Posted by Adam Jacobi
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Purdue, who opens its practice on March 1.
Spring Practice Question: Is Rob Henry or Robert Marve the man for Purdue?
As far as injuries go, nobody was hit with more rotten luck than the Purdue Boilermakers last year; four key offensive starters suffered torn ACLs, gutting the team's skill position depth and leading to the Boilermakers' worst scoring output in 15 years. That Purdue ended up going just 4-8 is, well, understandable.
Fortunately, at least three of the four injured Boilermakers -- QB Robert Marve, RB Ralph Bolden, and WR Justin Siller -- are back, while WR Keith Smith still awaits word from the NCAA as to whether he'll receive a sixth year of eligibility (an announcement was expected this week).
There's also two other returning starting quarterbacks, though: freshmen Rob Henry and Sean Robinson. Both Henry and Robinson are coming into the spring healthy, and while both QBs saw significant time under center, it's clear that Henry was the better performer last year. Robinson's quarterback rating was an anemic 70.21, and he managed just 3.3 yards per pass attempt.
Henry, on the other hand, comes into the spring session as the putative starter as Marve recovers, and the amount of repetitions Henry should get with the first team could be invaluable as Danny Hope evaluates his signal-callers. That's not to say Marve is going to sit in his room all spring long with his PS3 on or anything like that; he's going to be rehabbing that surgically repaired knee, attending practices, and watching film just like the rest of the quarterbacks, with the intention of returning to the starting lineup in August.
But what if Marve doesn't? What if Henry's entire off-season with the first-teamers provides a level of familiarity and comfort that Marve can't recreate in practice? There's obviously talent there with Henry, but it was also obvious that he wasn't ready to be on the field quite yet. And hey, that's fine; most freshmen aren't. But for all the struggling Henry did to get acclimated to the Purdue offense game-by-game, he still finished with a passer rating that was less than a point off Marve's in 2010.
Above all else, most college football players make their biggest strides between their first and second years on the field, and to that end, Rob Henry's going to get an opportunity to improve substantially before the first game of the 2011 season. Can Marve make up that difference through and after rehab? That's something worth watching in West Lafayette.