The season is still weeks away, but it looks likely that Purdue will be turning its revamped tight end position over to sophomore Gabe Holmes primarily.
Coach Danny Hope said following Monday's third day of training camp that the young player looks up to the task.
"He has a chance to be a very special player this year, and even more so in the future," Hope said of Holmes, who played mostly on special teams as a freshman last season while two seniors mostly played at tight end. "... I think he bench-presses 370 pounds and I don't know if he could bench-press 220 pounds when he got here. It shows out there. He's very strong and he has a lot of quickness out of his stance. He still has to get his assignments and his techniques down to a science. He's still experimenting around a little bit, but in the passing game, he can be phenomenal.
"He catches the ball very well, he runs fast, he makes people miss in space or he can run them over. He can be an unbelievable receiving tight end and he can be a great blocking tight end as time progresses. ... This time last year, he was not a good blocking tight end. He's shown great progress. He's already an outstanding receiving tight end. He's a super talent."
When Holmes arrived at Purdue the spring before last, size and strength were painfully obvious areas of need for the Floridian.
But Holmes has cracked 250 pounds, Hope said, and seen his strength numbers blow up in the past year.
"He's going to be a 255-260-pound tight end who runs in the 4.5s and benches about 440 pounds his senior year," Hope said. "Those are special numbers.
"I don't know how many tight ends at the (NFL) Combine had better numbers than that. He can be a special, special player."
Holmes opened camp No. 1 at the position, manned mostly last season by departed fifth-year seniors Kyle Adams and Jeff Lindsay.
"He and Crosby Wright are our two best blocking tight ends right now," Hope said. "Crosby's a very good blocking tight end and a low-rep guy. He's very similar to Kyle Adams in a lot of ways. He's really smart, can see what's happening in front of him and is a great technician."
Purdue saw its first contact of camp Monday, practicing for the first time this preseason in shells, meaning just shoulder pads, with contact being restricted.
"One of the things we wanted to do today," Hope said, "and one of the things we think is key to our season is to start fast this year as a team. We want to be a team whose identity is to start off fast."
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