DE Ray Edwards (PHOTO CREDIT - Purdue University Sports Information)

2004 Statistics

Coach: Joe Tiller
62-37, 8 years
2004 Record: 7-5
at Illinois WON 38-30
at Notre Dame WON 41-16
at Penn State WON 20-13
at Northwestern LOST 10-13
at Iowa LOST 21-23
vs. Arizona State LOST 23-27

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

The balance that wasn't supposed to exist last year did, but this team still lost five games by a total of 14 points. Maybe it was the marginal pass defense, or the erratic kicking, or a running attack that was as powerful as a pea-shooter. Whatever the case, with the return of seven offensive starters, everyone on the defensive two-deep depth-chart from the Sun Bowl, and both the kicker and punter, this team is expected to be strong enough to get over the hump.

While the offense always gets the attention and should once again shine, this year it all starts with a defense that exceeded expectations a year ago in ranking third in the conference in scoring allowed, and second in both third-down conversions allowed and red-zone stopping. Last year, the D was simply expected to hold its own. This year, it will have to create more big plays to be the force necessary to even compete for a Big Ten title.

The schedule is favorable with a pair of relatively easy non-conference games to start, Indiana and Illinois to finish, and no Ohio State or Michigan in between. The key is Notre Dame and Iowa at Ross-Ade the first two Saturdays in October. A pair of wins there should have the Boilers talking national title, never mind the Big Ten.

Speaking of the Hawkeyes, Tiller and Purdue seem to be mirroring Kirk Ferentz and Iowa - both programs have risen into annual Big Ten powers, thus threatening Michigan and Ohio State's conference hegemony. Just as Iowa landed its best recruiting class this January, so did Tiller, whose group was rated 25th nationally by and fourth in the Big Ten behind, yep, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa.

This team, especially with its schedule, should be focusing on nothing short of a conference title. It could get one, but the pick here is that Purdue's experience won't be enough to overcome what it lacks in talent, especially compared to certain opponents at specific positions. They will compete, yes, but dominate? Not quite yet, though early blowouts could convince some they will. Just like last time (in '04, when they started 5-0, only to then lose four in a row), right when you think they are rolling, they will drop a crucial one. And then, the fans may have to drink 'themselves' to again gain the courage to face another offseason of coulda-woulda-shoulda.

Projected 2005 record: 8-3
QB - 3.5 DL - 4.5
RB - 3 LB - 4.5
WR - 3 DB - 3.5
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Brandon Kirsch, 94-58-3, 711 yds., 7 TD

Rushing: Jerod Void, 159 att., 625 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: Kyle Ingraham, 51 rec., 624 yds., 7 TD

Scoring: Ben Jones, 10-18 FG, 49-50 PAT, 79 pts.

Punting: Dave Brytus, 53 punts, 40.0 avg.

Kicking: Ben Jones, 10-18 FG, 49-50 PAT, 79 pts.

Tackles: Bernard Pollard, 96 total, 58 solo

Sacks: Ray Edwards, Rob Ninkovich- 8 each

Interceptions: George Hall, 2 for 44 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Jerome Brooks, 22 ret., 24.8 avg., 1 TD

Punt Returns: Dorien Bryant, 7 ret., 4.6 avg., 0 TD


TE Charles Davis (PHOTO CREDIT - Purdue University Sports Information)
OFFENSE: Kyle Orton-QB, Jon Goldsberry-FB, Taylor Stubblefield-WR, Tyler Moore-OG, David Owen-OT
DEFENSE: Antwaun Rogers-CB

The leadership torch has been passed from star Kyle Orton to redshirt junior Brandon Kirsch, and that, necessarily, is not a bad thing. What Kirsch lacks in arm strength, he makes up with his quick feet. Unlike Orton, Kirsch can scorch teams running and throwing on rollouts and escaping from the pocket with the head to know just when to go. That should help the Boilers improve on the 31 sacks they gave up. And Kirsch is well-versed in this offense, having intermittently started six times since 2002 (94 attempts and a 143.4 QB-rating last year). He has to stay healthy (a rotator cuff injury forced a redshirt year in '03) and improve his decision-making, but his transition to full-time starter will be eased by a solid group of playmakers at WR. This offense, which was tops in the Big Ten and 16th nationally, will be less predictable with Kirsch in charge, but expect a return to basics if he falters early. The staff is high on redshirt freshman Curtis Painter, a strong-armed pro style QB who is more like Orton and would stabilize the ship.

