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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

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Page 23 of 91

I n mid-May, Kirk Barron tweeted in response to a teammate, "Best receiver in the B1G." The substance of the tweet wasn't necessarily surprising. Barron, one of Purdue's most vocal and in- teresting personalities, may often seem prone to hy- perbole — he thinks he's the best center in the coun- try, thinks Purdue's offensive line is the best in the Big Ten, too — but that's primarily a product of his superior confidence level. The surprise was more the person the tweet was di- rected at. Barron, a captain, chose the label for a team- mate who recently converted from quarterback, hasn't even played a full season at the position and didn't practice at all this spring while coming off surgery. Jared Sparks, though, seemingly has done enough already to make teammates believe in his potential. "He's a great athlete," Barron said. "I think he's eas- ily one of the fastest guys on our team. He's a warrior. He's going to be successful." T e a m m a t e s haven't been the only ones gush- ing. The coaches decided to move Sparks to a skill position after experimenting early with him as a Wild- cat QB. Sparks didn't attempt a pass all season, but he rushed 23 times. He gained 123 yards — 5.3 yards per carry — on those carries, when everyone knew he was going to run. He proved to be athletic, slippery and strong. He only affirmed those skills when Purdue opt- ed to flex him wide, lining him up at outside receiver. Against Minnesota, he caught four passes for 48 yards, including a highlight-reel grab (see photo) over Photos by Tom Campbell Jared Sparks' athleticism and playmaking potential led to coaches moving him from quarterback to receiver last season. Sparks flashed at the new spot, but he's striving for consistency there in 2018. Giant Leap? Former QB Sparks intent on making mark at new position GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 24

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