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August 17, 2011Listen: Coach Danny Hope after practice
After five days away, wide receiver O.J. Ross returned to the practice field for Purdue Wednesday.
"There's been an O.J. Ross sighting," Coach Danny Hope quipped. "O.J. is alive and well. He had some flight issues coming back. But he's back and doing well."
Ross had been absent since the end of last week, home in Florida dealing with what was termed a "family issue."
As days passed, uncertainty developed over just when Ross would return.
That he did was obviously a welcomed sight for Purdue, for which he could project as a starter on offense and potentially in the return game as well.
"I think he can be a heck of a football player this year," Hope said. "He's got really strong hands and he's come a long way physically since he got here and he was a heck of a talent when he got here. He was potentially one of our better players last year (before getting hurt). ... He's improved a lot since last year. He's much stronger. I think he bench-pressed about 380 pounds a couple weeks ago and ran in the 4.3s a couple times in the summer.
"He's very strong and very fast and I think he can be a heck of a player for us on returns, receiving, reverses, end arounds, any type of special play."
Starting cornerback Josh Johnson's foot injury seemed like cause for concern earlier in camp, so much so that Hope admitted it played a role in his staff's decision to move Normondo Harris from receiver back to his original corner position.
"He's doing good, very good," Hope said. "We're pleased with it. He hasn't had any problems with it. He's had some issues with his wrist and we had some concerns over whether he might have to have that fixed. He'd still have been able to play, but it looks like everything's going to be OK with Josh. He's done well."
When asked Wednesday if any more of his team's freshmen have put themselves in position to contribute right away, Hope highlighted linebacker Armstead Williams and fullback Brandon Cottom, along with corner Taylor Richards.
Hope said Williams has already "worked himself into the two-deep." Of Cottom, Hope said he'll probably play on special teams, "and at some point work his way into playing some at the running back position." Cottom is 6-foot-2, 255 pounds.
He also mentioned running back Akeem Hunt and DB Frankie Williams as possibilities, and said he's been impressed so far with receiver Shane Mikesky.
Receiver Raheem Mostert seems to be the most likely of all the freshmen to contribute immediately, on offense and in the return game.
Quarterbacks Rob Henry (illness) and Robert Marve (knee) were held out of practice, giving more opportunities at QB to Caleb TerBush and Sean Robinson.
"We have a lot of quarterbacks," Hope said, "and thank goodness, because we're trying to get more than one or two ready. We're going to need them."
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