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Hope takes reigns at Purdue after Tiller’s retirement

Sam Werner | Thursday, September 24, 2009

It’s never easy replacing a legend.

Just ask Bob Davie, Ty Willingham and even Charlie Weis.

Purdue coach Danny Hope has just that task, though, taking over this season for former Boilermaker coach Joe Tiller, who retired at the end of last year after 11 seasons at the helm.

“Obviously with the great success we’ve had at Purdue in the 12 years of the Joe Tiller era, we are going to set lofty goals,” Hope said in an interview with purduesports.com. “We’re following a coaching icon.”

Hope was hired Jan. 1, 2008 as an associate head coach and offensive line coach. He had previously been the offensive line coach at Purdue from 1997-2001 under Tiller. When Hope was hired, it was understood that he would replace Tiller after he retired following the 2008 season.

During his first stint with the Boilermakers, Hope was regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the business, and produced NFL linemen Ian Allen, Kelly Butler, Mark Fischer, Brandon Gorin, Matt Light, Gene Mruczkowski and Chukky Okobi.

“This is a great day for Purdue football,” Tiller said in a press release announcing Hope’s hiring. “We are excited about the 2008 season and beyond. Danny is the perfect choice to take over this program … I feel very good that he will be my successor.”

Hope had quite a legend to live up to. Tiller put together an 87-62 record with the Boilermakers including a Big Ten title in 2000.

After leaving West Lafayette in 2001, Hope took a job as offensive coordinator at Louisville. He only spent one season with the Cardinals, though, before taking the head job at his alma mater, Eastern Kentucky.

Hope compiled a 35-22 record with the Colonels, winning the Ohio Valley Conference in 2007.

So far in 2009, Hope has experienced mixed results. The Boilermakers are 1-2 with close losses to Oregon and Northern Illinois, as well as a blowout win over Toledo.

Purdue has answered one of the biggest questions going into the season, though, -finding a suitable replacement for former running back Kory Sheets. Sophomore Ralph Bolden leads the Big Ten in rushing with 421 yards and is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

“Now last year, I don’t know, he might have had about 30 yards rushing,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “Now he’s rushing for 140 yards a game. He’s putting up really big numbers. He’s got very good speed, and he’s a home run threat. And a ‘home run threat’ means when you give him the ball, that little gallop of his, he can take it to the house every time he touches it.”

With all his success on the field, though, Hope also prides himself on doing his part in the community. While at Eastern Kentucky, he organized an annual blood drive within the Richmond, Ky. community.

“When you can take your football team and part of a day and save several hundred lives, that’s a no-brainer,” he said. “We were involved with Backfield in Motion, a nonprofit group out of Nashville, and I hope we can do that at Purdue. It involves the development of inner-city youth as young men.”

For his part on the field, Hope would like to put an early stamp on his tenure at Purdue with a win over a favored Irish squad.

“It’s a great rivalry,” he said. “The good thing is I think that our players love to play against them. They love to play against us. It brings a lot of energy and a reason to go out there and practice hard, and the guys will be excited.”

The fact that it’s a nationally televised night game, Hope said, only adds to its allure.

“It’s big time football,” Hope said. “Purdue is Big Ten, and Notre Dame is all big time football. So we have to make sure that we get ready to play, but we certainly want to seize the moment or there’s no sense of being in this. We’re going to have a good time with this thing. We’re not going to play tight. We’re going to go out there and have a ball. It’s Purdue versus Notre Dame. It’s primetime.”