Thursday, March 26, 2009

Q&A: Danny Hope, Head Coach, Purdue

College Football Insiders Coaches Corner with Coach Danny Hope of Purdue was conducted on the morning of the Boilermakers Pro Day. Hosted by CFI Founder Daniel Mogollon.

Let’s start with some of the Boilermakers heading to the NFL Draft, beginning with quarterback Curtis Painter. Last week we spoke to Coach Bob Johnson, who is working with Painter, and he believes Curtis will be a starter in the NFL. Do you think he is underrated as a quarterback prospect?

I think so. Curtis came on board last year and he had great numbers. He went through the 2008 season with the football team and had a chance to be out there in the spring and all of the fall. He’s got great arm strength. He’s an excellent person. He’s got good height. He went down to the Combine and ran better than people anticipated. I think he was a little bit under a 4.9, I think he ran in high 4.8’s in the 40. Coming out of the Combine, he opened a lot of people’s eyes up with his accuracy and the strength of his arm. There’s a bunch of people coming in today, we’ll have about 20 NFL teams here and a lot of those guys will be here to find out more about Curtis Painter. I don’t have any motivations to think that he’s not a NFL quarterback from a physical standpoint. Obviously his senior campaign didn’t go quite as well as he wanted it to, but there were a lot of circumstances that he couldn’t
control that effected his numbers. I think he’ll get his shot, and do well when he gets his opportunity.

Having said that…passing yards, completion percentage and touchdowns were down…what happened this past season?

We weren’t as good on offense, obviously. There were a couple of top receivers that did not come back for the 2009 season cause their eligibility was up. Dustin Keller was drafted in the first round last year, he was a big playmaker and a tight end who could get vertical down field and stretch the defense in special ways. Curtis was able to take advantage of that, but we didn’t have that threat at the tight end position this season. We had some injuries at the tight end position and really didn’t open up the tight end passing attack, and that cut his numbers back some. Last year Dorrian Bryant, in 2007, he was the leading receiver in the Big Ten and one of the leading receivers nationally for two, three years in a row. He went on to go play in the league, he was not back and that effected him in some ways. Some of our top playmakers were gone. Then we struggled up front, offensive line-wise. (We) had a lot of guys injured coming into the season and had to play a lot of young offensive linemen, some true freshmen and that limits some of the things you can do as far as spreading the field out and taking some chances, protection-wise. I think it was a combination of a lot of things.

How about Kory Sheets? I think he surprised people with his speed at the NFL Scouting Combine, what kind of player can he be at the next level?

I think he could help a team in a lot of ways. He’s a good kick return man, he has legitimate speed, and good size, not great. But I’m not surprised he ran as fast as he did. I think he ran somewhere in the mid, low 4.4’s. He was an excellent sprinter in high school. He was a track man in high school and had documented track times. He was fortunate this season to get the bulk of the work at the running back spot. We had an injury to one of our top running backs, Jason Taylor. We relied a lot on Kory Sheets and he rose to the occasion and really did a great job. He rushed for over 1,200 yards and was a good receiver out of the backfield, but I think the fact that he played in the spread offense and knows how to catch the football will separate him from some other guys at his position. If he can prove himself to be a physical player, I think he can do very well in National Football League. He is very talented and I think he has the desire to do well.

Being a former offensive line coach and a former offensive lineman yourself, tell us what makes defensive tackle Alex Magee difficult to block...

Well, he’s very quick and he has good size, good explosion. He’s marketable in some ways because he has enough size to play inside. He’s not the 320-, 30-, or 40-pound defensive tackle, he’s not a Teddy Washington type, size-wise. He can go inside and play, and he’s athletic enough to go out on the edges and play, and be a decently-sized defensive end. I think his marketability is up because he can have a chance to play both positions. He has good speed, not great, I think he is a guy that is quicker than he is fast and that makes a difference when you're playing on the line of scrimmage. He has the knack for rushing the passer, I think he’s a good player and has a real upside to him. I think he’s got the tools that you're looking for to play on the defensive line. So I think all three of those guys are guys that will test out well and open people’s eyes. I think all three of those guys will be drafted.

Do you think Magee can make the adjustment to play end in a three-four scheme? That’s not an easy thing to find…

No, and it’s a good position for him to play out there, in a loose five technique. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him filling that role. He is also a smart guy that will test out well in all of the aptitude tests which will make a very good impression. I think that will help his stock.

How many teams have spoken to you? And which guys are drumming up the most interest?

Well, they all come through here. They all do a great job, the NFL does a great job at researching and doing their homework. They get the data that they need. Everyone has been here, they’ve all asked questions. They’re all here today, the building is full of them, they’re all over the place and we’re going to meet here in a few minutes to get more of their questions answered, but they’ve all been through here.

