) is a chance to further that adaptation.
“I've had to take one step to get to the next step,” he said.
Last year, Siller's first at receiver, he caught 12 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in limited action because of a foot injury. In last Saturday's season-opening win over Middle Tennessee State, he led the Boilers in receiving with five catches for 56 yards. But it was blocking where his more physical approach was most apparent.
“I've learned that can take you a long way,” he said. “Blocking on the edge could be the difference between breaking a 70-yard run and settling for a 10-yard run. The biggest thing for me has been blocking in the running game.”
Coach Danny Hope has always touted Siller as a difference maker. This season, Hope said, Siller figures to make it happen.
“I think Justin is going to have a great year. He's a very much improved player. He can be a standout player for us.
“Stamina and familiarity with the position and confidence at his new position, I think, are the biggest difference makers in his play. Last year he couldn't play up to his potential. He was new to the position and the conditioning part of it was a struggle for him, and then he got injured.”
Siller is healthy now and, as the Middle Tennessee State game showed, is quarterback Caleb TerBush's biggest receiving target.
“He ran good routes,” Hope said. “He caught the ball. He was where he was supposed to be. He made some very athletic catches with his hands. He did a good job blocking on the perimeter. He will be a feature in our offense throughout the course of the year.”
Siller figures to be featured Saturday against a Rice team that pushed Texas hard for three quarters before fading.
Hope said Rice is like Iowa in that the Owls won't play multiple defenses.
“They're a little more vanilla than what we saw this past weekend, where Middle Tennessee State was a high-pressure team. They'll line up in a couple of fronts and a couple of coverages, and execute and play very physical, not making any mistakes.
“On offense they return some weapons. They can get in the shotgun, can give you headaches passing the football, and they're very good at the option run game. They even have a very good Wildcat package (where a running back takes over at quarterback).”
Regardless of what Rice does, Hope wants fewer mental mistakes, especially when it comes to pre-snap penalties. Purdue had 11 penalties for 95 yards against Middle Tennessee State.
“There are some things to clean up and we'll do a lot better with that. It will be a huge jump from the first game to the second.”