FORT WAYNE – With Purdue running back Ralph Bolden recovering from a knee injury suffered late last season, senior Akeem Shavers is ready for any added responsibilities.
Its no pressure, Shavers said in a phone interview after Tuesdays practice. I look at it as another opportunity.
Its horrible that he went down. Im glad that hes making his way back. Hes looking good right now. Its more like hes taking a little break to make sure everything is right, and were going to take control of it right now while hes down. When he gets back, were going to have that one-two punch that we had last year.
Bolden led the Boilermakers in rushing with 674 yards last year. Theres no timetable set for his return. Shavers was second on the team, rushing for 519 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 58 yards and one touchdown.
I anticipate him to start the season with a lot of momentum behind him and be a confident player and doing very well, Purdue coach Danny Hope said of Shavers at Purdues media day. He has every reason to do very well this season.
Shavers joined Purdue in January 2011 after transferring from Tyler (Texas) Junior College, where he rushed for 450 yards with three touchdowns in 2010. He averaged nine yards per carry and earned second-team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference honors.
It wasnt too rough once I got here after the first couple of days, Shavers said of making the transition. It was a big change with the size of the players and the speed of the game. That was the biggest difference to me. But once I got used to it, it really felt like I belonged here all along.
Shavers rushed for 42 yards and one touchdown on seven carries in last years season opener against Middle Tennessee. He saved his best performance for the last game of the season, rushing for a career-high 149 yards in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl victory against Western Michigan and was named the games MVP.
Shavers, voted one of the offensive captains in the spring, worked on improving his quickness, lateral movement and focusing on the whole field instead of having tunnel vision during the offseason.
Hope said Shavers has also become a better blocker.
From a protection standpoint, he understands what were doing a lot better now, Hope said. Theres a lot of stuff that can come at you when the defenses start bring pressure and blitzes.
Shavers hopes the work leads to a big season.
I want to rush for 1,000 yards, Shavers said. I have a great offensive line. They really give me the confidence that I can do it and I feel comfortable in saying it. My coaches have confidence in letting us run the ball. Thats one thing that helps me be as confident as I am.