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'Explosive' Hunt gives Purdue big-play threat

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For more on college football, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Bye week provides recruiting opportunity

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 7:30 am

Akeem Hunt's numbers, if extended for a full season, would make him perhaps the greatest offensive football force in college history.

Of course, there's no way the Purdue sophomore running back can sustain this early pace, especially given the strength of the upcoming schedule, but why kill the hype?

In three games Hunt has rushed for 139 yards on just 11 carries. That's a 12.5-yard-per-carry average. It includes a 56-yard touchdown run. He's also caught three passes for 106 yards. That's a 35.3-yard average. It includes a 50-yard TD catch.

Granted, much of this came against winless Eastern Michigan, but that doesn't negate his game-breaking potential.

“He's very explosive,” coach Danny Hope said. “He's a class sprinter. He loves football. He brings a lot of energy to the field. He's always a threat to go the distance.”

The 5-9, 184-pounder reflects Hope's SEC recruiting approach that taps into the abundance of southern-state speed. Last year as a reserve, the Georgia-raised Hunt rushed for 287 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 100-yard game against Indiana. He averaged 8.7 yards a carry.

Still, he remains a work in progress.

“He has to work on his blocking skills,” Hope said.

Hunt is just one big-play weapon in a versatile offense that averages nearly 40 points a game behind offensive coordinator Gary Nord. Receiver Antavian Edison, for instance, has 18 catches for 186 yards and four touchdowns while emerging as Purdue's go-to receiver. Mostly of these guys are small by football standards, fast by any measure.

“Coach Nord is doing a great job of spreading the wealth around,” Hope said. “We don't have a featured running back, but we have many skill players who can manufacture big plays. Akeem is one. Raheem Mostert is another one. Antavian Edison fits that bill.

“Akeem has to keep making big plays and improve his blocking. We utilize him on special teams. He has a natural toughness about him. He's a huge asset to our team.”

Another huge asset is quarterback Caleb TerBush. He wasn't sharp against Eastern Michigan, in part because of a severe migraine headache he'd experienced a day earlier. TerBush downplayed the issue, but Hope didn't.

“He's fine now, but I was concerned about him on Friday. It was excruciating pain. The fact he put his helmet on and played in a physical game was a great demonstration of courage on his part.”

Hope emphasized that TerBush had experienced migraine headaches before arriving at Purdue, and hasn't experienced any head injuries as a Boilermaker.

“A concussion had nothing to do with his migraine,” Hope said. “I'm glad he was able to help us win, but he had his struggles.”

The Boilers (2-1) have a bye week. They won't play again until Sept. 29 against Marshall (1-2). One point of emphasis will be minimizing turnovers. Purdue has committed nine in three games.

“We have to do a better job in ball security,” Hope said. “We've manufactured a lot of takeaways (six) and it's evened out in some ways, but ball security is still an issue we have to get a handle on.”

Hope is giving players Thursday, Friday and Saturday off to help get them fresh for the final nine weeks of the regular season. Coaches will use that time to recruit. They already have 11 commitments highlighted by four-star quarterback Danny Etling of Terre Haute South, and are expected to sign at least 10 more.

Two key injured players, quarterback Robert Marve and tailback Ralph Bolden, got non-contact work this week.

Marve, who tore an ACL against Notre Dame, did individual work as he tries to return to action, perhaps as soon as the Oct. 6 Big Ten opener against Michigan.

Bolden, who hasn't played since tearing his ACL during last year's Indiana game, is getting non-contact scrimmage reps. The hope is he can return this season.

The Boilers are also giving extra scrimmage work to the young players and those seeing limited or no action, while resting the veterans.

“We're working on a lot of things that have to get better,” Hope said. “We've worked on fundamentals. We want to tackle better, block better and improve our pass protection. We want to get our quarterbacks back to a cutting edge. And we have to give ourselves a chance to recover.”