July 25, 2008

Big Ten media day notes

CHICAGO - Barring any unforeseen setbacks, previously suspended Boilermakers Torri Williams and Nickcaro Golding will be on the field for Purdue this fall.

During the Big Ten media days interview session Friday, Coach Joe Tiller said the duo are on "probation."

"I'm still going to have a tight leach on them," the 12th-year Purdue coach said. "But I'll let them back. They've paid a steep price. … There's always a consquence and they have to look after that.

"It's the same as being on probation with the law: if you step across the line you're automatically in jail. If you step across the line with us, you're automatically suspended."

Golding, a redshirt freshman defensive end who is likely a backup this season, was suspended indefinitely near the end of spring practices for violating unspecified team rules.

Williams' violations, on the other hand, have been far more public - and numerous. After being on placed probation following a DUI conviction, the senior safety was arrested for stealing from an area grocery store in the spring. He was suspended from the Boilers, then accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced to community service.

The oft-injured safety - he's had season-ending injuries the last three years - is well liked by his teammates and the coaching staff, like one reason he's allowed another chance.

"If you look at his alleged screw-ups, all of them are not much different than any other college kid," Tiller said. "… He just has horrible timing.

"When I evaluate that young man, he hasn't done anything to hurt anybody or what I would consider a serious infraction. He's made some poor choices. The reason why everybody likes him is that he is a genuinely good guy, but has horrible timing in life."

No purple now

During the spring, the Boilermakers were plagued by injury, with as many as 15 of their regulars at least partially - and many entirely - sidelined.

The problem was especially acute along the offensive line, where three of Purdue's expected starters - tackles Sean Sester and Zach Jones, along with guard Zach Reckman - missed nearly every practice.

But time - for some following surgery and rehab - seems to have alleviated the problem, as Tiller expects everyone to be ready to go on Aug. 9, the first day of training camp.

"All those 15 guys who didn't practice in the spring, they're all doing a good job," Tiller said. "… They've all been good. So, touch wood, we'll open camp with everyone available to us.

"That would be good. It's what we need."

Tiller says he doesn't expect any academic casualties, either from returnees or incoming freshman, once camp opens next month.

That's aside, of course, from the previously known status of Jordan Brewer, who didn't qualify academically and will go to a junior college.

"My last report from the academic guys is that everybody is fine," Tiller said. "There will probably be a surprise, there always is. But what you hope is you only have one, you don't have six.

"We don't have many guys on the bubble any more, not like the 19 we had the first year we were at Purdue. We might have three or four (during a summer these days)."

There has, however, been some speculation about the status of Kewan Short, so much so that Tiller was asked Thursday during the open media session. Tiller didn't express much concern when asked again Friday.

"It sounds to me like there was a question, but it will be OK," Tiller said. "Now, we might get there next Monday and find out, no, he's not a go.

"But the only guy today who is not going to be admitted is Jordan Brewer."

Odds and ends

• Tiller flew in to Chicago for the media event Wednesday from Wyoming and flies back to his Buffalo, Wyoming ranch tonight.

He'll spend the next week in Wyoming before returning to Purdue.

Tiller said this is the first time since he's been at Purdue that he's been able to enjoy three weeks of vacation in Wyoming. Interestingly enough in his first year as Purdue's head coach, he spent just three days out West.

• Asked to name a Boilermaker who has improved significantly since the end of last season, Tiller didn't hesitate.

"Well, (Jason) Werner, without a doubt," Tiller said. "If Jason Werner stays healthy, he certainly could be as effective as the trio of Koutouvides, Gardner and Johnson. He's in that level of ability.

"Kyle Adams had a good spring and David Pender had an exceptional spring."

Curtis Painter, Anthony Heygood and Greg Orton - the three players who attended the media event - also shared their opinions.

Heygood and Painter mentioned JUCO transfer receivers Aaron Valentine and Arsenio Curry.

"(Curry) is the real deal," said linebacker Anthony Heygood, who has been impressed with the receiver's physicality.

Heygood likes what he's seen from expected starting middle linebacker Kevin Green, saying he's put in significant time in the weight room.

"He's made a lot of strides in the weight room this season," said Heygood, an outside 'backer. "I'd be surprised if I had to move to the middle."

Tiller agreed that Green enjoyed a good spring.

"Over the years, he's looked like Tarzan and played like Jane," Tiller said. "But now he's really been effective. This spring he was very good and demonstrated some physicality."

• Kory Sheets and Jaycen Taylor are expected to battle for the starting running back job in camp, but Tiller says it won't matter much who wins.

"If you were to ask me who the starter would be, I'd tell you Taylor Sheets," Tiller said, "because I think we're going to play those two guys equally."

• Considering Purdue's shortage at linebacker, where there's very little experienced depth, freshman Dewayne Beckford might have the best shot among rookies to earn early playing time.

"We think he's the most talented of all the freshmen players, certainly of the linebackers," Tiller said. "He's the most physical and can really run, which would suggest he could get to the field early."

• As of now, Tiller isn't playing any immediately position changes when camp opens.

That means redshirt freshman Joe Holland will stay at safety, instead of moving to linebacker, which has long been speculated.

"Joe is one of those guys who missed all of the spring, so it's hard to switch him now," Tiller said. "He hasn't gained the weight like we thought he would. So I don't see anything happening there."

• Every Big Ten team begins practicing next week with the exception of Purdue. That's because the Boilermakers don't open the regular season on Aug. 30 like the rest of the conference. As a result, Purdue will play 12 straight regular-season contests without a bye week.

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