Purdue’s 2011 Signing Day – Potential Over Impact

The dust has settled on Signing Day 2011 for college football, and for Purdue it was more eventful than normal for all the wrong reasons with the A.J. King controversy.

As with every story, there are two sides and Purdue’s side seemed to be lost in the scuffle. Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer even came out and said that Purdue would have to start looking elsewhere for recruiting purposes.

Even if that were true, Danny Hope and his coaching staff once again hit the Sunshine State early and often with this year’s recruiting class, bringing in three more play makers that could factor in as freshmen.

Here’s an in-depth look at each of Purdue’s 15 signees in the 2011 recruiting class: (stars next to player name are according to Rivals.com)

** Sterling Carter – 6’5, 240 lbs. – Tight End

Wilmington, CA (Los Angeles Harbor CC)

Carter is a mid-year signee that will be available for spring practice, and that’s good news for Danny Hope and Purdue. Tight end is a position that has very little experience returning, and Carter is a guy that could come in and contribute right away. With playing the tight end position, you have to not only make catches in traffic, but also be able to block on the line of scrimmage and downfield. Carter has those abilities already, which means with Kyle Adams, Jeff Lindsay, and Jeff Panfil all graduating and moving on, Sterling Carter is a name you could see on the field in 2011.

*** Brandon Cottom – 6’2, 233 lbs. – Athlete

Newtown, PA (Council Rock North)

Cottom was an early commitment in the class of 2011 for Hope, and a guy that holds a pretty solid list offers from schools in the east and Midwest. Brandon did a little bit of everything in high school: rushing, receiving, and returning were his areas of expertise. He’s a big, powerful guy that won’t run away from you in the open field, but he’ll be tough to bring down inside the tackles. Doesn’t appear to be a guy that will play right away, but with time, Cottom is a player that could be a tough, downfield runner or he could make the switch over to defense.

*** Doug Gentry – 6’0, 194 lbs. – Running Back

Mexia, TX (Mexia)

Purdue was in on him for quite a while, as Doug Gentry was a standout running back in high school at Mexia in Texas. What Purdue has going for with Gentry are his skills on the lead draw and running in between the guards and tackles. As Purdue transitioned to more of a read option offense in 2010, Gentry figures to be a back that translates very well to the Boilermaker offense. Not the biggest back, but a guy that will break tackles and then run away from you. Gentry is another tough kid that could make some noise in a year or 2.

*** Randy Gregory – 6’6, 210 lbs. – Defensive End

Fishers, IN (Hamilton Southeastern)

There are still questions as to whether or not Gregory will qualify to play for the Boilermakers academically, but he’s a guy that will need some time in the weight room and the practice field before he breaks out on the playing surface.  When you look at what he brings to the table, Gregory could become yet another stand out in the long line of stellar defensive ends that have graced the Ross-Ade Stadium turf. Gregory didn’t start playing football until high school, as he’s a beast on the basketball court, which will translate well to being a tenacious player on the defensive line. He’s not a player that will jump off the page with statistics and measureables, but with time he could be a guy Purdue will look back on as being a diamond in the rough.

*** Akeem Hunt – 5’11, 170 lbs. – Running Back

Covington, GA (Newton)

Don’t let the size fool you, Akeem Hunt is a tailback that will run over and through you if need be. The running back from Covington, GA had an impressive list of offers including Auburn, South Carolina, and Wisconsin being just a few. Hunt is another quiet guy that just may figure into the backfield for 2011. He has great power for his size but also has great speed when he gets to the edge. He played corner in high school as well as return kicks for Newton, but I’d see him being a playmaker behind the quarterback in West Lafayette.

** Kaulana Judd – 6’2, 230 lbs. – Linebacker

Fullerton, CA (Fullerton CC)

A late signee that no one knew was headed to West Lafayette, Judd came from the same junior college that former Boilermaker Dwight McLean and current Purdue safety Max Charlot in California. Hope talked extensively in his signing day press conference how Judd will figure into the pass rush more so than at linebacker, which is where he is listed currently. Judd  finished his sophomore season with 41 tackles at Fullerton, helping his team advance to the semifinals of the Southern California Community College Championship. With the loss of edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan, Judd could help fill the hole left by the All-American.

*** Robert Kugler – 6’3, 240 lbs. – Tight End

Pittsburgh, PA (North Allegheny)

2010 PIAA Class 4A Player of the Year Robert Kugler is a player that has quite the bloodline behind him headed to West Lafayette. Kugler’s father, Sean, is the offensive line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and also played in the NFL before becoming a coordinator. With that tutelage and high praise from the state of Pennsylvania, the 9th best tight end in the nation could see playing time immediately during summer workouts. With soft hands and good size, Kugler could also play defensive end if need be. But with the glaring need at the tight end position, he figures to be put on offense and will be a solid contributor for the Boilermakers.

*** Shane Mikesky – 6’4, 190 lbs. – Wide Receiver

Zionsville, IN (Zionsville)

Shane was a November commitment that didn’t start playing high school football until his freshman year of high school, and it turned out to be a good move. Mikesky is still new to the receiver position, but once you get him the ball, get out of the way. The 2010 Indiana state champion in the 110 meter high hurdles and the sixth fastest high schooler in the nation at the hurdles, Mikesky has speed that kills. Of his 39 passes caught as a senior, Shane averaged over 18 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He’s got plenty of time to develop with the experience returning at receiver, but he will be a guy that may figure into the slot receiver position very well with his size and sprinter speed.

