- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
And Mike Phipps, the senior quarterback, says much the same. "It's hard to say whether we had a good team, as far as being a team goes. I hope we have more leadership this year. If a superstar is one who just comes up with a big play every so often, I'd rather not have him. I just want a guy who will do his job consistently, a guy the other players know is out there giving his best."
Such a player is Phipps himself. As a sophomore his total offense was more than 2,000 yards; last year, though he missed three games because of an ankle injury, he managed to throw for more than 1,000. Big and strong, he will not only have to stay healthy for Purdue to succeed, but also throw as he did last year, along with filling the void left by runners Keyes and Williams. "We'd be wasting Mike if we didn't use him," says Mollenkopf.
Without Keyes and Williams, there will be less consistency to the Boilermaker attack. It will be a peak-and-valley offense, gambling for the quick score rather than settling for a sustained drive. There will be little of the 22 Toss, which had become the Purdue trademark during the Reign of Keyes—instead, the attack will center on Phipps and the option. He will go after the corners, first with a pass, then the option itself, with running his primary choice. There will be more inside slants and certainly more drop-back passing. "We should really have more diversity this year," Phipps claims. "We had it last year, but it seemed whenever we got into a game we'd always go back to what we did best." He will be Purdue's best this year and he realizes the danger that may present. "Yes," he says, "I know the pressure's on me now. I just want the team to respect me. I'd like to be a Bart Starr-type leader."
Purdue would be better if there were a few Bart Starr-type helpers around as well. Backing up Phipps will be a pair of promising juniors, though both have little experience. The setback will be John Bullock, recruited from Newport News, Va., the home town of Keyes. He is regarded there as an even better prospect than Leroy was, but Bullock himself realizes the futility of trying to follow in Keyes' footsteps. "No one can fill his shoes," Bullock says. "I'll just do my job." The Z-back, or splitback, will be Stan Brown, a sprinter who, if he can stay in one piece (he's only 5'11", 170 pounds) will be a consistent breakaway threat. Split End Ashley Bell is just a sophomore, and the tight end, junior Greg Fenner, played only briefly last year, so Phipps has not worked much with his receivers.
Experience is even thinner on the line, where tackle Paul DeNuccio will be the only returning regular. The other tackle will be a giant junior, 275-pound Donnie Green, switched over from defense. Tim Huxhold and Paul Baker will be the inexperienced guards, and Walter Whitehead, after earning letters for two years as a reserve, will start at center.
But, while the Boilermakers cross their fingers and hope they can find enough help for Phipps offensively, they absolutely gloat about their defense. And well they might, for returning are eight starters from a unit that gave up the fewest points in Big Ten competition. It had the unnerving habit, however, of letting opponents get close before shutting the door. This year, without a Keyes to bail out the offense, the defense will have to kick the habit.
The veteran line, in the tradition of all Purdue lines, is big, led by the monstrous Alex Davis at 280. But the heart of the team—and a strong one at that—is the linebackers and the halfbacks. Taking Kyle's place at middle guard will be Bob Brumby, who has played little, but Veno Paraskevas is an experienced outside backer. Paraskevas, who gives cheerleaders more problems than rain (try Par-ask'-e-vas), was the most pleasant surprise on the team last season.
The defensive backfield is exceptional. Randy Cooper, who can also swing to offense if needed, plays one corner, with Tim Foley at the other. Don Webster and Richard Mahurt are both experienced halfbacks.
Two tough nonconference games are early on Purdue's schedule—against Notre Dame and Stanford—and should give an indication of the chance Mollenkopf has for a surprise trip to the Rose Bowl. But even if the Boilermakers don't make it to California, they certainly will prove themselves to be more than the poor orphans of Leroy Keyes.