September 5, 2006

Tuesdays With Tiller: Purdue football notes


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Purdue's coaching staff has been outspoken about its affection for sophomore running back Jaycen Taylor. The junior college transfer is regarded as a known commodity to team with starter Kory Sheets in the backfield.

But as good as he's thought to be on offense, it's also thought he might make for a fine defensive back prospect.

"I've brought it up multiple times," Coach Joe Tiller joked at his weekly press conference Tuesday, "but every time, I've gotten shouted down in unanimity by the rest of the offensive coaching staff."

Now, however, the possibility might require a little more thought.

Nothing is imminent and Tiller says he's still not convinced about his team's depth at running back, but with Purdue's secondary a question mark, could Taylor be in line to play the role of Ray Williams this season?

"It's kind of a Catch 22," Tiller said. "… I'm not convinced in our depth (at running back) and I know Taylor can play. We've had two backs who've really separated themselves from the rest of the group, Sheets and Taylor, and I think you need two backs to get through a 13-game schedule.

"I am struggling with that, because I do think he can be a heck of a DB. He's obviously a courageous guy. He's a tough nut, he's got a great attitude, he has a good mind and good feet. Maybe if Kory Sheets were a bigger back … we'd be OK with him physically."

Still Waiting

Tiller said there is no new information on the senior wide receiver Kyle Ingraham.

Ingraham has been practicing with the team, but did not dress Saturday, as academic issues have cropped up and sidelined him. There are questions about his credit hours earned this spring at St. Mary's College in San Antonio.

No Problem, Coach

Though he showed promise at quarterback during training camp, freshman Keith Smith offered no objections when asked to move to safety for a trial on defense.

"I really like young guys," Tiller said. "Their eyes are wide and their willing to do anything. His response was, 'I've been waiting for this to happen. I thought it would happen sooner.' Sometimes, you just never know what you're going to get with a young kid. But he's a really good man, and he comes from a military family.

"I started into my reasons why it would be good for him to move, and thought, 'Why am I going through all this? He's already said yes.'

"It was very refreshing. We haven't had anybody respond like that since John Reeves moved from quarterback to (defensive back, then on to linebacker)."


On Sunday, Smith and freshman cornerback David Pender moved to safety.

"It's a tryout," Tiller said.

Couch-Ridden

Injured safety Torri Williams is laid up on his couch, roommate Zach Logan said.

While he awaits surgery - he'll go under the knife Monday - Williams is largely immobile, unable to go to class or even get upstairs to his own room.

"We try to lift his spirits," Logan said. "We have a lot of company over and we're trying to keep him comfortable and talking to him. Right now, he's just feeling like he wants to be around people. He doesn't want to be sitting around alone."

That's not been a problem.

"Pretty much the whole secondary's come by to see how he's doing," Logan said. "Kory Sheets, Dorien Bryant, just a lot of guys in general have been by, checking him out and seeing how he's doing."

Tiller hasn't spoken to Williams since immediately after the Indiana State game, but will meet with him this afternoon.

"No. 1, we want to assure him we're going to do what's best for Torri," Tiller said, referring in large part to his academic situation, as well as his athletic standing. "Then we'll worry about football."

In a round-about way, Tiller acknowledged Williams' injury could be career-threatening, citing the fact that it's the same leg that he broke and tore a muscle in last year, also mentioning the sheer severity of the injury.

Williams sustained "multiple" injuries to his right leg, with nerve trauma making it that much worse.

"It's a serious surgery (he'll undergo)," Tiller said, "unlike any we've had here over the years. … The second (injury) is always more traumatic than the first. Sometimes, that can finish a guy."

At the same time, Tiller also acknowledged the possibility Williams could return, but said next fall would probably be the absolute earliest that could occur.

Williams' injury came up again when Tiller was praising the re-sodded Ross-Ade Stadium field, which provided sound, rigid footing Saturday.

"It did a little too good," Tiller quipped, referencing the injury.

That Was Quick

After being committed to Purdue for a full year and spending only the spring and summer in West Lafayette, freshman defensive tackle Kyle Sheehan quit the team over the weekend, ending a brief, injury-riddled Boilermaker career.

"Kyle's a confused young man right now," Tiller said, "and that's not uncommon. When a guy leaves your program before ever really giving the program a chance, that's usually the case."

Tiller compared Sheehan's departure to that of former linebacker-turned-fullback Jimmy Ladd, who left Purdue early in his freshman season a couple years ago and is now at the University of Indianapolis.

After committing to Purdue as a junior, Sheehan left Georgia and spent his senior season in Minnesota, living with a relative, before enrolling early.

Nearing The End

Nothing is anticipated by today, but Tiller said he has reason to believe the Terrell Vinson Saga may be nearing its conclusion.

The junior defensive back has been sidelined by eligibility clearinghouse issues since the start of the fall semester.

"It's in the works," Tiller said of Vinson's expected clearance, which has been held up by complications at both Saddleback College in California and the clearinghouse.

Though he was recruited as a cornerback and practiced there during training camp, Vinson will play safety when he re-joins the team.

This situation has gone on so long that Tiller has said he's been close to advising Vinson to transfer to a lower division, so that he might get to play.

Etc.

• Logan showed up for the press conference with a boot on his right foot, as turf toe ails him. He said he's fine, however, and expects to practice this afternoon.

• Linebacker Jason Werner was to undergo yet another MRI on his troublesome back Tuesday, as he's inspected for further problems than the one that required summertime surgery and cost him all of preseason practice.

"I talked to him Sunday," Tiller said, "and he said he's feeling better."

• Tiller said there was particular reason junior running back Dario Camacho didn't play against Indiana State. Only Sheets, Taylor and Anthony Heygood played at running back against ISU.

"He was next up," Tiller said. "We wanted to get Heygood on the field, Taylor on the field and Sheets got 17 carries, which is about right for him."

Tiller then noted that new rule changes speeding up games cut down on the number of plays run, creating slightly fewer playing opportunities than in the past.

"You're going to be hard-pressed to get in your typical 85 plays in a game," Tiller said.

The Boilermakers ran 73 offensive plays against the Sycamores; in 2005, it averaged just under 77 offensive snaps per contest.

• Expect to see more of reserve offensive guard Dan McGowen playing fullback.

"It puts him in a position to contribute," Tiller said. "He's a good team guy, and he likes it."

• Tiller is not jumping to conclusions based on his defensive line's less-than-stellar performance against Indiana State.

"Our productivity out of the (defensive tackle) position was low," Tiller said.

The coach said the tackles appeared slow and "heavy-legged."

"I don't over-react to Game 1," Tiller said. "By about Week 3, you ought to not be heavy-legged anymore and you should be able to know exactly where you are. I don't want to be premature, because they're young players. If they were older players, I'd have a stronger opinion."

As for his wide receivers, Tiller noted that there were only dropped balls, and that Curtis Painter's inconsistent passing made things difficult.

"I don't think this was a particularly good game on which to judge our receivers," Tiller said.




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