July 29, 2008

Purdue's go-to guy

CHICAGO - Greg Orton understands that he can't be the same guy he's been the last few seasons.

For the Boilermakers to be successful offensively this year, he needs to be even better. So it stands to reason why the senior receiver's been one of the most familiar faces around the Mollenkopf Athletic Facility this off-season.

"I don't think in the winter we've (ever) had a wide receiver work harder than he worked," Coach Joe Tiller said last week at the Big Ten media days. "He hit the field running, a full-speed guy, (and) did a great job from a leadership point-of-view during our 6 a.m. winter conditioning.

"If he picks it up in the fall where he left off in the winter, he could be a real difference-maker for us."

Purdue needs that to be so, as Orton's the only proven commodity among the receiving corps returnees. The 6-foot-3, 199-pounder is the lone holdover from the Boilers' top five wideouts last season, having caught 67 passes for 752 yards with three touchdowns.

"I've definitely got to take my game to the next level," said Orton, a Dayton, Ohio native. "I'm working hard, and in keeping God first, anything is possible."

One of his main priorities this summer has been to make sure he's completely healthy before training camp begins early next month. After those exhaustive winter workouts, Orton suffered a bit of a setback in the spring, when a nagging groin injury kept him from participating full speed.

But from all indications, he's put that problem behind.

"I just hope he's 100-percent healthy," Tiller said. "He says he is, but he had a deep groin pull this spring and would come out and do individuals and the longer practice went, he'd begin to tighten up, so we took him off the field a lot in the spring. But he should be OK now."

In an effort to rehab the injury, plus to continue the extra work he started in the winter, Orton says he returned home only once during the summer. During those days, he's not only been a mainstay in Purdue's weight room, but in its film room as well.

"I've been paying attention to detail," he said. "I've been watching film a lot more and critiquing myself a lot more. I've been sending (film) to my (Wayne High School) receivers coach back at home, so he can critique it. I just want to eliminate all the weaknesses that I have."

Among those weakness, he says, has been his consistency. He's shown flashes of being the game-changing receiver he aspires to, such as his 10-reception, 91-yard performance against Ohio State last season. But there've been other games, he thinks, in which he's made too little an impact. In the three games prior to facing OSU, Orton combined for only nine catches, while suffering through an uncharacteristic bout of the dropsies.

"It starts in practice, being consistent there and looking at film more, paying attention to detail," Orton said. "I think that was what hurt me last year."

If Orton clears up those inconsistencies, he thinks he can step into the role of being Purdue's go-to receiver. He welcomes the role, and the responsibility included.

"That's what the No. 1 guy does, he takes that pressure," Orton said. "I don't really look at it as pressure, though, because it's something I want and I'm working hard.

"I feel like we have a great supporting cast because I feel like they have a great work ethic about them, which is always good. We're going to surprise people this year."

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