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March 20, 2012O.J. Ross was at practice Tuesday, ending a months-long suspension that cost him a bowl game and the first week of spring practice.
But the junior wide receiver's return has come with stipulations; Ross, who began his academics-related suspension prior to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, is not on scholarship after being reinstated from what Coach Danny Hope deemed as a "dismissal."
Ross' ordeal began when he was ineligible for the bowl game, Hope said, and was suspended from the team.
"He came back the second semester and wanted to start over again," Hope said after Tuesday's practice. "We told him not to miss class and he really worked very hard, but he did miss a couple classes, so we dismissed him from the team and took his scholarship away from him.
"He came back and wanted to be part of the football team, so he's going to pay his way and try to earn his scholarship and try to earn his position back."
Ross' return, provided it's long-term, is a welcomed sight for the Boilermakers, who are short on experienced receivers. Last season, he was Purdue's third-leading receiver with 33 catches for 356 yards and three touchdowns.
To Ross' credit, it seems, he's staying at Purdue despite now having to pay his own way, when he would have likely had football scholarship opportunities elsewhere.
"I think he wants to play football and go to school at Purdue," Hope said. "So that's a good sign and we'll see how he does."
On its first day back from spring break, the Boilermakers donned full pads and practiced outside, enjoying the temperature in the mid-80s.
Hope says he largely liked what he saw.
"Last year we came back and started this on Monday after spring break and it didn't go as well as I would have liked it to," Purdue's fourth-year coach said. "They gave good effort but they didn't have a lot of rest prior to the practice.
"So we came back this year and let them rest some on Monday and get a couple good meals in them and get them hydrated with the heat. I was pleased with it. They struggled some early because it was 80-something degrees with pads on, and as the practice went on they got more familiar and the tempo picked up.
"It was a pretty good first day in full pads."
While Ross is back, the status of Dwayne Beckford remains the same.
The senior linebacker has been suspended since prior to the bowl game after facing multiple charges following a DUI arrest. Beckford was Purdue's second-leading tackler last season, with 91 tackles. He also had an interception and four break-ups.
Hope was asked about young developing players on the offensive line and wide receiver.
As for the line, he mentioned Cody Davis as a player who's taking snaps at guard, where Purdue has an injury to Peters Drey.
"He's an aggressive guy and fires off the ball," Hope said of Davis. "He gets after him."
Hope also likes Kevin Pamphile, who is getting a lot of first-team snaps at left guard, and center Robert Kugler, who shifted inside from tight end just before the spring.
Drey, who has had a back injury and missed the last few games of last season, was in uniform Tuesday, but he's limited. Still, Hope is more optimistic about the former starter's eventual return than he was a few weeks ago.
"I think he'll be OK next season, as long as we don't get him hurt this spring or summer," Hope said. "He's out and we're just sprinkling him in a little."
At wide receiver, Hope called out redshirt freshman Shane Mikesky as a player who's taken a step forward.
"We did a one-on-one work today," Hope said. " We put wide receivers and DBs in a confined area and had them get after each other. I thought Shane did a good job with a physicality standpoint, getting after him. He's big and he's smart and he sticks out to me right now."
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