October 28, 2008

Insider: Purdue offense changes with Siller at QB

Though they were not a pre-season Big Ten favorite, the Boilermakers expected to contend for a New Year's Day bowl. That won't happen. What's gone wrong in Joe Tiller's final season? We ask Gold&Black.com's Brian Neubert …

1. What is the current quarterback situation look like?

"It's up in the air, depending on Curtis Painter's health. As of Tuesday, he was questionable after separating his shoulder in the first quarter against Minnesota.

"If he doesn't play, redshirt freshman Justin Siller, who was a running back 10 days ago, will.

"If Painter does play, it sounds like Siller will see at least some action as well, but I can't imagine that anything's set in stone just yet.

"Siller did OK all things considered against Minnesota, but his inexperience obviously limits what Purdue can do offensively. Painter knows the offense and is a more capable thrower, but it's not like the offense's done much of anything this season anyway."

2. What will this offense look like with or without Curtis Painter?

"With Painter, the offense would be more drop-back-passing-oriented, like the traditional Purdue offense would be. With Siller, I'd expect Purdue to roll him out more and have him run the ball some, since he's a good athlete who can make plays with his legs. Purdue will have to keep the offense simple for him, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Siller run the option more than Painter would.

"Siller wouldn't give Purdue the vertical-passing prowess Painter theoretically should, but he'd give the Boilermaker offense much more of an improvisational element."

3. Purdue has lost five in a row, but three to ranked teams and the other two on the road, are the Boilermakers really as bad as their record indicates or is there reason to be hopeful?

"Yes, the competition's been formidable. But with the losing streak, the offense's performance during that losing streak and Purdue's injury issues, you do sort of have to dig for reasons to be hopeful.

"Whether Purdue's as 'bad' as its record, I guess that's in the eye of the beholder. The Boilermakers did nearly beat a good Oregon team, and they were competitive defensively against Ohio State and Penn State. The problem is, they just can't score. They turn the ball over seemingly left and right and seem to be hexed as soon as they get in position to score. This impacts the defense adversely.

The optimist might say it can't remain as bad as it is offensively, but it has over a span of several weeks now."

4. Outside of linebacker Anthony Heygood, who should U-M be cognizant of defensively?

"Defensive tackle Mike Neal is healthy for the first time in his career and having a solid season. He's a powerful player who's been disruptive in the opponents' backfields. He leads Purdue in sacks with 5.5. Really, all of Purdue's starting defensive linemen have, in flashes, been nuisances to offenses.

"Ryan Kerrigan might be Purdue's next very good defensive end. He's only a true sophomore and rebounded from a preseason ankle injury to have a pretty solid season to date. He gave Ohio State fits.

"Purdue's secondary, collectively, has been solid. I don't know if there's a real individual star, though. If there is, it would be David Pender, Purdue's best corner."

5. How is Joe Tiller being perceived in his final season in West Lafayette?

"Well, Purdue's 2-6. Maybe that answers your question better than I can.

"There's grumbling, of course, and some are eager to see him go at the end of the year, because of what's occurred this season coupled with a few prior seasons of Purdue doing nothing extraordinary. The Boilermakers have lost 18 consecutive games to ranked opponents, which has worn on fans, as you might imagine.

"You'd hope, though, that when his time at Purdue ends here in a couple weeks, people will put this season behind them and appreciate all Tiller's done for Purdue."

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