Virtually since the first practice this month, it's been fairly clear which true freshmen would play for Purdue in 2009, at least to begin the season.
Receivers Gary Bush and Antavian Edison, linebackers Antwon Higgs and Dwayne Beckford and cornerback Josh Johnson are those whose place on field this fall seems secure.
But it sounds like Purdue might also look to a youngster for help on its experienced defensive line, as well.
The Boilermakers have four rookies on that front in Kevin Pamphile, Eric McDaniel, Cody Davis, Xavier Melton and Brandon Taylor. Hope listed Pamphile, who has apparently moved from end tackle, and Taylor by name as possibilities for early playing time.
Pamphile, in only his second year of football, might be the leading candidate, Hope said.
"He's a physical guy, and he hasn't played a whole lot of football," Hope said. "He played one year in high school. He doesn't have a whole lot of bad habits. If you can go out there and get those guys to do the basic fundamentals well, that's a great place to start.
"We'll see how it goes with him, but we'd like to maybe get one of those young guys to step in and help us."
Quarterback Rob Henry and offensive tackle Trevor Foy are among those who could have a spot on the two-deeps if there are any injuries or other such circumstances. Purdue would probably prefer to not need either of them to play, though.
More from Hope
After practice on Sunday, Hope had a list of players "that maybe people don't know a whole lot about" that he wanted to talk about.
The first was senior defensive end Keyon Brown, who had a quiet junior season after starting as a sophomore and closing the year with an outstanding Motor City Bowl.
"He's really come on toward the latter part of camp," Hope said. "He's a senior, he's full-grown, big and strong, and fully healthy now following surgery. He's making great progress and he can help our team in 2009. We expect him to play a bunch in the first game."
Hope went on to similarly cite sophomore safety Albert Evans.
"We're very comfortable with Albert Evans out there," Hope said, "and he'll play a lot on Saturday. He's smart, gives you great effort and is a sure tackler. He's a guy you can trust that he'll be ready to go."
Others mentioned were offensive tackles Ryan Prater and Monroe Brooks, the latter of whom moved to offense from defensive tackle a few days into camp.
"I'd anticipate him playing more as the season progresses," Hope said of Brooks. "If we'd moved him earlier, he'd be a guy who'd be playing in the first game."
Hope said fellow redshirt freshman Rick Schmeig is "as good as any of our starters" on the offensive line and still competing for a starting job at guard. He's also taking snaps at center as a reserve.
Running back Dan Dierking and fullback Jared Crank were again highlighted by Hope in his post-practice comments as well.
"(Dierking) is a physical runner, he's reliable and doesn't make many mistakes," Hope said. "He's a physical blocker. We don't have any reservations at all about putting Dan Dierking in the game to carry the football, catch the football or block.
"I really like what I'm seeing out of Jared Crank. He's the biggest, strongest back we have and probably the most explosive back we have. He can be a real physical player for us from a blocking standpoint and from a goal-line standpoint. ... He just explodes into people."
Offensive lineman Eric HedstromClick Hope on his team in general: "I think the commitment from our players has been extraordinary," Hope said, "in comparison to teams I've been around in the past."Here to view this Link., receiver Tommie ThomasClick Hope on his team in general: "I think the commitment from our players has been extraordinary," Hope said, "in comparison to teams I've been around in the past."Here to view this Link., tight end Colton McKeyClick Hope on his team in general: "I think the commitment from our players has been extraordinary," Hope said, "in comparison to teams I've been around in the past."Here to view this Link. and snapper Andy HuffmanClick Hope on his team in general: "I think the commitment from our players has been extraordinary," Hope said, "in comparison to teams I've been around in the past."Here to view this Link. have been ruled out for the opener against Toledo because of injury.
"There could be some others," Hope said, "but we'll wait to see how things go the next couple days."
Throughout preseason practice, Hope has characterized most of his team's injuries as minor or precautionary.
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