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Football momentum on Purdue's side

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For more on Purdue athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Boilers seek to challenge in Leaders Division

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 9:17 am

Danny Hope is a momentum coach and the Boilers have plenty. They have a bowl victory, a solid spring, plenty of returning talent, an upgraded defensive system and a well-regarded recruiting class.

They have speed, athleticism and enough quarterback depth for three teams.

What does this mean as Hope enters his fourth season directing the Purdue program?

“I really like the direction we're going in,” he says.

Why not?

Purdue doesn't lack for talent. It returns 15 starters from a 7-6 team. Two Boilers -- defensive tackle Kawaan Short and cornerback Ricardo Allen -- are up for Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes annually to the nation's top defensive player.

Short ranks 15th in school history with 33.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Last season he set career highs for tackles (54), tackles for loss (17.0) and sacks (6.5).

Allen had a team-leading three interceptions last season, including one he returned for a touchdown against Minnesota. The junior has returned three interceptions for touchdowns. He was fourth on the team with 81 tackles and defended seven passes.

In Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry, the Boilers are quarterback loaded. The trick will be sharing the playing time. Hope says he has a plan, but then, he always says that. TerBush remains No. 1 with Marve right behind him. Figure Henry, one of the fastest Boilers, will get plenty of work in a Wildcat package as well as running back and receiver.

The offensive line got a boost with the spring emergence of guard Cody Davis, who filled in while Peters Drey was out with a back injury. Taylor Richards also took advantage of spring opportunity at safety, especially with former Bishop

Dwenger standout Landon Feichter sidelined with a shoulder injury. Perhaps the most intriguing position change was moving quarterback Sean Robinson to middle linebacker. He learned fast, although where he'll end up on the depth chart is uncertain.

The defensive coaching staff was revamped, with the hiring of new coordinator Tim Tibesar the key. He has Canadian Football League experience and a background in dealing with spread attacks, crucial given how much spread offenses have taken over the college game. He instituted changes that includes the entire defense meeting first before breaking up into position gatherings. That fostered a more unified atmosphere that should translate into more cohesive play.

Purdue has five commitments for the Class of 2013 and one of them, Ohio defensive end Jake Replogle, went against family tradition by picking the Boilers. His three older brothers -- Adam, Tyler and Mike -- all picked Indiana.

Replogle has said he went with the school he was most comfortable with. The Boilers won out over Miami of Ohio, Bowling Green, Toledo and Marshall.

At 6-5 and 240 still-growing pounds, Replogle could wind up as a defensive tackle.

The highest-rated committed player is Terre Haute South quarterback Danny Etling. He's rated the No. 7 player in the state and the No. 16 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service.

One of the more intriguing commitments comes from Illinois' John Strauser. The 6-4, 240-pounder is listed as an athlete. He has played fullback and at all three offensive line positions in high school as well as defensive end and linebacker, and likely will get action this season at tight end.

That versatility reflects an athletic background. His father and grandfather played football for Wisconsin. His mother was an all-state high school track standout. One brother played for Princeton. Another plays for Penn. And two uncles are prominent coaches – Paul Chryst is the head coach at Pitt; Geep Chryst is the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach.

Purdue beat out Pitt, Illinois, Northern Illinois and Army.

Hope has ratcheted up the discipline and accountability. He wants fewer penalties and more focused play. He has talked about building a championship program, and while the Boilers don't seem ready to challenge Wisconsin for the Leaders Division title, they might make a strong run at No. 2, with Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State also in the picture.