WEST LAFAYETTE – Nearly every Purdue wide receiver made some kind of big play in Purdue's first practice of fall camp today. This group looks like it could be one of the most explosive groups not just in the Big Ten, but in the country.
One of the only receivers who didn't have a chance to impress in the Boilermakers' first workout was one of the most highly-regarded newcomers: Warren Central product David Bell. Bell is dealing with a hamstring injury and did only light work with the other freshmen after the veterans had left the field. Coach Jeff Brohm thinks Bell can be a big-time playmaker for the Boilers, but he said the team is taking a "slow, conservative" approach to the injury.
"David has big playmaking ability, he can definitely stretch the field," Brohm said. "He can go up and make catches. He has some swagger to him that he knows he can get that done.
"I know he's eager to get back and we're looking forward to having him on the field."
Brohm estimated that Bell could return within a week, but it's clear the Boilermakers won't rush him. Bell said the hamstring is getting better "day by day" and he wants to be on the field as soon as he can. Despite his hurry to play again, he said it wasn't difficult watching his teammates practice and he was excited to see how well they played.
"It wasn't really tough at all, because I saw the guys work really hard and I saw some big plays that the receiving corps made," Bell said. "I just can't wait to get out there and help the guys."
Among the wide receivers that were on the field, one of the most impressive was Bell's fellow true freshman Milton Wright. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Wright comes in with the size and toughness to battle Division I cornerbacks and he showed some very good speed off the line, as well, hauling in several deep passes that got the offense fired up. If Bell is out for any length of time, there is a chance Wright could become Rondale Moore's sidekick on the outside, gobbling up all of the catches when teams blanket Moore, the reigning Big Ten receiver of the year.
Bell wasn't the only important player who missed the first day of camp. Defensive lineman Lorenzo Neal, who made 30 tackles, including three for loss, in 10 games last season, has suffered a setback in his recovery from an ACL tear and likely won't be around for at least the first few practices in camp. He'll be counted on to anchor the defensive line and any missed practices from him are a disappointment for a Purdue team that must be better at rushing the passer this season.
"(His timetable) has been extended," Brohm said. "I would guess, and this is just a guess, hopefully (he'll be back) in the next couple of weeks."
One of the lighter moments in Brohm's talk with the media came when a reporter brought up Purdue's 63-14 Music City Bowl loss to Auburn. Before the question was even asked, Brohm cut in with a little smile.
"It was bad," he said. "Real bad."