Running Back
This offense will still run to open up the pass, especially with a new set of mobile hands under center. The ground game ranked 87th, but they still will continue to use it to set up the pass via imposing an honor system on LBs (nearly 47 percent of the plays were runs). Head man Tiller blames the team's putrid 3.5-yards-per carry average on the O-line, as well as vanilla play-calling (which is still more creative than most other Big Ten offenses). With Kirsch's legs as an "option", the running will open up. The line will be better, and returning starter Jerod Void will be more productive. Void, a converted fullback, brings a splendid speed-power combo to the table. He improved as a receiver last fall, and his stellar pass blocking is vital. Backup Brandon Jones has softer hands and is just as physical as Void. He will get as much work as Void, even if he doesn't have Void's instincts and blocking skills. Expect more out of No. 3 back Jerome Brooks, a 179-pound return specialist who will add a missing spice to this attack with his speed and game-breaking ability. If not redshirted, sophomore Kory Sheets could also be added to that fiery mix. There isn't a huge array of backs behind these guys, so health is an issue if/when injuries arise here.

Even with the departure of Big Ten record-holder Taylor Stubblefield, Kirsch will hardly have to distribute his throws to a bunch of stiffs. This offense will still light it up through the air, especially with 6-9 junior Kyle Ingraham poised for a breakout year. His height makes him deadly on fades and a constant worry in the red zone. Look for Ingraham to take over as the possession guy (not a burner) and as the leader of this group. Actually, he's the perfect compliment to a fast unit that will spread secondaries all over the field. There are three deep threats in senior Ray Williams, soph Dorien Bryant and backup Brian Hare (4.45 speed, 26.0 yards per catch). A former New Jersey state 400-meter champ, Williams will have to pick up his production with receptions-monster Stubblefield gone. Bryant is a prep school product who impressed as a freshman. This group was limited by physical secondaries, something that should be remedied with the addition of four-star recruit Selwyn Lymon, a rugged impact guy who thrives in bump-and-run coverage. Air Tiller lives on, just watch and see.

Tight End
Purdue went back to utilizing this position last year, and second-team all-Big Ten pick Charles Davis was the reason. Davis (who played eight minutes at forward against Eastern Illinois for Gene Keady 1/2/05 after the Sun Bowl), is a reliable target who takes at least one LB (or safety) off the WR group. Athletic for a 263-pounder, Davis can stretch the field, and he's also a great blocker. There's not much depth here, but that's not too troubling as Tiller won't use many two-TE sets.

Offensive Line
Still irked by his team's loss to Arizona State in the Sun Bowl a month afterward, Tiller implied that his linemen were soft. Three of those softies return, as do four backups in last year's two-deep. You better believe that those guys endured a world of pain during winter conditioning. The most consistent player up front was center Matt Turner, who again anchors the crew. That will be tougher to do with a scrambling QB, but that could work to the advantage of a line with athletic, trap-happy guards. A key here will be any improved play from Kyle Turley-haired blindside tackle Kyle Otto, who was looking like a potential all-American before last season. "I hope Mike Otto rediscovers himself," Tiller said after the Sun Bowl. "Maybe a haircut's the difference, I don't know. But I hope he plays better football next year than he did this year." Expect those winter hell days to pay off come this fall as an improved line will lead to a more efficient offensive balance. But there is little development and the raw talent isn't up to speed, literally or figuratively.

