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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 40 saw action and they're going to be very good players for us. The ones we redshirted have gotten a lot of work, especially in bowl practice. I like the progress we made. I like the way their bodies look. They've gotten stronger in the weight room. They have a better understanding of the speed of the game and what we're doing. I think they're tremendous young people who want to play foot- ball at a high level and want to work at it and they've been good teammates. I'm happy with those guys. We look forward to hopefully getting them in the mix this next year. I think they'll be up to the challenge." Purdue welcomed more newcomers than only fresh- men in 2017, adding junior college and graduate trans- fer help. There were hits and misses with those groups: Offensive linemen Dave Steinmetz and Shane Evans, linebacker T.J. McCollum and cornerback Josh Okonye all started, but few of the junior college players made any consistent impact and another graduate transfer, Corey Holmes, left the team midseason. Here's a closer look at each player by position: OFFENSE Quarterback Purdue had a solid plan: Redshirt its two freshmen quarterbacks, Nick Sipe and Griffin Alstott. And then, with two games to play, a new conversation had to be had with Sipe, the remaining healthy option of the two after Alstott underwent shoulder surgery. Would he be willing to pull his 'shirt, three months into the season? Sipe said yes. But, fortunately, for his development and the Boiler- makers, that never materialized. David Blough's season-ending injury against Illi- nois, backup Elijah Sindelar's subsequent knee injury at Northwestern and backup Jared Sparks' ankle inju- ry against Iowa made for an interesting stretch run, though, for Sipe. Instead of being strictly relegated to running Purdue's scout offense, he was getting first- team QB reps in the final couple weeks of practices while Sindelar and Sparks were limited with their inju- ries, and he was having to shift his mentality to poten- tial Saturday option. But, perhaps more than any recent rookie quarter- back, Sipe seemed ultimately prepared from at least one perspective had he needed to play. Sindelar said Sipe "studies like crazy," and Blough called the first-year player "noticeably smart" and said he is "as smart as any quarterback who's been here over my span — or will be." That attention to detail and willingness to get in the playbook stuck out to Sipe's position coach, Brian Brohm, too. "Nick has done a great job of studying the offense and picking it up," Brian Brohm said late in the season. "He's great in the classroom. He knows what we're do- ing. He knows the plays. He knows the signals. We quiz him all the time. He's really come along great mentally." But Sipe is more than cerebral. He appears to have a good frame — he's listed at 6-foot-4 — but it'll be imperative he adds weight, mus- cle and strength to it to hold up in the pocket in the Big Ten. Quarterbacks coach Brian Brohm said Sipe throws a good ball, but improving accuracy against the uptick in speed of defenses at this level is important to his de- velopment, too, as with most young QBs. "He's worked really hard," Brian Brohm said late in the season. "We are really looking forward to some pos- itive things from him in the future. He has a bright fu- ture ahead of him. He's got to have a good spring. That'll be the next opportunity for him to run our offense and to get a lot of reps within our offense and see how far he can grow from there. But he's well on his way to being a good quarterback." Sipe did have the rare benefit of traveling for road games, which was an eye-opening — and important — experience for him. "It's been really good, just experiencing it all, seeing the crowds, the teams in person and live," Sipe said late in the season. "It's helped me a lot to have that experi- ence, traveling, going through the meetings. It's been really good for me." Alstott had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder in late October on an injury that Jeff Brohm said Alstott had for "a while." The projected recovery time was six months, and coaches wanted to get it fixed because the shoulder had been affecting Als- tott all season, Jeff Brohm said. Brian Brohm said he likes Alstott's attitude — "He takes it seriously, and he's a hard-nosed kid." While Alstott's recovering from surgery, a key point will be

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