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October 6, 2012Michigan's infirmary this season seems to keep on growing, with six players officially ruled out for this weekend's game (four season-enders), but if there's any team that can feel the Wolverines' pain, it's Purdue and its litany of impact injuries.
The Gold and Black's injury history over the past few years is too large to summarize in this one space, but it focuses on three players most significantly - quarterbacks Robert Marve and Rob Henry, and tailback Ralph Bolden.
Marve transferred from Miami and was forced to sit out the 2009 season, per NCAA rules. In 2010, he started the first four games of the season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He returned to appear in 10 games in 2011 as a reserve QB, and after being granted a rare sixth-year of eligibility, started the 2012 season opener (though coach Danny Hope always planned to rotate his top two of Marve and senior Caleb TerBush).
In week two against Notre Dame, Marve went down with an ACL injury, believed to be a tear, but the Tampa, Fla., is recovering quickly and might even play again this year, potentially even this week.
"I believe Robert Marve could be ready physically but we'd have to make a decision on what his role would be because he hasn't taken a whole lot of snaps," Hope said. "We were in good shape in the Notre Dame game because both quarterbacks were in a position to play well [due to practice reps] but we're unsure how Robert would perform.
"I believe he'll be available. We may not go into the game with a predetermined plan, but we might utilize him if necessary."
While TerBush is coming off a career-best performance, completing 27 of 37 attempts (73.0 percent) for 294 yards with four touchdowns and a pick, the idea of Marve returning to the lineup at some point this season is exciting for the Boilermakers.
"Among the fans, there was a feeling that Marve's injury may really hurt Purdue's ceiling this year," GoldandBlack.com publisher Alan Karpick said. "Purdue fans have just had a hard time warming up to TerBush."
A redshirt junior, Henry could enter the mix at some point also, though he hasn't taken a snap under center since the 2010 season, missing all of last year with a knee injury.
The 6-2, 200-pounder could see the field in other ways this weekend even if it's not at quarterback; in 2010 he rushed for 547 yards and four touchdowns on 104 attempts, and there is a feeling in West Lafayette he could take on a role similar to that of Northwestern's Kain Colter, who runs, passes and catches balls.
"He's a great athlete and we can utilize him a lot of places," Hope said. "He could play a bigger role in this game."
Even with Marve a game-time decision and Henry back in the fold, Hope is putting his faith in TerBush.
"We're much more focused on Caleb being the guy based on how the season has unfolded," he said. "Last Saturday was good, and he was playing well and getting better, and right now he is the best quarterback for our team, but don't count the others out.
"There is a plan to get Rob Henry involved in the game as well."
Finally, Bolden is looking to return at some point this year, eager to contribute and knowing there is no guarantee of a sixth season if he were to petition for one.
The 5-9, 200-pounder was a breakout player in 2009, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors after rushing for 935 yards and nine touchdowns. But he missed the entire 2010 season with an ACL injury, and suffered another one in the 2011 season finale (the third overall during his career).
Bolden has told the coaches he's ready to play, but Hope is cautious and also is looking out for the best interest of the entire team.
"Will he be more effective than [tailbacks] Akeem Hunt or Akeem Shavers, guys that are healthy and playing physical?" Hope asked, rhetorically. "Ralph is a dynamite player, but coming off his third ACL injury ... in his mind he feels like he's ready now.
"I have a lot of respect for him. I believe he will play this year, I just can't guarantee it will be this weekend."