Today, GoldandBlack.com begins an in-depth, position-by-position look at the 2006 Boilermaker football team heading into training camp, starting with the defensive ends. The Boilers are scheduled to report to campus for preseason practice on Aug. 6.
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The Boilermakers are looking to rebuild one of their signature positions on defense, with several new faces vying to fill holes at defensive end. One of the returnees, fifth-year senior Anthony Spencer, is the unquestioned leader of the group, but he needs to step up if he hopes to reach the production of his predecessors.
• Anthony Spencer: Spencer showed flashes of his capabilities against Notre Dame in 2004, compiling two sacks and a forced fumble in only one half. The question, however, is whether Spencer can come close to replicating that type of production on a regular basis. Admittedly, he hasn't played every down at 100-percent, a habit he vows to correct in '06.
• Eugene Bright: Primarily a situational pass-rush specialist, Bright gets the first crack at a starting D-end job. He's never been asked to play much against the run, so how he fares in that department might go a long way toward determining whether he holds onto that spot.
• Mike McDonald: Brought in to compete right away, the JUCO transfer was probably better than expected during the spring. He might be the all-purpose end the Boilermakers are looking for.
• Jeff Benjamin: Benjamin's probably better against the run than he is at rushing the passer, so you're more likely to see him on early downs. He did, however, pick up a sack in the Black and Gold Game. He'll factor into the rotation.
• Keyon Brown: Brown's still undersized for his position, but he's a natural pass-rusher. If he makes a move during training camp, perhaps he can help on a situational basis.
Best Competition: Though Bright has experience and has naturally ascended to the top of the depth chart opposite Spencer, McDonald saw substantial action in the spring with the first-team defense. After the Black and Gold Game, D-ends coach Terrell Williams said McDonald is nipping at Bright's heals. Bright may have to truly bring his A game in order to fend him off.
The Lowdown: One of the absolute musts for Purdue's rebuilt defense in 2006 is its ability to generate a pass rush. Vulnerable against the passing game, the Boilermakers must be able to get to the quarterback without having to sell out other portions of their game plan. The defensive ends will have to play a major role in that.
The Roster Rundown
• Jeff Benjamin — 6-2, 250, Jr.
• Eugene Bright — 6-4, 254, Jr.
• Keyon Brown — 6-3, 230, R-Fr.
• Nick Cavallo — 6-3, 259, Sr. (5)
• Mike McDonald — 6-2, 248, Jr.
• Anthony Spencer — 6-3, 260, Sr. (5)
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