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April 21, 2010Wednesday concluded a rocky set of spring practices for Purdue, 15 practices adversely impacted by injury, ending with lingering questions at various positions such as the offensive line and secondary.
"We have a lot of work to do still," Coach Danny Hope said, "but we're making progress."
Hope said following Wednesday's practice - held well within earshot of the blaring music originating from a near-by fraternity - said "this football team," as opposed to past Purdue teams, made progress executing its basic offense and defense, taking care of the football, generating turnovers and "going out there and being more competitive."
Additionally, Hope said he's seen better tackling this spring, too.
"We made some progress toward physical and mental toughness," Hope said, "but we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.
"We did have some leaders emerge, and that was very, very important for this spring practice. We weren't sure who the leaders were going to be going in."
This week, the team voted six players into captain roles: receiver Keith Smith, tight end Kyle Adams, running back Dan Dierking, defensive ends Ryan Kerrigan and Gerald Gooden and linebacker and returning captain Jason Werner.
"Some guys have asserted themselves," Hope said. "But we still have a lot of work to do in terms of leadership."
More than anything, Hope said, he hopes his team comes out of Spring 2010 with added depth, the desired silver lining from a spring season many of the team's best players watching from the sideline. Worst of all was the season-jeopardizing knee sustained by No. 1 running back Ralph Bolden.
"The most important thing is we developed some depth, some real depth," Hope said. "Guys who are further along and close to being like starters. ... It muddies the water in some ways because we come out of spring and there's not a lot of clear-cut starters. There are more questions coming out of spring than there were going into spring in some ways.
"Even though we have some questions, I'm still comfortable with where we are, because there's some talent out there."
Purdue added some secondary help with the late signing of junior college safety Max Charlot, a 6-foot, 200-pounder who'll come to West Lafayette in the summer with three years of eligibility.
Hope called safety Purdue's thinnest position.
"We needed him," Hope quipped when asked what he liked about Charlot.
"He runs real well. I wouldn't say he's a class sprinter, but he's smooth and changes direction real well. He has some coverage skills. He's about 200 pounds, so he's a good-sized safety and he will come down and hit you. He was an (academic) qualifier out of high school, but played behind a guy who was one of the top safety prospects in the country (UCLA recruit Anthony Dye) ... He was a qualifier, but he wasn't a big-time prospect just yet; he was still developing. So he went to the junior college ranks and did very, very well."
Charlot comes the same high school, junior college and neighborhood that produced former Purdue starter Dwight Mclean.
"He was a neighbor, ironically," Hope joked. "It just worked out that way. We weren't just going to take anybody's neighbor who could play safety."
Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who re-injured the broken foot he sustained at the end of the season, is still propped up on a single crutch. He will continue to be evaluated as he rests the foot before a decision is made as to whether he'll require a second surgery.
Wide receiver Keith Smith, who was sidelined all spring after having wrist surgery in the winter, said he's been cleared to start catching footballs again May 17.
Dierking joins his father, Scott, as Boilermaker captains.
"He came down for the banquet when they announced it," Dan Dierking said. "He came up and gave me a big hug. His eyes were tearing up. I'm sure it meant a lot to him."
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