Spring football is a time for renewal. In programs around the Big Ten, new faces must emerge to fill the roles vacated by departed contributors. Purdue, despite finishing at the bottom of the Big Ten West for the third consecutive year, featured a group of seniors who left a positive impression. The Boilermakers showed signs of improvement in 2015. And if it is to continue, the replacements must use the growth of last season as a starting point. Here’s a look at a few important positions that will feature new faces in new places.
B1G SHOES TO FILL: Danny Anthrop, WR
Why: While Purdue shuffled quarterbacks over the past two seasons, Anthrop remained a reliable weapon at receiver. He grew into the Boilermakers’ most productive pass catcher as a junior in 2014 before a knee injury cut short his season. Anthrop returned last year to again lead Purdue with 57 catches. While not a home-run threat, he provided reliability and solid leadership. It will be missed.
The skinny: Purdue has a veteran group at the position from which receivers coach Gerad Parker can find the next leader. Posey caught 26 passes for 255 yards last season, and Young added 21 for 276, so the Boilermakers aren’t lacking for productivity. DeAngelo Yancey is also back at receiver to reclaim his position as a starter. So Purdue is not lacking for experience here. If the next group replicates Anthrop’s intangible qualities, QB David Blough ought to have solid targets aplenty.
B1G SHOES TO FILL: Frankie Williams, CB
Why: Williams was a do-it-all type for the Boilermakers, returning punts and kickoffs and playing well in the secondary. He intercepted three passes and broke up seven, second on the team to safety LeRoy Clark. Williams was a second-team All-Big Ten pick in 2014. His cover skills encouraged opponents to avoid him last season. And he was always a threat to deliver a game-changing play on special teams.
The skinny: The departure of Williams and fellow corner Anthony Brown leaves perhaps the most glaring hole on Purdue’s two-deep. The hope this spring in West Lafayette is that Hardy, a junior-college transfer, originally out of Florida like Williams, shows the maturity to play immediately. Hunte saw time as a backup last year, and Cooper shows promise after a redshirt season. Purdue also prioritized recruiting a cornerback. Three signees arrive in the summer.
B1G SHOES TO FILL: Robert Kugler, C
Why: Kugler showed up at Purdue as a tight end and took over at center midway through his redshirt freshman season in 2012. Forty-three consecutive starts later, he left as a two-time captain and the linchpin for an offensive line that showed modest improvement in 2015. Kugler was a smart player who bettered the play of linemen around him and helped smooth the transition between quarterbacks.
Replacement candidate: Kirk Barron (6-2, 310, sophomore)
The skinny: The job is there for Barron to take it. If he struggles, Purdue could ask a guard to move or hope that youth is served in the fall. Barron played behind Kugler last year, though the captain’s notable durability did not allow for the former three-star recruit out of Mishawaka, Indiana, to get much time after redshirting in 2014. The return of senior guards Jordan Roos and Jason King may help Barron’s move into the lineup as Purdue also replaces one starting tackle from 2015.