Only a little more than a month ago, Rob Henry was third on Purdue's depth chart.
Now, he's the Boilermakers' likely starter, following the injury to Robert Marve Saturday. Caleb TerBush, Purdue's backup last season, was ruled academically ineligible toward the end of training camp.
"Hopefully Robert is OK, I guess we don't know for sure yet," said Henry, a redshirt freshman. "But I came here to play, came here to play Division I football. If it's my turn, then it's my turn, I'm ready to step up and play."
With Marve out - the initial diagnosis, according to sources, is a torn ACL, although an MRI is scheduled for today - Henry ascends to No. 1, with true freshman Sean Robinson as the backup. The Boilers have another option in quarterback-turned-running back-turned-wide receiver Justin Siller; they could turn him back into a quarterback.
"If the coaches feel like me going back to quarterback is the best thing for the team," Siller said, "then yes (I'd do it). But right now, I'm still focusing on receiver. We still have Rob Henry and Sean Robinson fully capable of leading the team to victory."
For now, it would seem the job is Henry's. The Florida native, who played QB only his last couple seasons at Trinity Catholic, says his preparation for game days will change little, only now he'll be getting a majority of the practice repetitions.
"I always went through things when I was third-string with the mindset that I'm only two plays away from being the starter," he said. "So that's how I always looked at things, and I always prepared that way, so I'd be ready whenever my number's called."
Henry says he's had plenty of time to learn Purdue's playbook, but now will have the opportunity to get reps running, and hopefully mastering, them in practice.
"The more you rep anything, anything in life in general, the more success you'll have with it," he said. "
I feel good. I got a lot of reps through fall camp. I've been here since the summer coming into my freshman year, and I've been around guys like Joey (Elliott) and Caleb and Robert who have helped me out a lot. I feel like I'm ready."
Reps seemed to help Henry Saturday. Getting his first extensive action of the season following Marve's first-quarter injury, Henry looked better as the game went on. He finished 17-of-31 for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception, with a team-high 67 yards rushing.
In the third quarter, in particular, he was solid. During the 15 minutes, when Purdue scored 17 to rally to within a touchdown, Henry was 8-of-11 for 65 yards and a TD. He says he felt more comfortable as the game went on.
"Definitely," he said. "I think Coach (Gary) Nord was calling good plays and we were executing them at a pretty good rate, just wish we could have finished some drives there.
"I got more in a rhythm. We're going to prepare hard these next two weeks and hopefully be ready to play well against Northwestern."
If Henry falters, however, Siller could be an option. The junior wide receiver is rehabbing from a sprained foot that he suffered during the Toledo loss, but X-rays late Saturday came back negative. He says he'll be ready to play in time for NU Oct. 2.
"I'm sore, but I'll be OK," he said.
It was two seasons ago that Siller dazzled with his performance at quarterback vs. Michigan, throwing for 266 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another 77 and a score. But he struggled in his two other starts that season, when he was in for the injured Elliott and Curtis Painter.
He says it wouldn't be a difficult transition back to QB because the offense is similar to the one he ran under Coach Joe Tiller two years ago.
"It's pretty much the same," he said. "And what's different, I've learned and have all down now anyway. If I had to help the team out and be a quarterback, the terminology wouldn't be a huge disadvantage for me."
So Siller thinks he'd be ready, if called upon, but he doesn't think it will happen soon.
"There's not a need for panic or anything," Siller said. "Rob is perfectly capable of leading drives down the field, as we saw on Saturday when he did a great job. With a little bit of practice and some reps, he can be our guy."
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