The receivers are some of the best in the Big Ten, and this team will get plenty of underneath production from Davis and its running backs. The line will be more of a physical force, with battle scars that have to translate, or else. With that should come an (more) efficient running attack, especially with the imaginative Tiller personally tossing in some new wrinkles. So that leaves Kirsch as the key. He has earned the respect from his teammates as a leader, but being productive in an offense that Tiller says he'll alter to fit Kirsch's talents is the key. The new wrinkle overall is that all of the backfield skill position players are versatile within different roles they can play if asked to - RBs as WRs and QB Kirsch as a RB. With the wealth of talent around him and, most importantly, with the job comfortably in his possession, expect Kirsch (and the offense in general) to be modestly firing on all cylinders by the Big Ten opener, and to again be among the nation's best (13th in al I-A for total offense).


WR Kyle Ingraham (PHOTO CREDIT - Purdue University Sports Information)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Brandon Kirsch-Jr (6-3, 208) Curtis Painter-Fr (6-4, 212)
RB Jerod Void-Sr (6-2, 212) Brandon Jones-Sr (5-11, 236)
WR Kyle Ingraham-Jr (6-9, 228) Brian Hare-Sr (6-3, 190)
WR Dorien Bryant-So (5-10, 175) Andre Chattams-Jr (6-0, 204)
WR Ray Williams-Sr (6-2, 193) Kevin Noel-Sr (6-3, 203)
TE Charles Davis-Sr (6-6, 260) Dustin Keller-So (6-4, 245)
OT Mike Otto-Jr (6-5, 292) Ryan Noblet-So (6-6, 291)
OG Uche Nwaneri-Jr (6-3, 313) Nick Fincher-So (6-4, 287)
C Matt Turner-Sr (6-3, 290) Zach Smith-Fr (6-4, 285)
OG Jordan Grimes-So (6-3, 313) Neal Tull-So (6-3, 292)
OT Sean Sester-Fr (6-8, 282) Garret Miller-Fr (6-8, 263)
K Ben Jones-Sr (6-1, 213) Casey Welch-Jr (5-9, 165)



Defensive Line
Like the rest of this defense, everyone is back here, including several of last year's backups. And this team led the Big Ten in sacks. This aggressive line is the strength of the defense, though, as it bogs down O-lines enough to make an average LB group look good and often bails out the secondary with its pressure. The leader is star-in-the-making DE Ray Edwards, who is quick and athletic and had 11 TFLs in his 45 tackles. Counterpart Anthony Spencer isn't as flashy, but he gets the job done as well, meaning there is no weak side, so to speak. Toss in the eight sacks by improving backup Rob Ninkovich, and the three ends combined for 23.5 sacks. Not only are Brandon Villareal and Brent Glover tough to run against inside, but their 23.5 tackles for losses should tell you how often they're in the backfield. Even if Kirsch and the offense regularly go three-and-out, experienced backups such as Ninkovich, Dan McGowen and Eugene Bright, as well as prized recruit J.B. Paxson, will ensure that the pressure stays on for four quarters. Heck, they should even improve on their ranking of 14th for run stuffing.

After holding their own in a rebuilding situation last fall, this once-young bunch is a year older and a year better. While middle-man George Hall, strong-side backer Bobby Iwuchukwu and weak-side guy Stanford Keglar aren't fearsome pass rushers (two combined sacks), they're excellent at covering ground and getting to the ball carrier. They also play a key role in the pass defense shutting down the underneath YAC (opponents averaged 6.6 yards per catch). The tenacious Hall brings the swagger with his big hits and intense play. Iwuchukwu, a kick-blocking specialist and the best athlete here, missed the final four games last fall with an MCL tear, giving true freshmen Cliff Avril and Dan Bick valuable time in his place. With a year to grow on and a great line in front, this group should be one of the most efficient LB corps in the conference.

