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August 14, 2008

Opportunity awaits young LBs; Media Day notebook

With its numbers being what they are at linebacker - thin - Purdue will give its three remaining true freshmen at the position every chance to impress through the duration of camp.

That means plenty of opportunities for Chris Carlino, Nnamdi Ezenwa and Derek Jackson.

"Brock (Spack) made the comment that all three are smart, quick learners and low-rep guys and if that's the case, we've played 'em before and we'll play 'em again," Coach Joe Tiller said Thursday. "That can get you on the field this year."

Spack coaches Purdue's linebackers and seems particularly high on Carlino, a projected middle linebacker.

"He'll get every opportunity to play, maybe start," Spack said. "We'll see if he's ready for it.

"He's a take-charge guy. We've really (looked) for that type of linebacker. We've had great kids here; we just haven't had a take-charge guy in a while. (Niko) Koutouvides was that type of guy."

The Boilermaker coaches had hoped Dwayne Beckford to be an instant-impact-type prospect at linebacker, but he was lost for the time being due to an eligibility paperwork issue and is expected to be back at Purdue in the winter.

Three suspended for opener

Tiller said sophomore safety Josh McKinley, redshirt freshmen defensive linemen Nickcaro Golding and Preston Numa have been suspended for the season opener against Northern Colorado for "conduct detrimental to the team."

McKinley is expected to compete for a starting position after playing late in the season as a true freshman, then becoming a front-line player in the spring, when several other safeties were sidelined. When practice started Sunday, he was behind junior college newcomer Dwight Mclean with the first team, though.

Golding will be needed to play at defensive end, where numbers are limited. He was suspended at the end of the spring for undisclosed reasons, but reinstated during the off-season.

Numa is a defensive tackle.

Zwilling at guard

Moved from defensive tackle to the offensive line in the spring in order to compete for the open center position, junior Jared Zwilling has settled in at guard, where he's been seeing first-team snaps in practice on the left side.

"After coming out of the spring and watching a lot of tape on the spring," Tiller said, "we just thought (Cory Benton) should be the center and for Jared ... it's easier to make the transition to the guard position than the center position."

More ...

Tiller said wide receiver Aaron Valentin "looks like a different player" than he did in the spring and that senior Greg Orton is "having a stellar camp so far."

"After four days," Tiller said of Orton, "we couldn't have asked for any more out of him."

Spack said that Torri Williams is "a better player (now) than he was three years ago," despite multiple injuries.

With depth a critical concern at linebacker, the possibility of moving a player from another position is a "daily discussion," according to Tiller.

Tiller expects his offensive line to be more physical than it was a year ago.

"The personality of their coach is different," Tiller said, "and they take on (Danny Hope's) personality. I see an offensive line that's more physical now than they were last year.

"What does that mean? It may not mean much, because we weren't that physical last year. But we've improved in that area and hopefully that will continue."

Freshmen Carson Wiggs and Cory Kemps are competing for the open punting position, but Tiller said kicker Chris Summers is the clear front-runner.

"He's been very consistent," special teams coach Mark Hagen added, "and it's his job to lose."

Assistant coach Brian Rock said his wide receivers collectively have the best work ethic and leadership traits of those groups he's coached in his now three seasons in West Lafayette.

When talking about his two-man running back rotation of Kory Sheets and Jaycen Taylor, Tiller talked about how important it may be to Sheets to be named the starter, while Taylor may not be as hung up on the issue.

"If naming one guy the starter promotes his mental health," Tiller joked, "maybe that's the thing a person ought to do."

Running backs coach Joel Thomas on losing his two top players after the '08 season.

"We present a tremendous opportunity in recruiting. If you're a kid in high school right now getting recruited, it's a pretty good situation here. There are two seniors leaving. 'I've got a chance to come in and compete right now.'"

Tiller said senior Desmond Tardy is getting every opportunity to start at slot receiver, where he's backed up Dorien Bryant for a couple years, "but Keith Smith is going to take him to the limit, and Des might not be a starter for us."

Tardy will likely be Purdue's primary kickoff-return man and is competing to return punts.

"We all hope Des has a really great senior year," Tiller said. "Dorien Bryant wasn't very big, but he cast a long shadow."

Tight ends coach John McDonell said junior Kyle Adams and senior Jerry Wasikowski look right now to be the top two at one of Purdue's deepest positions.

Promising redshirt freshman Colton McKey and converted fullback Jeff Lindsay are also competing there.

Secondary coach Lou Anarumo on whether Brandon King's move from safety to corner is "permanent": "It'll all play out. It's a little too early to tell. If it does play out that way, we'll be a better team for it."

With Purdue being thin at defensive end, multiple coaches talked of the possibility of defensive tackle Alex Magee moving outside on a situational basis, if needed.

Thursday afternoon will be Purdue's first day in full gear.

For the best Purdue team and recruiting coverage out there, click here.

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