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August 21, 2011Listen: Coach Danny Hope after practice
Ken Plue's absence from practice - whether it's long-term or short - has caused a major shakeup on Purdue's offensive line.
If the season started today, Danny Hope says the line would consist of Dennis Kelly at left tackle; Peters Drey at left guard; Rick Schmeig at center; Nick Mondek at right guard and Justin Kitchens at right tackle.
It's a somewhat surprising make up, considering Purdue returned four starters this season, but only one (Kelly) remains in the same position. Drey played center last season and Mondek was a right tackle; meanwhile, Kitchens was a defensive tackle before converting to offensive tackle in the spring.
Plue was the first domino to fall. The multi-year starter at right guard has been a question mark since the spring, and hasn't practiced the last couple days, wearing only his jersey but no pads. With Hope saying the Boilermakers needed to move on with Plue's status unknown, he made the changes.
Mondek shifted from right tackle to right guard, giving Kitchens a chance to become a 1 on the right edge of the line.
"He runs really, really fast and has picked it up very well," Hope said of the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder. "He's a low-rep guy with a good football IQ, and a real up-grade as an athlete for any team at right tackle."
And Hope says Mondek may be a better fit at guard.
"Personally, I think he's better suited for there," Hope said. "He's very stout and very strong. He can get down on big defensive tackles and roll them out of there. Those two guys on the right can really run."
Thursday, Mondek said he was getting some reps at guard, with the thought that cross-training could help the line.
"It's easier, going from tackle to guard," he said. " Learning that position actually helps me at tackle, because I know what they're doing and it can help me use my hands because every (defender) is so much closer."
Unrelated, Drey and Schmeig have switched roles, although they're capable of reversing again, Hope says. A high-ankle injury to Drey early in camp precipitated the reversal, and it stuck.
"I really like him in there," Hope said of Schmeig at center. "He's a thicker, stronger guy, particularly with his wrist and hands. He holds up better fitting up on 300-something pound nose tackles."
Schmeig says versatility has helped the line.
"I've rotated over to right guard, left guard, center," the junior said. "Anywhere I'm needed, I'm ready to play."
Sunday, Hope also mentioned Eric McDaniel, Trevor Foy and Cody Davis as others who could contribute on the line, and said Drey is capable of shifting to tackle as well, should Purdue find itself with a need there.
"I think we're further along on the offensive line from an athletic standpoint and an experience standpoint, with or without Kenny Plue."
Plue's status is not yet finalized, but Hope said the senior's been given a list of items to accomplish before he can be "reinstated."
"When he gets those things done, then we'll sit down and access exactly where he's at and making a decision," Hope said. "But he's still alive, but not on board yet."
QBs Rob Henry (illness) and Robert Marve (knee) missed Sunday's practice, the last of training camp.
Henry's been battling sickness for a few days, but is expected back Tuesday. If Purdue was playing tomorrow, Hope says the sophomore QB would be good enough to give it a go.
"Rob will play with his finger cut off," Hope said, "or fever or whatever you ask him to do. But we don't have to ask him to suffer every day of his football career, so we shut it down for a couple days."
Marve's situation is more serious, in that his donor knee - the opposite of the one in which he tore an ACL last season - has been hurting. He could be out longer. But the absence of the duo has given Caleb TerBush and Sean Robinson more snaps.
"I think it's a good sign that we can come out, with what's listed on the depth chart as our No. 3 and No. 4 quarterback right now, TerBush and Robinson and still be able to execute our offense," Hope said. "We couldn't do that at hardly any point in time last season."
The BTN was at Sunday's practice, filming for a show that's expected to air on Wednesday.
Hope said Gerald Gooden, Ryan Russell and Robert Maci as the top three defensive ends, and said Ryan Isaac could play there some, but is probably better suited for tackle. Freshman Jalani Phillips, he says, has shown potential.
At tackle, the top three are Kawann Short, Bruce Gaston and Brandon Taylor, with Isaac and Kevin Pamphile filling out the two-deep.
Freshmen mentioned as possibilities to play: Brandon Cottom (RB/FB); Taylor Richards (DB); Frankie Williams (DB); Armstead Williams (LB); and Shane Mikesky.
Hope says running back Gavin Roberts (foot) and safety E.J. Johnson (shoulder) will be out 'til midseason.
The third-year coach said a half dozen or so players missed Sunday. Henry and Justin Siller are expected back Tuesday, while Gabe Holmes, Mike Lee and Marve could take slightly longer to return.
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