When Royce Adams was dropped from the starting lineup last season, he took the demotion in stride.
It wasn't hard to tell, the level-headed cornerback reasoned, that he had been passed up by classmate David Pender. So Adams took his spot with the second team, playing only in nickel situations - and sometimes not even then - in the later half of his sophomore year.
"It was understandable," Adams said. "I just figured I have to get better. If I want to go out there and start and be one of the best players in the Big Ten and hold my position down, I have to do the right thing, I have to make plays.
"I was out of position a lot last year. I had a chance to make a lot of big plays and didn't make them. (The demotion) is automatically going to happen, if you have somebody else who is going to make plays compared to somebody out there who's not."
Now, however, Adams is getting a chance to win his job back, as the rising junior is running with the first-team defense, joining the man who replaced him as Purdue's starting corners. Terrell Vinson, Purdue's No. 1 corner last season, has exhausted his eligibility.
"He's improved," said Tiller when asked about Adams. "Pender, however, I think is clearly our best corner. Pender continues to mature at the position. Pender is getting pretty hard to get open against because from a body mechanics point of view, he plays the position a lot better so he's a handful out there, but Royce has improved."
Adams, a Cleveland native, had started 18 consecutive games - the final 12 of his freshman season and the first six last year - before his demotion. He had 30 tackles last season, but only one pass breakup, perhaps illustrating the struggles he had in keeping within striking distance of wide receivers.
"My technique was bad," he said, "and I wasn't where I supposed to be."
Now, though, Adams says he can see the improvement in himself. In Purdue's first major spring ball scrimmage Saturday, he had an interception, which certainly appeared to give him a boost of confidence.
"I felt pretty good about that," Adams said, "just being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing and making plays."
Adams says he's tried to spin the negative of last season into a positive, using his experience as motivation for the off-season. The 6-footer has gained about seven pounds in the last two-plus months, increasing his weight to about 190 pounds. During the spring, Adams has been primarily lining up on the short side of the field, with Pender covering the wide-open space on the other.
"So you've got to have some weight on, because you have a lot of run plays coming toward you," Adams said. "You've got to be able to come downhill and tackle the (running backs), bring some power with it."
At the moment, Pender and Adams are being backed up by senior Fabian Martin, who has returned after missing last season with a shoulder injury, and sophomore Charlton Williams, who played sparingly as a true freshman in 2007. But, as Tiller said Monday, "we've got a couple of young guys trying in there too."
Adams says the position is in good hands, especially because of his and Pender's experience. Two years ago, the duo was thrown in as true freshmen and asked to perform well beyond their years. It was a rough go, but those days seem so far away.
"We've been here for three years," Adams said. "That first year was heck, man. We went from not knowing what to do to going out there on the field to trying to put things together.
"Now, we know what we're supposed to do."
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