After experiencing a few drops early this season, Gary Bush felt a boost of confidence against Illinois Saturday.
And that's a good thing, considering the redshirt freshman could become a more integral part of the offense, now that rookie O.J. Ross has been sidelined for the rest of the season.
"I'm feeling more confident," Bush said. "With O.J. out, I've got to make more plays and step up.
They've told me to just keep trying to make plays."
That'll be critical for a Purdue offense that's run short on playmakers. In Bush, though, the Boilers have a receiver that's certainly got long-ball type speed - he says he ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash during the summer - although he might still be a little underdeveloped physically.
"He become as lot more important to us now because he has speed and usually knows what to do," Coach Danny Hope said Tuesday.
This season, the 6-foot, 175-pounder has seven receptions for just 39 yards, with the score. Bush's long this season is only 11, as Purdue's missed him a couple times on longer throws. On others, Bush has dropped opportunities, a trend that plagued him early this season.
"I've moved past that," said Bush, a likely starter Saturday in place of Ross. "I just keep telling myself I've just got to make plays and make plays and it will come to me."
When Bush came to Purdue from Miami, Fla., a season ago, he wasn't yet ready to contribute from a physical standpoint. It's taken the last year, time he said that was spent eating and in the weight room, to get him to the 175- to 180-pound range he's in now. That's about 10 pounds heavier than a year ago.
"It was pretty evident once I got here that I need to get in the weight room," Bush said. "But now I know that work is going to pay off."
Hope thinks that will be the case; certainly he hopes so, as the Boilermakers are down to the last options at receiver, where they've lost Keith Smith, Justin Siller and now Ross.
"He's always been a good worker, a guy that has good speed, but didn't have the Big Ten size about him when he came in as a freshman," Hope said of Bush. " He came in underdeveloped as a high school football player, AAU basketball player, top track athlete in the state of Florida. Hadn't spent any time at all in the weight room. He was really under developed from a strength standpoint.
"He's gotten bigger and stronger. As he's made some plays, he's gained some confidence. So now it looks like he's running his routes faster with a little more confidence."
Now, Bush is hoping that when opportunities do come his way, and they certainly will, that he doesn't revert back to the dropsies that hurt him earlier.
"It was frustrating then," he said, "but coaches kept talking to me, telling me not to worry, it will come."
Bush's best days, though, are likely still to come, as he continues to fill out. Purdue, however, is hoping its soon.
"I think he's gotten better," Hope said. "I think he still has a lot of improving to do from a size and strength standpoint for the next couple of years that will really improve him as a player. I think he's starting to play faster and play with more confidence right now, because we really need him to, because he's a good skill player."
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