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April 14, 2010Purdue's running back corps is dwindling.
On Wednesday, two days after his undisclosed injury was first announced, it was learned that sophomore Al-Terek McBurse has a hairline fracture in a forearm that will likely keep him out of Saturday's spring game.
Coach Danny Hope, who's already without Ralph Bolden due to an ACL tear earlier in the spring, is down to only a couple of scholarship backs, including recently converted receiver Keith Carlos, plus a handful of other walk-ons. But even one of those - redshirt freshman full back Kurt Freytag - couldn't avoid the injury bug, as he suffered an unspecified knee injury Wednesday.
The rash - Dan Dierking has also been slowed up much of the spring - left the Boilermakers to piece it together a bit during their "Steak and Beans" scrimmage Wednesday, which was won by the offense.
"We had to do some things personnel-wise to have the scrimmage," said Hope, who presumably ate steak with the offense, while the defense had beans. "We put (receiver) Antavian Edison back there some at running back. We put (receiver) T.J. Barbarette back there; Sean Matti in there at fullback and George Brigandi at running back, so we were still able to manufacture some offense."
Hope says McBurse, who had ascended to No. 1 on the depth chart in the backfield following Bolden's injury, will be fitted with a brace of sorts that might allow him to participate in non-contact drills through the rest of the spring.
Purdue's dearth of running backs has been alleviated somewhat by the ability of its quarterbacks, particularly with the dual-threat abilities of Robert Marve and Rob Henry. Although the former was somewhat limited due to expected soreness in his surgically repaired knee, the latter shined Wednesday.
Henry has removed his quarterbacks-only green jersey, a designation that makes them off-limits to contact, in favor of black, which makes him live for tackling. He's been running a lot from the QB spot lately, and with great success.
"Rob Henry, he's good," freshman linebacker Will Lucas said. "That Wildcat, that's unstoppable for us right now. We haven't stopped it in two practices."
Hope says Purdue has recruited QBs with running ability for this purpose.
"Being able to run the quarterback is really important, I think, right now for Purdue," he said, "and we recruited Rob Henry as a dual-threat quarterback. ... There's going to be a place for him. He's doing a great job too on special teams, and also getting his reps at quarterback."
Hope says Purdue can still operate much its run offense, but with the quarterback simply keeping instead of handing it off to a runner.
"It's really the same plays, but it's just who's getting to run the ball," he said. "We're getting repetition with our base plays, whether the back's running the ball or the quarterback's running the ball, and that's our plan anyway. We're just getting a little more work on our quarterback runs than we thought we were going to this spring."
Despite injury concerns at several spots, Hope says he expects to have a spring game Saturday, not a scrimmage.
The Boilermakers have a particular issue at running back, where injuries have sapped them of depth, but Hope says they could alleviate the problem somewhat by having some players play for both squads.
"We may have to pass it a lot," he said, "because we don't have a lot of running backs. But we're in position to do that because all our quarterbacks are healthy and they've all gotten a lot of reps."
Hope has a new contract, extending his deal by a year through the 2014 season.
Purdue announced the pact, which adds a year to his original six-year deal singed in 2008 when he came back to Purdue for a year as an assistant before taking over, on Wednesday. It calls a guaranteed total-package earnings of $900,000 in 2010, with an additional $500,000 possible in bonuses.
"I was excited about it when the administration discussed the matter with me," said Hope, who led the Boilers to a 5-7 record in 2009, "and I really appreciate the opportunity. I really love it here at Purdue. I think it's certainly a sign of support and a sign of the progress we're making."
• Lucas suffered from a bit of confusion at the start of the "Steak and beans" scrimmage, as the rookie didn't exactly understand who won what.
"(Coach) was like, 'Is the defense ready to eat beans?'" Lucas said, "and I was like 'Yeah!' ... I thought we got beans with the steak. I didn't know the deal."
Lucas, though, from the sounds of things, has made few other mistakes.
"He's done excellent," Hope said.
GoldandBlack.com will have more on Lucas in coming days.
• Adams says the injuries hurt the Boilers early in camp, but they're overcoming them now.
"The injuries were kind of a setback at first," he said. "But in a lot of ways, it's just been another challenge for us to overcome. It's brought us together. It's forced a lot of us guys who are healthy to step up. When you've got Keith Smith and Ryan Kerrigan a little banged up, that makes other guys stand up, which is great from a leadership standpoint."
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