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February 1, 2012

'A signature class'

After having a winning season that included a bowl victory for the first time in four years, Purdue added what it feels is another bit of momentum for its program Wednesday with the signing of a 23-member recruiting class.

Being that it ranks No. 34 overall nationally, according to Rivals.com, and fourth in the Big Ten, the group certainly deserves attention. Yet Danny Hope wasn't yet ready to declare it his best class of his four as Purdue's head coach.

"You never know if the experts are right," he said during a Wednesday evening press conference, his first opportunity to talk about the signees. "But it's nice that the so-called experts have recognized our recruiting class.

"… There's an old saying that recruiting is a lot like babies. No one ever says they have an ugly baby, but there's a lot of ugly people in the world. No one ever says they have a bad recruiting class, but they have bad football teams. We'll wait and see how it all develops over a period of time."

Purdue's hoping the 23 - two more if mid-year signees Carlos Carvajal and Greg Latta are added in - develop into the type of players deserving of the accolades. It's a large class, particularly compared to the dozen or so who signed a year ago, and diverse, as the signees hail from 13 states. It includes six offensive line prospects, three defensive ends and three quarterbacks, with a possible fourth being one of a couple possible late additions that Hope alluded to Wednesday.

"Almost all of these guys had been committed to Purdue for a long time," Hope said, "and chose Purdue for a lot of the right reasons."

Among those, Hope says, is Purdue's commitment to academics. But the Boilermakers can also sell a program that had a winning season and won a bowl game for the first season since 2007. Those might not have helped Purdue gain any verbals - most had committed before the bowl season - but it likely helped keep many in the fold over the last month.

"A ranked recruiting class is a good indication of the direction that we're going in," Hope said. "The reason a lot of things are coming of age for a football program has to do with the things that are in place now from a football operations standpoint that haven't been in place before."

Among those, Hope says, are new administrative assistants, a new sports performance director in Duane Carlisle - a "big drawing card (in recruiting)" - and Paul Gonnella, the director of player personnel, who started at Purdue about a year ago.

Gonnella, who is in charge of the Boilermakers' recruiting efforts, was instrumental in identifying athletes early, and helping to direct Purdue's staff toward those areas.

"It's a signature class in a lot of ways," Hope said. "It's the first time in the history of Purdue that we've had a director of player personnel, and a big part of that is recruiting coordinator, and we have an excellent person in charge. He really impacted the recruiting process.

"We have states we recruit in and we did a good job going into there and recruiting our top prospects. But there were several other states that we lands prospects from that are outside of our recruiting areas and a lot of that had to do with the efforts of coach Gonnella identifying prospects."

Now comes putting those recruits on the field, and for some, that could come early. Purdue had glaring recruiting needs at defensive end, and got commitments from Latta, a California JUCO transfer who is here now, Texas' Kingsley Ike, and Maryland's Ryan Watson, a four-star recruit who might be the class' most high decorated.

It needed young, ready-made offensive linemen, and signed six.

It needed quarterbacks to replenish a position occupied largely by upperclassmen, and signed three, including Elite 11 Ohio QB Austin Appleby and Florida's Bilal Marshall, a ranked dual-threat signal-caller. A fourth quarterback prospect, Illinois Robert Gregory, is expected to sign at Purdue by the end of the week.

Purdue needed a kicker, and got Paul Griggs from North Carolina, the nation's fifth-ranked place-kicker.

It needed wide receiver help, and signed three, plus local athlete Danny Anthrop.

All in all, the haul left Purdue feeling good.

"These are guys that we earmarked over a year ago to recruit long and hard," Hope said. "It's a very smart class. … It's a class that meets our needs. If they walk into a room, they meet the eye test. All the offensive linemen are big and tall and have great frames. There's some speed in the class and no peanuts, no itty-bitty guys.

"So I feel really good about the class and hope the rankings are right. The proof will be in the pudding a couple years down the road."




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