Purdue coach Danny Hope knew he wouldn't have recruiting quantity this football season, so he pushed quality.
Did he get it?
That depends on whom you believe. The national ratings list the Boilers with Northwestern and Indiana at the bottom of the Big Ten. However, Hope said “eight to 10” of his class of 12 could see significant action next season.
After two straight losing seasons (three straight if you count former coach Joe Tiller's last year), the pressure to win now is growing.
“It's important for us to win this year,” Hope said. “We didn't take on many (recruiting) projects. It's important that they be able to compete for playing time this season. Some will have to play.
“We only had a dozen spots, so there was not a lot of margin for error. We were very selective in who we put on our board. It was a heck of a challenge. We competed against the top schools. We got a lot of guys we had picked first.”
The highest-rated recruit is Florida athlete Frankie Williams. He's rated as No. 37 nationally. He returned nine kickoffs and punts for touchdowns. As a senior he totaled 28 catches for 483 yards. He recorded 67 tackles and two interceptions.
“He's a huge get for us,” Hope said.
The same is true of Florida athlete Raheem Mostert. He also returned nine kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns. He totaled 39 catches for 723 yards and four touchdowns.
“He's a special athlete,” Hope said.
As for the low rating, Hope blamed part of it on the small numbers. Most schools signed 20 or more players.
“Recruiting is not an exact science,” he said. “I'm sure the small class has a lot to do with it. A lot of these so-called experts count the stars when evaluating classes. We have a lot of three- and four-star guys. I don't think we have any two-stars.
“None of these guys were gimmes. We had to work to get them. A lot of times those ratings are popularity contests. Some recruiting analysts take the time to travel and look at film. Some don't.”
Purdue didn't sign a quarterback. Hope said that would be a priority for next season along with offensive line and defense.
“We recruited someone (Texas' Russell Bellomy, who went to Michigan) and it didn't work out,” Hope said. “That will make the position that much more marketable next year. We want to get a big-time prospect.”
Three players already have enrolled at Purdue and will be eligible for spring practice: running back Akeem Shaveers, tight end Sterling Carter and linebacker-safety Jalani Phillips.
Shavers, a junior college transfer out of Texas, is one of four running back prospects. The Boilers made that position a big point of emphasis given that veteran Ralph Bolden missed last season with a knee injury. The others are Doug Gentry from Texas, Brandon Cottom from Pennsylvania and Akeem Hunter from Georgia.
“We feel good about our running backs,” Hope said. “We went after a certain type of running back. We looked at junior colleges first and zeroed in on a couple of top guys.
“The guy we got (Shavers) has got a lot of speed and is a physical runner. He's an excellent worker.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound Shavers rushed for 450 yards last season, but averaged 9.0 yards a carry.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Gentry rushed for 3,523 yards in his high school career. Hunter rushed for 654 yards and seven touchdowns last year. He also caught 15 passes for 231 yards and two TDs. Cottom, who is 6-2 and 240, averaged 5.9 yards a carry.
“We've increased our (running back) numbers and gotten good size,” Hope said. “All these guys can run.”
As far as Bolden, Hope said, “We think he'll be healthy and ready to play next season. He's come along very well. He's gone through all the drills.”
Hope was high on his pair of in-state players – defensive end Randy Gregory of Hamilton Southeastern and wide receiver Shane Mikesky from Zionsville.
The 6-4, 210-pound Gregory recorded 110 tackles and 6.5 sacks as a senior. He also caught three passes, two for touchdowns.
“He was one of the top five players in the state from a talent and film production standpoint,” Hope said. “He plays with an attitude. I like that. We need more of that around here. He has a lot of speed off the edge. He has a great upside. He's not real big and strong yet, but he has a lot of natural strength.”
Mikesky has game-breaking speed. He's the defending state champ in the 110-meter high hurdles. His time of 13.96 seconds was the 28th fastest by a prep hurdler last season and is the sixth fastest returning time. In football he caught 39 passes for 720 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“He's an outstanding track athlete,” Hope said. “He didn't have that accomplished a football season as a junior so he was somewhat under the radar. As a senior he showed great speed and put up some impressive numbers. He'll also run track at Purdue. That was part of the recruiting process.”
Purdue football recruiting list
Note: The 2011 Purdue football recruiting class
Sterling Carter, te, 6-5, 240, Los Angeles Harbor College
Brandon Cottom, ath, 6-2, 240, Council Rock North HS, Newton, Pa.
Doug Gentry, rb/ath, 6-0, 190, Mexia HS, Mexia, Tx.
Randy Gregory, de, 6-4, 210, Hamilton Southeastern HS, Fishers, Ind.
Akeem Hunt, rb/ath, 5-10, 170, Covington, Ga.
Kaulana Judd, lb, 6-2, 230, Fullerton College (Calif).
Robert Kugler, te/ol, 6-3, 250, North Allegheny HS, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Shane Mikesky, wr, 6-3, 195, Zionsville HS, Zionsville, Ind.
Raheem Mostert, wr/ath, 5-11, 180, New Smyrna Beach HS, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Jalani Phillips, lb/s, 6-4, 255, Houston County HS, Warner Robbins, Ga.
Taylor Richards, db, 5-10, 180, Lake Mary HS, Lake Mary, Fla.
Michael Rouse III, dt, 6-4, 310, Homewood Flossimoor HS, Flossimoor, Ill.
Jesse Schmitt, ls, 6-2, 225, Trinity HS, Louisville, Ky.
Akeem Shavers, rb, 6-0, 200, Tyler (Tx.) Junior College
Armstead Williams, lb, Gateway HS, Monroeville, Pa.
Frankie Williams, db/ath, 5-9, 175, Robinson HS, Tampa, Fla.