Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Purdue feeling Marve-lous

After a few weeks of waffling between Purdue and Tennessee, former Miami QB Robert Marve is set to announce that he'll become a Boilermaker, according to ESPN.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, given Purdue's dire situation at quarterback (senior Joey Elliott and pretty much nobody else), Marve is all but assured the starting spot when he's eligible to play again in 2010.

In a vacuum, Tennessee probably would've been the better choice -- the QB situation isn't much better, but the tradition and national exposure certainly are. The problem was that because Miami wouldn't release Marve from his scholarship if he transferred to Tennessee, LSU or another school within Florida (apparently because of accusations of tampering), he would have had to pay his own way for a year with the Volunteers. And as anyone who's ever paid their own way through college can tell you, that's not such an attractive option when there's a scholarship on the table.

But if Marve chose Purdue in order to play under new head coach Danny Hope in the Joe Tiller-developed passing offense, I have to question that decision (although based on his high school photograph above, it seems entirely likely that he simply really likes black-and-gold uniforms and helmets with a big "P" on the side).

It's worth noting that since Drew Brees graduated in 2000, Purdue's production at the QB position has been less than impressive. I believe pass efficiency is the most accurate measuring stick of a quarterback's success, so let's go to the numbers:

2008: 76th (Curtis Painter)
2007: 46th (Painter)
2006: 45th (Painter)
2005: 96th (Painter)
2004: 10th (Kyle Orton)
2003: 52nd (Orton)
2002: 41st (Orton)
2001: 95th (Brandon Hance)

Not what you expected, right? Kyle Orton had a good senior season and had impressive peripheral numbers as a junior, but he never duplicated Brees' overall success, especially in the wins column. And after Orton, we're left with Curtis Painter -- who Mel Kiper had a man-crush on as a junior, even if the statistics didn't justify that level of praise -- and one-year starter Brandon Hance, who was clearly not good in his shot at glory.

But there's a bigger problem for Purdue, one that might not stand out on a week-to-week basis but that has to be a long-term concern for Hope. Since the Rose Bowl appearance in Brees' senior season, the Boilermakers haven't beaten either of the top two teams in the final conference standings in any season, nor have they scored more than 21 points in any of those games (the lone exception being a 31-28 road loss to Iowa in 2002). If you're going to build your team around a high-octane offense, that offense had better show up in the biggest games.

The million-dollar question is whether those struggles are due to a drop-off in QB play, a drop-off in overall talent or the rest of the conference adjusting to a spread passing attack that's no longer unique. If it's the former, Marve could be the solution. But if it's not ...

I don't mean this to be an indictment of Marve, necessarily. Let me reiterate here that he is talented -- he was considered a top-10 QB nationally coming out of high school, and even in an abysmal offense at Miami, it says something that he was able to win the starting job as a redshirt freshman.

But it'll be interesting to see how he performs. Considering that Marve is one of the highest-rated QB recruits Purdue has ever landed, if the not-so-encouraging offensive trend continues against Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, I think we can safely draw the conclusion that Purdue simply will never return to its Brees-era glory days and probably can't be expected to compete for a conference title.