With 19 starters returning, the 2012 Purdue football team could be Danny Hope’s best squad to date.
“The last two or three years, we’ve been shorthanded in some ways,” Purdue’s coach said during a visit to Fort Wayne. “Maybe we didn’t have a quarterback with any game experience or maybe we had a lot of freshmen that we were relying on to play. Maybe we had some injuries we had to work around.
“Even though our guys played hard and we had some signature wins, we didn’t win as many games as we would have liked. …
“There are some big things in store for our team and our fans this season.”
Purdue went 7-6 last season. The Boilermakers qualified for a bowl for the first time since 2007 and then defeated Western Michigan 37-32 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
“Two of the last three years we’ve been .500 in the Big Ten. We’ve been able to manufacture some signature wins, which is a good sign for the program,” said Hope, who enters his fourth year as Purdue coach. “Having a winning season last year, getting back into postseason play was a big step for our team. We anticipate taking another step this year, competing for the top spots in Big Ten football, competing for a division title.
“We may have enough good players and good things in place to compete at that level now. And not only just getting back to postseason play, but to maybe play in a January bowl game. There are some great opportunities for our team this year. We expect to see our team take some big steps this season.”
The weeks leading up to the bowl helped during the spring.
“We built some momentum for our football team, the extra practices that we had really showed up when spring practice rolled around,” Hope said. “We were much further along than we had been at any point in time since I’ve been back as the head coach at Purdue.”
Key components are back in all three phases.
Tackle Kawann Short and cornerback Ricardo Allen return to anchor the defense. The team features one of the best kickoff returners in the Big Ten in Raheem Mostert. Offensively, the Purdue enters the fall healthy at quarterback.
“We’re in a good situation right now where we have three good quarterbacks,” Hope said. “We’re excited about what we have coming back at the quarterback spot and we’re fortunate to have that many good players there.”
Caleb TerBush will enter camp as the No. 1 quarterback. Robert Marve is No. 2. Rob Henry, the starter in 2010, is hoping to bounce back from an ACL injury that sidelined him all of 2011.
“That’s the first time since I’ve been back at Purdue as the head coach that we have experienced quarterbacks that have won games that are proven players,” Hope said. “That’s a big lift for our football team in a lot of ways.”