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August 10, 2005Note: This is just an example of the type of in-depth Purdue training camp coverage you can get with an Ultimate Ticket subscription to GoldandBlack.com. To subscribe or sign up for a seven-day free trial, click here.
After an amazing senior season at state champion Roncalli in Indianapolis, free safety Jason Werner hoped he'd get a chance to contribute in the Boilermaker secondary as a true freshman.
That, however, was before he even knew that sophomore free safety Torri Williams would be lost for the year; Joe Tiller's called it maybe the biggest loss his team sustained to date in the very young season.
Now, it's very clear that Werner will have every opportunity at a position that returns senior starter Kyle Smith, but not a whole lot else.
"Any time you get a step closer to that (No. 1) position, you realize you could be needed at any given time," Werner said. "It makes you want to work harder and make sure you do everything you're supposed to do, for when that chance comes."
Werner - listed at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds - has come a long way.
He committed to Purdue last summer as a linebacker. At the time, it looked like the Boilermaker coaches had recruited a player that would need to redshirt, in order to get bigger and stronger and learn a new position.
Today, however, following a 14-interception senior year at Roncalli - after which he was named the state's Mr. Football - Werner remains a free safety and the chances of him redshirting now appear to be remote.
"I'm very excited," Werner said. "I have to step up and make sure I don't let anybody down. Torri is a heck of a player. It'll be difficult to fill his shoes, but I'll try my best to fit in with the team."
Nearly All Good
Tiller said his team performed this summer at an unprecedented level in the classroom, posting what Tiller thought was his team's highest summer GPA since this staff's arrival. Last year, he implemented a policy that any player who received a D or an F in summer school or Maymester would have to reimburse the athletic department for the cost of that class.
"I think that message has really (gotten through)," Tiller said, "especially in light of the fact that last year about eight guys had to pay for their summer school. It's amazing how much more highly motivated they were this year. They did a great job."
Tiller cited sophomore linebacker Stanford Keglar, for one, as a player who had a great summer academically.
Actually, Tiller said, he is awaiting word on one undisclosed player, who is awaiting a grade in an advanced calculus class.
"He thought he got a better grade than he did," Tiller said, "but I've always thought that if you have a student of that caliber who thought they got a better grade, that's a lot better than having a guy who's struggling to figure out if he even passed the class."
Tiller did not specify as to whether there are eligibility concerns over said player.
Door Closed On Lymon
The NCAA's eligibility clearinghouse, well in advance of today, had already ruled against Selwyn Lymon playing this season, though Tiller has spoken at times in uncertain, open-ended terms regarding the touted receiver, who'll now enroll at Purdue as a non-qualifier.
Neal Adjusting To Tackle
Mike Neal was a defensive end in high school, a physically dominant one at that. But when he took the field Wednesday afternoon, it turned out his anticipated move from end to tackle was an abrupt one. He'll be a tackle from the very beginning, which is consistent with Tiller's comments since signing day, but inconsistent with what Neal hoped would happen.
"It's a little frustrating," Neal said, "but to make the team better, the coaches feel I can (play) there. I have to take my hat off to them; they have these jobs for a reason. I'll make the adjustment and, God willing, get better at the D-tackle position."
In other position-related happenings, Chatard High School products Dray Mason and Frank Halliburton participated as a cornerback and linebacker, respectively, though the latter was sidelined for a while with an undisclosed ailment.
Mason was also a record-setting running back in high school and was listed at both positions on signing day last winter; Halliburton could potentially also play fullback or defensive end.
Might A Rookie DT Play?
Rarely do true freshmen defensive linemen play - only Dontrey Flemings and Ray Edwards have done so at Purdue under Tiller - but a rookie DT could find his way onto the field this fall for the Boilermakers.
"We've got size in these guys," Tiller said. "They're good-looking guys. There's not a chance they'll start, but there's a chance someone will play."
With Purdue seeking more and more reliable depth at tackle, and perhaps interested in staggering this three-tackle position class, Tiller said the possibility is a legitimate one.
As it stands now, the Boilermakers have starters Brandon Villarreal and Brent Grover and reserves Dan McGowen, Ryan Baker, Jonathan Patton and Jermaine Guynn all figuring to see, or compete for, playing time. A newcomer might be thrown into that ring also, whether it be Alex Magee, Jared Zwilling or Neal.
Listed at 6-5, 275 pounds, Magee is the heaviest of the new tackles; whether that translates to "most prepared" is yet to be seen. Zwilling (6-4, 260) and certainly Neal (6-4, 245) could benefit from a redshirt season.
"My mentality is I don't know a whole lot about redshirting, but I'm going to come in here and give it all I've got," said the enormous, barrel-chested Magee. " I'm not thinking about redshirting right now, but we'll see. I'm just coming in with a positive attitude and giving it my all and that's really all I can do."
Not So New Newcomers
True freshmen Kyle Williams and Christian Graham practiced Wednesday afternoon with the newcomers, but neither is new to the field; both enrolled last winter and went through spring ball.
Williams - who is expected to play at linebacker this season - missed most of the practice, though, due to what seemed to be heat-related issues following conditioning early on. It was a hot, muggy afternoon with high humidity, making Practice No. 1 that much more treacherous for its participants.
Mason has been experiencing some soreness in his shoulder after having his senior football season ended by a joint separation in the playoffs.
The 5-10, 180 pounder got through basketball season and track season in fine shape, but recently started experiencing soreness once again.
"He's going to try to go and see if he can hold up," Tiller said. "He's pretty positive right now."
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