Friday, July 25, 2008

Early Looks: QB Curtis Painter (Purdue)

Throughout his tenure at Purdue University, one could say Head Coach Joe Tiller has coached some decent quarterbacks. Quarterbacks such as Kyle Orton (Bears) and of course, Saints QB Drew Brees (2000 Maxwell Award winner for the nation's most outstanding player and finalist in 1999 and 2000 for the Heisman Trophy), are two players who have had notable to remarkable success at the NFL level, respectively, under the tutelage of Tiller. Heading in to his 12th and final season at West Lafayette, Tiller yet again has another quarterback prodigy to add to the list in Senior Curtis Painter. Entering his third season as the Boilermakers starting QB, the 6'4'' 223 lb. Vincennes, Indiana native appears ready to carry the mantle for Purdue as they look to capture their first Big 10 title since 2000.

Painter first appeared on the radar screens of the NFL GM’s and scouts after the impressive numbers he put up his Sophomore season in 2006. Since then he has only elevated his draft stock, particularly with the blistering start he had to the ’07 season (tossing 19 TD's and only 3 INT's in the Boilermakers' first six games). Though unfair, many love to compare Painter with Brees. While in many ways, both share similar skill-sets, Painter is much bigger and much stronger than the aforementioned Brees, while Brees held an edge in the more cerebral aspects of the game. It’s also worth mentioning that, compared to Painter, Brees was the beneficiary of a much better supporting cast throughout his career at West Lafayette. Painter possesses a big arm and good mobility, making him a threat standing in, or rolling out of the pocket. Painter has also markedly improved his throwing accuracy and general field awareness and decision making from season to season. In ’06, Painter completed less than 60% of his passes (59.4%), while in ’07, he sat comfortably above 60% (62.6% to be exact). Has a much better understanding of Tiller’s offense going into his Senior season and appears to be dictating what opposing defenses do, instead of reacting hap-hazardly to pressure.

The major criticism of Painter is his history of being a bit turnover-prone. While demonstrating improved decision-making skills in 2007, Painter threw almost as many interceptions (19) as he did touchdowns (22) in 2006. Is a confident player who sometimes exudes too much faith in his arm, thus leading to forced passes into coverage. Painter has also put up the majority of his impressive numbers against the weak competition on Purdue’s schedule. In ’06, against quality teams such as, #19 Iowa, #21 Wisconsin, and Penn State, Painter was a combined 64/125 for 620 yards, 1 TD and 5 INT’s. In 2007, Painter once again failed to demonstrate that he could play with better confidence and poise against stiff competition. Though he didn’t turn the ball over as much, he wasn’t nearly the catalyst he needed to be for his team in the big games, going a combined 103/181 for 917 yds., 1 TD and 3 INT’s against the likes of '07 bowl teams, #4 Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Indiana.

Outlook: Painter has been riding a steady trend of improvement from '06 to now, thus there's no reason to believe he won't be even better in 2008. In this his third year as the starter, Painter must continue to put up impressive numbers while demonstrating increased moxie and poise in the big headline games on Purdue's schedule. If he can accomplish that, Painter could legitimately solidify himself as the top QB prospect in what forecasts to be a weak 2008 QB draft class.

Noteworthy games: Sept 13th vs. Oregon; Oct. 11th at Ohio State; Nov. 1st vs. Michigan

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