August 9, 2007

It comes with the territory

When you play quarterback at Purdue, you expect to be compared to the greats that have preceded you.

That's what junior Curtis Painter is enduring these days, which is just fine with No. 12.

The Vincennes native believes the comparison game comes with the territory of being under center at the school that for years has dubbed itself "The Cradle Of Quarterbacks."

"It's natural at Purdue to be compared to the great quarterbacks because of the great history we've had," Painter said. "It's going to happen so it's nothing out of the ordinary.

"I don't mind it, just as long as I don't buy into too much."

Co-offensive coordinator Bill Legg said, "Every kid is different, but when you play Division I football and play a position at a particular school that has had great player after great player after great player, you're always going to be compared to them whether you like it or not."

The comparisons began for Painter early on in his Purdue career. After all, he's wearing the same jersey number as legendary Bob Griese did and like Griese is from southern Indiana.

Additionally, Painter rewrote the Big Ten record books as a sophomore, eclipsing the previous standard set by another Boilermaker - Drew Brees - who happened to throw for a single season league best 3,983 yards in 13 games in 1998, his sophomore season.

In 14 games last fall, Painter threw for 3,985 yards.

He enters his junior season ninth on Purdue's all-time passing list with 4,917 yards. With another 3,000-yard passing season, Painter will find himself fourth on the aforementioned list behind Brees' 11,792 yards, Mark Herrmann's 9,946 and Kyle Orton's 9,337.

Despite Painter's early success, his critics are quick to point out his shortcomings like his inconsistent play and propensity for throwing interceptions last year (19 picks compared to 22 TD passes).

"There are going to be people who look at everything that way," said Painter when asked about the cynics. "I'm as big a critic about myself as anybody.

"I want to take the interceptions down. Yards are great, touchdowns are fine, but the interceptions are what really bothered me. If I cut those down, that will be one more thing that I can help the team with."

It should be pointed out that Painter is still relatively young, having started only 19 games thus far in West Lafayette.

"I'm still learning things every day," he said. "I'm no where near where I need to be as a quarterback. Even this year, every game I'll learn something new and keep progressing."

Earlier today at Purdue's Media Day, Coach Joe Tiller said Painter's knowledge of the game has improved exponentially from a year ago.

"He's more cognizant of not only to what receiver to throw the ball to, but where to throw the ball to the receiver, whether to throw the ball low, throw it to his inside number or his outside number," Tiller said. "His knowledge has improved tremendously."

A big part of Painter's maturation process is the result of the additional hours he's spent studying film.

"The interceptions are the result of not knowing defenses as well as I should have," he said. "This off-season I spent a lot more time in the film room learning different defenses so hopefully I won't be surprised when somebody throws a (new) look at me. Overall that will help me cut down some of those mistakes."

Legg has loved Painter's commitment to learning more about the game.

"You've got to study the game as a quarterback," Legg said. "You've got to study the game as a football player, period. When 90 percent of your game is from the neck up, you've got to study the game a boatload. You have to know as much of what it is that the coaches are seeing, how they're seeing it and why they're seeing it that way as any player that is on the field.

"It's one thing to have the talent to play quarterback … there's a lot of guys out there that have the talent to play quarterback, but it's another thing to understand how to play the position.

"Curtis is working hard to continue to improve in that direction and I think it's beginning to show," Legg added.

Painter expects his interception total to decrease since he has a better understanding of defenses and a better knowledge of Purdue's one-back spread offense.

"You would think being in this system for three years that you would pretty much know everything, but it's tough and something you keep building on," said Painter, who completed 315-of-530 passes (59.4 percent) last season. "Each day I learn something about the offense."

Tiller said he detects more of a leader from his No. 1 man under center.

"I think he's a little more comfortable in that role today than he has been," Tiller said. "As he continues to mature at the position, he understands how important it is to be a leader at the quarterback position. As he's experienced some success, he's more comfortable today in a leadership role than he has been in the past.

"He has a very similar personality to Kyle Orton and neither of those guys had a personality similar to Drew Brees."

Painter is excited about the upcoming season as he should be with nine returning starters on his side of the ball and excited about what lies ahead for the Boilermakers as a team.

"You can't be anything but excited after seeing what our offense was capable of doing last year," Painter said. "It's exciting to see the type of weapons we have." Hopefully we can wrinkle out some of the problems and be even better this year.

"I think we've got all the potential in the world."

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