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August 22, 2009

Saturday notebook

Starting left tackle Dennis Kelly was held out of Saturday's scrimmage, as the coaches gave him a break after a long, hard camp for the sophomore. Kelly fought mononucleosis in July, draining him just in time for preseason practice.

"Dennis Kelly's fine," Coach Danny Hope said. "He'd practice 'til his last breath if you'd let him, but he's coming off mono and he's been through all the practices we've had already. We felt like he was wearing down rather than gaining strength, so we pulled him.

"He was fine to practice, but we wanted to get him freshened up. He doesn't quite have as much electricity in his body right now. We have to get him back full-go. The guy's got a lot of fight in him and he'll give you everything he has. We just have to get him shored up some."

In Kelly's absence, junior Ryan Prater occupied the first-team left tackle position.

Hope said he believes his team has been "very, very fortunate" to not sustain many new injuries.

"I don't know if we have anyone injured right now," Hope said, "... that's out on account of any injury (sustained) during camp."

Saturday was Purdue's return to the practice field after a day off Friday. Hope praised his team's effort afterward.

"They really came out ready to practice," Hope said. "I think they're really buying in to (the idea) of cashing in on all their opportunities to get better as a football team."

Per Hope's post-practice synopsis, both the offense and defense had their moments during the scrimmage.

Competition at DT

One of the players singled out after practice by Hope was sophomore defensive tackle Nick Mondek, who likely would have been a starter to open spring ball had he not been forced to the sideline by a broken nose.

Redshirt freshman Kawann Short got the first crack then at the starting job opposite senior Mike Neal and hasn't let go, though Mondek is making a push.

"Our No. 1 D-tackles right now are Kawann and Mike Neal," Hope said, "but Mondek is that third guy, but he's improved and is certainly competing to be a No. 1. That's really important for us right now."

The first-year Boilermaker lauded Mondek's effort this camp, but added that Short has benefited from having more competition than he did in the spring.

"He's doing the things you want him to do right now on a much more consistent basis," Hope said of Short. "He's a much, much better football player than he was in the spring."

Hope said after Saturday's practice that he was encouraged by the play of some of his second-team defensive linemen.

"I think Mondek's really starting to come on and Nickcaro Golding's really starting to come on," Hope said, "and I've seen some improvement from Keyon Brown.

"That's really important to us, to have some second-team defensive linemen to go in there to keep our 1s fresh and stay after them up front."

Running back wide open

The No. 1 running back position has been considered a dogfight between sophomore post-spring starter Ralph Bolden and now-healthy senior Jaycen Taylor, but Hope said Saturday that several backs continue to see first-team reps in practice.

"There's big-time competition at running back," Hope said. "I can't tell you who deserves to be No. 1. We have a hard-nosed group of running backs. They're tough guys, they really are. That isn't always the case at the running back spot. Those guys really get after it."

On Saturday, freshman Al-Terek McBurse was among those who ran at times with the starters.

Walk-ons rewarded

Under Joe Tiller, select walk-ons were awarded scholarships at the end of every camp. The tradition will continue under Hope, who on Saturday put quarterback Chris Bennett, long-snapper Andy Huffman, running back Jarrod Shaw and wide receiver Adam Wolf on scholarship for their senior seasons.


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