Note: 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.
A couple of times in his career now, Josh Ferguson has knocked on the door of seeing significant action for Purdue's defense. But each time, it didn't quite work out.
The spring, though, was a turning point for the junior middle linebacker, or so it appears.
It was then that starter George Hall was sidelined by suspension, leaving Ferguson a golden opportunity to earn the team's starting position at middle linebacker.
He did so, and held it when training camp broke last weekend. Just recently, Coach Joe Tiller said that Ferguson had earned the right to keep the job, even though Hall had returned.
"I feel like right now is a good time for me to step up and help the defense get better and help the team get better overall," said Ferguson, who's made eight tackles, with a fumble recovery and an interception in 2005. "It's unfortunate George has his situation and hopefully he'll get through it and be able to help us when he gets back, but right now, if my number's called, I have to do what I have to do."
Now, however, Hall is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his leg Thursday, alleviating the compartment syndrome he was just diagnosed with. Hall is likely lost 'til at least September.
"The plus side," Tiller said, "is that it wasn't nearly as advanced as Kyle Smith's was."
Smith, the team's starting free safety, had the same surgery in-season last year and missed four games.
Fortunately for Purdue, though, the sting of losing a multi-year starter for an extended period of time is eased by the fact that Ferguson is thought to be playing the best football of his career to date, a product of his increased know-how as much as anything.
Tiller said earlier in the week that the most noticeable change in Ferguson has not necessarily been what he's doing, but rather how he confident he is in doing it.
"I think I'm getting really good in my role at middle linebacker," Ferguson said. "Now that I know my assignments better, I can my athleticism instead of being out there thinking all the time like a robot. Now, I can just react to plays and let my overall ability take over."
Since the situations changed abruptly and repeatedly at coaches' whims, it's difficult to judge a score, per se, but there's no doubt that the offense dominated the team's Thursday scrimmage, Purdue's third scrimmage of training camp.
The offense scored — sometimes easily — on all but one goal-line situation, starting with the ball at the near 3. It fared almost as well in the open field, generating a number of big plays and generally moving the ball briskly in full-contact work, both passing the ball and running it.
Afterwards, Tiller expressed disappointment in his defense.
"For me," Tiller said, "it's difficult to always come off the field smiling, because if one side of the ball dominates the other side, you don't like it. … It would be nice if every one could be a tie.
"Our defense didn't fly around today the way they had been, or the way they're capable. I think your youth can show up at times like this, and your lack of guys who've been in your program a long time show up, because we don't have guys getting after each other from a leadership point of view.
"When you play defense, you have to play with emotion. Offensive football is assignment football and defensive football is reactionary football, and we didn't react very well."
Some Newcomers of Impact
• The light may not be completely on for Selwyn Lymon, but it's at least flickering.
The heralded new receiver caught an 80-plus-yard catch-and-run touchdown in blitz work, then caught short touchdown passes from both Curtis Painter and Joey Elliott in the scrimmage, along with at least one another catch of significance.
"It's coming to him," Tiller said. "It's not uncommon what he's experienced. I don't think Selwyn Lymon, quite frankly, is going to be as big a contributor as some people think he will be.
"I do think he's going to contribute and he's going to play a lot for us this year. Maybe by the middle of the year we'll have that answer, but I think laying out of football for a year has hurt him like it hurts every player. He'll have good practices and bad practices. When you're just back in the game, it kind of goes that way."
• Junior running back Dario Camacho certainly put his best foot forward in scrimmage work, breaking loose for a 59-yard touchdown, scoring a couple other short TDs, gaining 20 on another run and catching a couple of screen passes.
"I'm trying to show I'm an all-around back," said Camacho, generally regarded more as a short-yardage style of runner than a breakaway threat, "and that I can make the long runs along with the goal-line stuff."
• Freshman linebacker Kevin Green might be making his case for early playing time. The rookie made a number of plays in the scrimmage, the most notable of which was his interception of a Elliott pass intended for freshman tight end Kyle Adams.
• Freshman quarterback Keith Smith guided one series during the scrimmage and engineered yet another touchdown drive.
In scrimmage work, the offense, under Smith's guidance, has now scored four touchdowns in five series, with the lone failure stalling at the 1 after three consecutive failed running plays.
Smith made it 4-of-5 Thursday by hitting Joe Whitest for a 30-yard third-down gain down the sideline — Whitest leaped to make an outstanding two-handed grab over David Pender, who also fought for the ball — the connecting with Roberto McBean for a key third-down conversion deep in the opponent's territory, via a great throw to the boundary.
The rookie QB capped the 75-yard drive himself, with a nine-yard touchdown run.
Bumps and Bruises
Purdue got receiver Dorien Bryant and safety Justin Scott back out of purple, but senior defensive end Anthony Spencer went in due to some pain in his ankle, a situation that is not considered serious for a player who may not need as many scrimmage snaps as many of the team's younger/newer defensive linemen.
Wide receiver Kyle Ingraham was not in purple as he continues to be bothered by his long-troublesome ankle, but he did not scrimmage.
Scott, who was with the starting defense at free safety before injuring his hamstring, returned to the lineup with the second team, as freshman Brandon Erwin ran with the starters.
Scott forced a fumble in the scrimmage, and laid a vicious hit on Bryant out of bounds, earning a 15-yard penalty from the officiating crew brought in to preside over the scrimmage.
Freshman defensive tackle Kyle Sheehan, who's been bothered by an ankle injury, was back in purple, and cornerback Jonte Lindsey might soon be joining him, as he had his jersey off, with his shoulder/arm in a sling.
• Linebacker Cliff Avril continues to see some spot 11-on-11 action as a down linemen. He even participated in some drill work Thursday with the defensive ends.
• Former Avon High School athlete Tyler Haston, who'll greyshirt this semester before going on scholarship and joining the team in January, attended practice.
Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2006. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.