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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 49 tility is a plus. Hardy started a game last season but has been plagued by injury since he transferred two years ago from a junior college, and he missed most of the spring after starting practices with the 1s. Of course, the success of Purdue's cornerbacks might hinge on the ability of those players in front of them. "It's our front seven and pressure that we're going to apply to the quarterback that will make them look better or worse," Bailey said. "We need the pressure to be able to take pressure off them. I don't care who you are, you're not going to be able to cover people for five or six seconds. You've got to get pressure on the quarterback." Purdue likes its safeties, as it should. Thieneman is one of the Boilermakers' most in- stinctual players, which allows the former walk-on to play faster than he probably is. The senior doesn't mind sticking his nose into the action — he played frequently down in the box last season — a positive attribute, also. The 6-1, 200-pounder is Purdue's sec- ond-leading returning tackler, with 80, plus had five for loss, two sacks and two interceptions. "I want to make more plays on the ball," he said, setting a goal for his senior season. "As a run-stopper, I'm good at shooting the gaps, tackling, not that that doesn't need to improve also. Everything needs to im- prove, always. But I'm really focusing on making more plays on the ball this year, more interceptions, more pass breakups. I want to cover receivers tighter, and not give the quarterback any space to throw. That's what I've been focusing on." Thieneman didn't get much of a chance much during the spring. As has been the case too often — he's ac- tually never played in a spring game — Thieneman missed a majority of practices after tweaking a knee. It did give some others an opportunity, like younger brother Brennan Thieneman, who got first-team snaps, and sophomore Smiley. But without his sidekick out there, it was Mosley who might have stepped up the most. Now a 22-game starter, the 6-foot, 195-pound junior's understanding of the defense is catching up to his physical ability. Mosley is said to be one of the Boilermakers' fastest players, but it didn't always look so on the field. Yet, perhaps the hesitation is lessen- ing, and instinct is taking over. It looked that way in the spring. "Throughout my sophomore season, the growth from Week 1 to the end of the season was a lot," said Mosley, who helped create five turnovers last season, including a couple interceptions. "I felt the growth in the relationship between me and the coaches. They developed a lot more confidence in me, and they trust- ed me to do a lot more stuff. It's just building up now. I know I can run like the wind and have good speed, and I know how to use that to my best ability now. Every- thing is coming together how it should now." That's good, because Purdue is going to count on Mosley, along with its other safeties, to the point where it might put three on the field at once. Often. If Holt can not find a strongside linebacker, allow- ing him to play a more traditional 4-3 base, then the Boilermakers will play more nickel. That means Smi- ley getting in, with either him or Thieneman coming down to play in the box. That might work against pass-oriented teams that Purdue will face, but will be more challenging against run-first teams in the Big Ten West. It's a question that'll be sorted out in camp. But at least Purdue has options in its secondary, should it need them. And the experience of the group should help the Boilermakers vary their defensive looks. A year ago, they were a heavy zone team in cov- erage, but they could play more man this season, or at least be closer to a 50-50 balance. "I think our skill set in the secondary is pretty good, so that will allow us to be a little more multiple," Holt said, "and if that means more man-to-man, great. I think we'll be able to because I think we do have some more DBs; we do have some more safeties that can play man-to-man. It means on the slot receivers, when we have three receivers or four receivers, we'll be able to match up and go to nickel and stuff like that. In the past, we've stayed more base and played a little more zone and kept it in front of us and tackled guys. But we might be able to mix in more man-to-man." j

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