*** Raheem Mostert – 5’10, 180 lbs. – Wide Receiver

New Smyrna Beach, FL (New Smyrna Beach)

If there is any player in this recruiting class that figures to make the biggest impact immediately as a freshman, it is Raheem Mostert. As a senior, Mostert returned 9 kickoffs and a punt for a touchdown, and also put up nearly the same numbers as fellow recruit Mikesky: 39 receptions, 723 yards, 4 touchdowns. His highlight tape says it all when touting the speedy returner: shifty, quick, great hands, and breakaway speed. Purdue had problems last season finding a decent kick/punt returner that didn’t fumble and could make big time plays. The answer could be Mostert, who will figure in immediately at special teams.

** Jalani Phillips – 6’4, 255 lbs. – Linebacker

Warner Robbins, GA (Houston County)

Phillips joined the ranks of Kaulana Judd as out of nowhere commits on Signing Day 2011, and let’s just say you don’t want to run into him on the field. A huge player that get this: has experience playing safety. Can you imagine a 6’4 255 pounder playing safety in the Big Ten? Maybe not with the speed that the Big Ten is beginning to orchestrate, but either way he’s another diamond in the rough that Hope and the coaching staff found down south. Jalani will be a guy that will take up space and shut down anything in the middle of the field. He’s not a highly-touted prospect by any stretch, but his size has people here in West Lafayette thinking big things.

*** Taylor Richards – 5’11, 180 lbs. – Defensive Back

Lake Mary, FL (Lake Mary)

Richards was an early commitment for defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel back in July that is capable of factoring into the young and up and coming secondary for 2011. Richards is a solid tackler that has tremendous ball skills and instincts to go along with his physical nature at corner. As a senior he had 72 tackles and 6 INT’s, but also scored 16 TD’s as a running back and kick returner. Richards is a playmaker on both sides of the ball with 4.4 40 speed and a great highlight tape, which makes Purdue think he’s a contributor as a true freshman.

*** Michael Rouse III – 6’4, 300 lbs. – Defensive Tackle

Flossmoor, IL (Homewood Flossmoor)

Rouse has been committed to the Boilermakers for what seems like a good 2 years, but that hasn’t diminished what recruiting scouts are saying about the big man from Illinois. MaxPreps’ Tom Lemming listed Rouse as the 19th best defensive tackle prospect in the country, as he tallied 51 tackles and 6 sacks as a senior. The most impressive thing about Rouse is how he helped turn around his high school team from 1-8 in 2009 to 10-3 in 2010 and a spot in the Class 8A state semifinals. He’s not as talented as fellow Illinois defensive lineman Bruce Gaston that played last season, but he could be right along the former freshman once the year is over with.

** Akeem Shavers – 5’11, 200 lbs. – Running Back

Tyler, TX (Tyler JC)

Another JC back that will be in the talks for playing time in 2011, Shavers has great speed and maneuverability when in the open field. Shavers was a mid-year signee which means he’s already enrolled at Purdue, and gives him an even better chance to play immediately at running back. His notable game that got him noticed was his 16 carry 210 yard performance against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M last season. Purdue typically does very well with junior college running backs, and Shavers hopes to be the next that follows in that lineage.

*** Armstead Williams – 6’3, 210 lbs. – Linebacker

Monroeville, PA (Gateway)

Armstead was a prospect Purdue was hoping for a while that would decide to attend West Lafayette, and he made Boilermaker coaches very happy with his commitment in January. Williams figures to be more of a defensive prospect, but he also played receiver in high school as well. The All-State linebacker from Pennsylvania has a great nose for the football as a linebacker, and super pursuit skills when tracking opposing players on the field. As a senior, Armstead posted 64 tackles including 31 solo tackles, which gave Purdue enough proof to offer him as a linebacker. Big guy with great athleticism, he’s another young guy that will make a push for playing time as a freshman.

*** Frankie Williams – 5’10, 175 lbs. – Athlete

Tampa, FL (Robinson)
Of the 15 signees, Frankie Williams is probably the highest touted of the bunch, and with good reason. Great speed and a high football IQ means Williams will be the next best bet to be the one with the biggest impact from this class. There was a hope that Williams would get his high school teammate Ruben Gonzalez to also commit to Purdue before Signing Day, but Gonzalez instead committed to South Florida. Either way, the 5’10 175 pound athlete will be a player on special teams and on the edge as a receiver. Williams is an exciting player that also held an extensive offer list from the likes of Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Nebraska, and Texas Tech. It appears Purdue wasn’t the only one that thought the young Williams can make an impact early in the college ranks.

This class of 15 has been ranked by nearly every recruiting service as dead last amongst the Big Ten schools, but this wasn’t a year where Purdue needed to go after the playmakers in the south. This was a signing class that was position orientated for special teams and running backs, which was exactly what Purdue got.

Interestingly enough, it’s the first time Purdue hasn’t signed a quarterback in what seems like forever after the sudden commitment change to Texas QB Russell Bellomy, who will now attend Michigan. Either way, it’s a class that Danny Hope expects to come in and make an impact in the spring and the summer prior to his third season as head coach.

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