SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Purdue Boilermakers

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Joe Tiller (7th year, 46-28)
2002 record: 7-6 (Beat Washington 34-24 in Sun Bowl)
Big Ten finish: T-5th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 196.5 ypg
(4th in Big Ten, 30th in nation)
Pass: 255.7 ypg (2nd, 31st)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 116.2 ypg (4th, 23rd)
Pass: 201.0 ypg (5th, 40th)
Projected Starters
Offense (9 returning starters in bold)
WR   82   John Standeford   Sr.  
WR   21   Taylor Stubblefield   Jr.  
WR   2   Ray Williams   So.  
LT  63  David Owen  Jr. 
LG   56   Matt Turner   So.  
C   61   Nick Hardwick   Sr.  
RG  50  Tyler Moore  Jr. 
RT   71   Kelly Butler   Jr.  
TE   87   Charles Davis   So.  
QB   18   Kyle Orton   Jr.  
RB   25   Joey Harris   Sr.  
Defense (9)
DE   15   Shaun Phillips   Sr.  
DT   92   Craig Terrill   Sr.  
DT   58   Brent Grover   So.  
DE   40   Kevin Nesfield   Sr.  
WLB   47   Landon Johnson   Sr.  
MLB   34   Niko Koutouvides   Sr.  
SLB  16  Gilbert Gardner  Sr. 
CB   28   Jacques Reeves   Sr.  
CB   12   Antwaun Rogers   Jr.  
FS   9   Stuart Schweigert   Sr.  
SS  Deaunte Ferrell  Sr. 
Special Teams
26  Berin Lacevic  Sr. 
46  Brent Slaton  Sr. 
KR  Anthony Chambers  Sr. 
PR  Anthony Chambers  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Sept. 6  Bowling Green 
Sept. 13  at Wake Forest 
Sept. 20  Arizona 
Sept. 27  Notre Dame 
Oct. 4  Illinois 
Oct. 11  Penn State 
Oct. 18  at Wisconsin 
Oct. 25  at Michigan 
Nov. 1  Northwestern 
Nov. 8  Iowa 
Nov. 15  at Ohio State 
Nov. 22  at Indiana 
It's a New Year's Day bowl appearance or bust for the Purdue Boilermakers. That's coach Joe Tiller's mindset as he embarks on his seventh season in West Lafayette.

Tiller's previous six Purdue teams have enjoyed unparalleled success. The Boilermakers have gone to a school-record six straight bowl games. And that streak should reach seven, considering 18 starters (nine on offense, nine on defense), plus both kicking specialists, return from the Boilermakers' 2002 Sun Bowl championship team that finished 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten.

"I would suspect our team will probably be a darkhorse for the Big Ten championship," Tiller said. "Can I look at where we are with some satisfaction? Unequivocally, yes. Do I think we're positioned well for the future? Absolutely."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Purdue's one-back, spread offense, which led the Big Ten last season averaging 452.2 yards per game, should be just as productive in 2003.

Quarterback Kyle Orton, the MVP of the Sun Bowl, beat out Brandon Kirsch in the spring for the starting duties. Over the last seven games of the 2002 season, Orton completed a staggering 70.9 percent of his passes (83-of-117). Kirsch started four games as a true freshman last fall.

Orton has the stronger arm of the two, but Kirsch is a much better scrambler. "We've always felt it would be nice if we had more than one quarterback, but we never had that luxury," Tiller said. "Now we find ourselves with what we believe to be two very capable guys. What a huge plus that is."

Behind Orton will be 1,000-yard rusher Joey Harris, who paced Purdue with 1,115 yards rushing to go along with eight touchdowns.

John Standeford and Taylor Stubblefield, the Big Ten's top two receivers, also return. Standeford was one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award last season and is positioned to become Purdue's most prolific receiver ever. Stubblefield was No. 1 in the Big Ten and ranked seventh nationally with 7.7 receptions per game.

The offensive line has some holes to fill. Kelly Butler, who has started all 25 games of his career at right tackle, is the headliner. The average size of Purdue's starting line is 6-foot-5, 293 pounds.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

The Purdue defense that ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing 317.2 yards per game, returns nine starters. "We could really be a good crew," defensive coordinator Brock Spack said.

Free safety Stuart Schweigert may be the best of the bunch. A Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist the past two seasons, Schweigert, the school's all-time leader in interceptions, hopes to become Purdue's first consensus All-American on defense since Rod Woodson.

Purdue will start three seniors at linebacker, led by first-team All-Big Ten pick Niko Koutouvides in the middle. Koutouvides and outside linebackers Gilbert Gardner and Landon Johnson have combined to start 69 games during their careers and could form one of the most productive linebacking corps in the nation.

Defensive end Shaun Phillips is one of the finest pass rushers in Purdue history.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Although kicker Berin Lacevic, who suffered through a nightmarish 2002 season, returns, his days as the No. 1 kicker are probably numbered. Ben Jones, who transferred from Butler, has a much stronger leg and proved to be more accurate during the spring. Brent Slaton will handle the punting duties.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Purdue's schedule might be its biggest enemy. Seven of the Boilermakers' 12 regular-season foes played in bowl games a year ago. Road tilts against Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan likely will have an enormous effect on what kind of year Purdue has. History certainly isn't on the Boilermakers' side. Since 1967, Purdue is 1-12 in Columbus and 0-15 in Ann Arbor. Big Ten championship hopes also will hinge on the Boilers' special teams play and their ability to cut down on turnovers.

Even if Purdue falls short of its goal of a league title, this team likely will be playing on New Year's Day.

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