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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 6 32 is the tight ends will be a pivotal piece to Purdue's of- fense — and to its potential success. They have two re- ally talented guys. Herdman is the team's leading returning receiver with 35 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns last season. He may be the most sure-handed of the bunch, which is impressive considering most of his receptions tended to be in close proximity to hard-hitting safeties or linebackers. But, for the most part, Herdman held his ground and matched physicality, elements that simply highlight why he's such an asset. Just as easily as he could start a play with his hand in the dirt, attached to the line, as a capable blocker in the run game or pass protection, he could be split into the slot and run routes well enough to get free. Hopkins provides a nice complement with his NFL- ready body (6-foot-5, 239) and freakish athleticism in the passing game. He's honest about his preference — he wants to catch balls more than block, and he certainly can, evidenced by him turning 10 receptions into four touchdowns last season. But he also realizes the impor- tance of being well-rounded. So he's striving to reach that standard. Both Herdman and Hopkins are aiming high. As they should. "We can do a lot of things, both blocking and catching, which is going to set us apart because a lot of tight ends are one-dimensional. Especially in the Big Ten, there are a lot of just run-blocking tight ends or a lot of guys who can just run routes," Herdman said. "So if we can do both well and get our run game and our pass game going, we can make a difference in those. I think that's really going to make us stand out in our conference and hopefully we get some national recognition if we play well, too." OL Jeff Brohm would prefer to have eight players, at least, he feels comfortable with on the O-line. That's why he took to the transfer market to land two graduate transfers, because exiting the spring he didn't have enough "capable bodies." The unit had been deci- mated after last season, losing two three-plus-year starters at guard and tackle. Brohm's concern materialized in the form of former Rhode Island starting tackle David Steinmetz and North- ern Illinois backup Shane Evans, who likely will be slotted at tackle and guard, respectively, both spots that lost start- ers. Those arrivals, plus the healthy return of 10-game start- er Matt McCann, who'd missed the spring, have Brohm feeling much better there's more than just five guys who can line up on Saturdays. But who? That'll need to be de- termined. In mid-June, Brohm couldn't give a starting group, in part because the staff needs wants to see McCann live — Brohm still isn't sure if the 6-6, 314-pound McCann is bet- ter suited for tackle, where he started, or guard — and the newcomers. It's possible former walk-on Eric Swingler, who got most of the No. 1 reps at right tackle in the spring, holds that spot. It's possible Steinmetz takes it. It's possible Evans moves in on the other guard position, if McCann doesn't shift there and if Swingler stays put at tackle because McCann also can play guard. It's possible, too, Purdue plays a redshirt freshman left tackle. "If I had to say today, I would want Grant Hermanns to be our left tackle," Brohm said in mid-June. "Now, there will be some guys, a few more tackles, that will be able to rotate in there if for some reason he's not playing well. We could make a move. But as of right now, I would want Grant Hermanns to be our left tackle." The only position that seems set is center — where ju- nior Kirk Barron should enter his second year as a starter. Athlon tabbed Barron a third-team All-Big Ten preseason pick, and Barron certainly has shown a willingness to work to overcome any physical limitations — he's gener- ously listed at 6-2 — by being one of the team's strongest players. He plays with a toughness and confidence — he thinks he's the best center in the country — that's imper- ative on the front line. But, much like mentors Robert Kugler, Jordan Roos and Jason King, Barron also makes sure to attack areas that need it. "I think my run game can get much better, especially in the second level," he said, to start the list of improve- ments. "Maybe being more physical in the pass game, too. If I see someone post up, just kind of hit them in the ribs or something like that. Stuff like that. Definitely in space, get out on guys.

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