Spring is almost upon us…Purdue is about two weeks away from spring camp, I believe Wednesday March 25th is the exact date. What are you looking to accomplish in your first spring as headman of the Boilermakers?

We are going to crank it up here in a couple of weeks. They are leaving after classes today, if they have not already left, to go on spring break. We have had great pre-spring training program. I think the guys really worked hard and had a lot of energy about them. Morale was up, they were excited about some of the new things that we’re doing. I’m looking forward to spring ball starting, it will kick up in about 12 days. The first two days we’ll go out in shorts only and then we’ll get the pads on. I think our guys are excited about that. We have a lot of young guys that are very talented. We feel good with what we have coming back from a depth standpoint because a lot of guys aren’t really what you would call marquee or heralded players. A lot of the guys that are coming back were new to getting on the field last year and I think they can take their game to another level. We're bringing in some fresh blood, and there will be some great competition out there, we're anticipating a very spirited spring. Guys out there will be competing for starting jobs, and we go into the spring with the idea that all spots are open and our guys are excited about that. The depth chart that we post daily...we move the depth chart around based on how guys are performing in spring ball so we expect it to be very competitive, very spirited. We have a lot of questions to be answered at every position on our team, more questions at some spots than others, and we have a lot of work to do. But I feel good about our preparation going into the spring and the attitude of our players going into the spring.

Justin Siller was brilliant in a 48-42 victory over Michigan, throwing for 266 yards and three touchdowns and adding another 77 yards and a score on the ground as a freshman. Is this his job?

He’s going to have to compete obviously, and we have another quarterback in Joey Elliot that was second on the depth chart behind Curtis Painter. He was injured, and then Curtis Painter was injured so we moved Siller from running back. He did a great job and there will be competition at that job. Elliot obviously won’t be at full speed going into the spring, but he’ll get some reps. Then we have a freshman (Caleb TerBush)that was red-shirted last year, he comes from the state of Illinois, right next door. He’s a small kid, with a good arm and we’ll get him some reps as well. Also, we have a new quarterbacks coach. I think it’s a big spring for us, obviously, at the quarterback position. We've got two guys that have played, in Joey Elliot and Justin Siller, and both have have been lined up as the number one or number two at some time last season. We also have a new quarterbacks coach from Florida Atlantic University and he’s going to get our quarterback competition under way.

Is it possible that Justin could move back to running back if he doesn’t win the quarterback job?

I don’t see that happening. We have some guys at the running back spot that are going to get their opportunities and we anticipate they'll all stay healthy, so Justin will stay at quarterback.

Who are some of those guys moving to the forefront? Losing Sheets, he ran over 1,100 yards and Justin was second leading rusher with a 167, so we're talking about unknown products at that position, right?

Exactly. But they're all guys that were on the team last year. Guys that were on the travel squad and guys that have gotten reps in practice and that understand what we're trying to get done. We had a freshman that we played last year, Ralph Bolden, that was injured for part of his senior season. He came in last year and we did not red-shirt him. He played a little bit last year. He’s a good throwback prospect. Frank Halliburton, out of Indianapolis, he’s a big back and played some special teams for us last year. He might play some at the fullback position. Daniel Dierking was one of the leading rushers in Illinois three years ago. He was mostly a special teams player last year. He’ll get reps at the running back spot as well. Another big back, by the name of (Jared) Crank played some on special teams last year. The running back spot is wide open with a couple of big backs. Obviously Ralphy played some last year and Frank, those are the guys that will get the bulk of the reps.

I got a recruiting question for you about quarterback Nayee Tyler. I’m from New York and we don’t produce many football players, so a quarterback out of Brooklyn is big news locally. What can you tell me about him?

We’re really excited about him. We were surprised that we were on his list. Right now the way recruiting works, everyone is worried about filling up so fast with early commitments. A lot of these guys are signed before their senior year. But he’s a very special athlete, and a very special person. He’s a guy that was on our mailing list his junior year. They had a very good running back and didn’t throw the football a whole lot till the end of the season. His senior season, they changed things around and threw the ball more and threw it well. He’s a guy that we knew about, but he was unproven as a player and his film came in and he went through the film evaluation process that we have. We all thought that he had a great upside to him and he did a great job in his senior year. He’s big, about 6’6, 230 something pounds and very smart. He traveled about a hour and a half just to go one way in high school. It was a great high school that he went to, the program (Xaverian) that he played at. We think we did very well. Towards the end, when people started getting a scale in and looking at him, we realized he was a special player from a top school in the country coming in. We already gotten on him and he was sold on Purdue, so we thought we did very well and were very fortunate in that recruiting situation.

Photo Credit: Purdue University Sports Information