January 15, 2013
Looking Ahead: Running backs
Purdue's top two returning running backs, Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom, each averaged more than eight yards per carry this season.
But the duo did so in limited capacities: Hunt as an outside-type home-run threat and Cottom as a fullback. And each of their averages were buoyed by big runs, with Hunt taking an 81-yarder for a touchdown and Cottom doing the same with an 87-yarder.
"I try to take advantage of every opportunity," said Hunt midseason, when he was racking up huge yardage with few touches. "That's what I try to do and it's worked out for me."
The big-play ability is nice, but as Purdue looks ahead to the 2013 season, it's more interested in who can develop as a primary every-down ball-carrier after the graduations of Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden. The duo had accounted for nearly 1,200 yards last season.
Could it be Hunt or Cottom? Perhaps, but both seem better suited for their type-case roles: At 5-foot-9, 184-pounds, Hunt is undersized, but has track-like speed and when he alludes tacklers to get into the open field, he can be deadly; the 6-4, 258-pound Cottom is a nice change-of-pace.
New coach Darrell Hazell, who had two 1,200-yard rushers in his last season at Kent State, has few other experienced options in Year 1 at Purdue.
Perhaps Raheem Mostert will emerge as an option. The kick return specialist is officially listed as a wide receiver on Purdue's roster, but hasn't caught a pass in his first two seasons. He's been targeted only a couple times, catching a wheel route that was called back by penalty.
And although he's fast and physical - the 5-11, 180-pounder was a former track star who dabbled in boxing during high school - Mostert appears to lack the proper instincts for wide receiver. But he needs the ball and possibility the easiest way to get it to him is to hand it off.
As Purdue's A-back in the former offensive system, Mostert frequently lined up in the backfield, and has 193 yards on 32 rushes (a 6.0 average), with many of those coming between the tackles, and three touchdowns.
During his introductory press conference at Purdue in December, Hazell partially credited position changes at KSU for the Golden Flashes' meteoric rise from 2011 to 2012. It leads one to believe those options are available at Purdue, as well.
Sophomore-to-be Danny Anthrop is in a similar situation. One of the only players - and maybe the only player - in recent memory to be listed as an "athlete" on Purdue's roster, Anthrop played A-back as a rookie. But that often had him in the backfield, where he had 58 yards on only seven carries, many of them late in games, with a touchdown.
But there's certainly room for others to emerge. Near the beginning of training camp in August, freshman QB Robert Gregory was moved a little deeper in the backfield, but he redshirted as he learns the new position.
At least two freshmen, and Purdue is actively searching for a third to add to its 2013 class, will get opportunities right away. David Yancy is a midyear enrollee who will get the benefit of being on campus in the spring, and Keyante Green comes in the fall after an outstanding prep career in Georgia.
While there are questions about running back, the fullback position appears set. Rising senior emerged as an excellent blocking back late in the year, and Cottom is a more-than-capable runner. [db]Jonathan Curry is thought to be a physical rusher; he redshirted last season after moving from tight end.
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