BOILER PLAYER WATCH
Written by Evan Williams
Purdue Football 2012
Players to Watch – Juniors
After a little delay, I am back with the next installment of the Players to Watch for the upcoming season of Purdue football. This week’s Boilermakers to watch come from the talented junior class. Now upperclassmen, keep an eye out for these Boilers to have big impacts on this season’s success.
1. Rob Henry QB 6’2” 200 lbs. Ocala, Florida
Flashback to 2010, Rob Henry was most likely third on the depth chart. After a series of events, Henry found himself in the starting role for the good part of the 2010 campaign. Coming into the 2011 season, Henry was looking to enter camp at the top of the depth chart and had shown some major progress in his game, but then it happened. Like many other Purdue athletes, Henry suffered an ACL tear that sidelined him for the entire 2011 season. Now fully healthy, Henry is in the middle of what appears to be a fierce battle for the starting spot with also fully healthy Robert Marve and the incumbent Caleb TerBush. It is going to be quite interesting to see how Coach Danny Hope utilizes having three very capable Big Ten caliber quarterbacks. Henry is the fastest of the bunch and is one of the faster signal callers in the conference. I could see Hope using Henry in some running situations, but don’t count out his passing game either. No matter how Coach Hope uses him, Rob Henry will for sure be a big part of Purdue’s offense this year and have a good shot at earning the starting spot.
2. Ricardo Allen DB 5’9” 176 lbs. Daytona Beach, Florida
If Allen’s first two collegiate seasons are any indication of how this year is going to go, we are going to be in for some real good football. Ricardo has had a stellar first two seasons for the Boilers as he has been a two time all-conference selection and held down the secondary since his freshman year. Last season, Ricardo recorded 81 total tackles, three for loss, three interceptions, one pick returned for a touchdown, a forced fumble, and the game-winning field goal block in the season opener. While Allen isn’t the biggest man on the field, he’s not afraid to go head to head with the best. He’s a fierce, hard-hitting corner that can shut down receivers, stranding them on “Rico Island”. In addition to leading the secondary, It is also expected that Allen will take over the punt return duties from graduated senior Waynelle Gravesande this year with his blazing speed. Ricardo was recently named a preseason First Team All-Big Ten selection by Athlon. Allen is a big time playmaker and it is going to be fun to watch him dominate receivers this year.
3. Bruce Gaston DT 6’2” 310 lbs. Chicago, Illinois
Gaston made two of the biggest plays of Purdue’s 2011 football season. First, he blocked the potential game-winning field goal against Ohio State to send it to overtime where Purdue came out victorious. Next, he recovered a fumble against Western Michigan to help seal the victory in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. I have a good feeling Bruce is going to have a monster year for the Boilers after his 2011 campaign where he tallied 30 total tackles, seven for loss, three sacks, one fumble recovery, and one blocked kick. Bruce is one of a couple players that have been a mainstay on the Boiler defense since his freshman year. With his experience, he is going to be expected to help lead Purdue’s defense. Gaston is a beast on the d-line and is going to stop a lot of backs from gaining yards this season. He’s huge stopper but maintains his versatility and ability to get into the backfield. Teaming up with Kawann Short, Gaston is one half of perhaps the top duo on the defensive line in the B1G. I have a lot of confidence in Bruce’s game and know that he’s going to have a big year.
4. Gary Bush WR 6’0” 175 lbs. Miami, Florida
Purdue is definitely going to produce one of the fastest teams in the conference this year, and Gary Bush has a lot to do with that. It has been reported that the wide out from Miami has produced a sub 4.3 40 time. Last season, Boiler Nation got its first real look at what Bush can do on the field. After catching one touchdown in the 2010 season, Bush had 29 receptions for 310 yards and three scores in 2011. Gary’s had a huge catch in Purdue’s bowl victory with a 33 yard touchdown reception from Caleb TerBush. In 2012, I think G6 is going to have a huge year and establish himself as a big time receiving threat. With Bush’s speed, he has all the potential to be a deep threat in the Boilers offense this year. With the experience that returns at the quarterback position, Bush will only benefit with the chemistry that is already there. Purdue is going to have an experienced and talented receiving core this year, and Bush is going to have a significant role in the offense.
5. Gabe Holmes TE 6’5” 247 lbs. Miramar, Florida
Gabe Holmes is another guy that already has a plethora of experience as a junior. He played in all 12 games as a true freshman and played in 11 games last season due to injuries. With health on his side now, I think that Holmes will be a very solid receiving tight end for the Boilers this season. In 2011, Holmes grabbed 11 receptions for 133 yards with one touchdown. He spent a good part of the season banged up with an injury so I’m excited to see what he can do fully healthy. With his big frame, Holmes is not only a big receiving target, but a good blocking tight end as well. Like the other receivers, Holmes is going to benefit from the experience of the quarterbacks and the chemistry that has already developed. Along with senior Crosby Wright, Holmes should help give Purdue a great option on the offense from the tight end position. Holmes is talented enough to become a top tight end in the conference and I won’t be surprised if he has a breakout season this year.
6. Ryan Isaac DT 6’5” 266 lbs. Michigan City, Indiana
Isaac earned playing time in five games as a true freshman and then was putting together a productive sophomore campaign before an ACL tear cut his season short. Now healthy, Isaac will be a big contributor for Purdue’s defensive line and be fighting for a starting spot in 2012. Isaac recorded nine tackles, one for loss, one pass breakup and one deflection before the injury to his knee in 2011. By putting in hard work, Isaac has established himself as a reliable option for Purdue’s defensive unit. Isaac‘s size and speed will allow to cause a lot of troubles for opposing offenses this season. At 6’5” 266 pounds, he has the versatility to line up all over the d-line. Hopefully with his knee healed up, Isaac can have the breakout season he’s capable of. Ryan’s a talented player and will be a playmaker for Purdue in 2012.