Defensive Back
Despite his team's strong defensive showing last fall, Tiller indicated after the season that he wasn't happy with the play of his secondary, which was average against the pass. But to fairly state, opponents threw to compensate for their lack of a running game. Unlike last season, there's plenty of experience here, but it will take more than that for improvement. On top of missed assignments, which were to be expected at times, there was a general lack of fire here. Strong safety Bernard Pollard, the best player back here, needs to be more of a leader. Former QB Kyle Smith was adequate at free safety, but could lose his job to soph Torri Williams, a more aggressive, athletic player. While not awful by any means, neither Paul Long nor Brian Hickman is the shutdown corner Antwaun Rogers was before getting hurt as a senior last year. Redshirt freshmen Zach Logan and Fabian Martin, three-star corner recruits with outstanding speed, should be inserted here. Like the offensive line, this area will be under Tiller's microscope this offseason. Considering the returning starters combined for just three interceptions, someone needs to develop into a ball-hawk here for this defense to be better.

Tiller said he wasn't displeased with his defense, but its lack of ability to close out games didn't make him happy. You can't blame that on youth this year, and with so much experienced depth joining some talented 2004 and '05 recruits on this side of the ball, there's no excuse for fourth-quarter fatigue. The run defense should be stellar, always a plus in this conference (well, unless you're playing Purdue). But the key to a great season here will be finding the right combinations in the secondary. With a big-play offense to give that group room to gel early on, a better effort should emerge by the start of the conference schedule.


LB George Hall (PHOTO CREDIT - Purdue University Sports Information)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Anthony Spencer-Jr (6-3, 263) Eugene Bright-So (6-4, 250)
DT Brandon Villarreal-Sr (6-2, 289) Dan McGowen-Jr (6-0, 279)
DT Brent Grover-Sr (6-3, 303) Ryan Baker-Fr (6-6, 267)
DE Ray Edwards-Jr (6-6, 270) Rob Ninkovich-Sr (6-3, 251)
SLB Bobby Iwuchukwu-Sr (6-2, 246) Cliff Avril-So (6-3, 231)
MLB George Hall-Jr (6-2, 250) Dan Bick-So (6-1, 216)
WLB Stanford Keglar-So (6-2, 227) Kyle Williams-Fr (6-2, 206)
CB Paul Long-So (6-2, 193) Fabian Martin-Fr (5-11, 188)
CB Brian Hickman-Sr (6-0, 178) Zach Logan-Fr (6-1, 174)
SS Bernard Pollard-Jr (6-2, 226) Lance Melvin-Fr (5-9, 193)
FS Kyle Smith-Sr (6-4, 216) Torri Williams-So (6-2, 200)
P Dave Brytus-So (6-4, 227) Aaron Charles-So (6-3, 215)




A return to normalcy is the hope here. '03 Groza Award semifinalist Ben Jones had an ugly '04, hitting just 10-of-18 field goals while missing two within 29 yards and having three kicks blocked. "I believe his talent best parallels what he did a year ago, not what he did this year," Tiller said after the season. You never know, but the hunch is Tiller's and he knows his men best, huh (at least Villareal is back at snapper and Smith returns to hold). His return to form is crucial to a team that lost five close games.

Tiller joked after the season that, during game weeks, Dave Brytus would peak on Fridays. "Right now, he's made the all-Friday Punt Team," Tiller said. As a freshman, his 40.0 yards-per-kick average was a meager ninth in the conference, but improvement is expected. On the bright side, the return unit allowed just 7.5 yards per return and no TDs. Opponents beware (see also Kicking section below): Bernard Pollard can block kicks (four in '04) seemingly at will.

Return Game
Brooks consistently gives the offense good starting position and is capable of breaking one. On the other hand, any return of punt was dreadful - the Boilers muffed their way to a No. 112 ranking out of 117 Division I-A teams. There's nowhere to go but up, and Bryant can only improve on those numbers after getting just seven attempts as a freshman.