Team preview: Purdue

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(All information as of July 1, 2006)


For the first eight years of his Purdue career, Joe Tiller always took business trips during the Christmas holidays. Always to some place warm. Always for a bowl game.

The streak, impressive at any school but particularly at a place with limited success in the years before
Tiller, ended with a thud in 2005. With three games left, the Boilermakers were eliminated from the postseason in a year they were expected to contend for the Big Ten title.
What happened? Tiller and his coaches spent the offseason trying to figure it out. The Boilermakers were 2-0 going into a late September game at Minnesota, one they lost in double overtime.

The slide continued the next week against Notre Dame. And the week after that against Iowa. And against Northwestern, Wisconsin and Penn State. Six losses in a row, by far a Tiller low point.

The coaches used the losing year as motivation. The basic message: Let's not feel this way again.

"It was easy," longtime Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack said. "Our players were embarrassed. We have some very good kids in our program. Our players are very focused right now. I'll be disappointed if we're not a lot better in the fall.
"I like our team. I know where we're at. We're really eager to get started."

There were major changes during the offseason on the coaching staff, with four new coaches on offense and one on defense. Only co-offensive coordinator Bill Legg remains on offense. The Boilermakers hired Ed Zaunbrecher away from Illinois to coach quarterbacks and be co-coordinator. Brian Rock comes to the team as receivers coach after a long stint at Western Michigan. John McDonell joined as offensive tackles and tight ends coach after working last season at Stanford. And former Purdue graduate assistant Joel Thomas will handle the running backs after working as Idaho's co-offensive coordinator.

"You're not always as fortunate as we were in getting the quality of individuals both as people and as football coaches that we were able to hire," Legg said. "The end result, this time around, worked out extremely well. We've got guys who are really bright. We've got guys who don't have huge egos so nobody is going to walk out of the meeting room with their feelings hurt. At the same time, we've got quality people."