What a difference a year made for Curtis Painter:
2006: 59.4% cmp, 22 TD, 19 INTPainter actually threw for a Big 10 record 3,985 yards last year, but also led the nation in interceptions. This year he's much more patient, and precise.
2007: 68.7% cmp, 16 TD, 1 INT (through 4 games)
While it's true 4-0 Purdue hasn't really played anyone yet this year (they've beat up on 1-3 Toledo, 1AA Eastern Illinois, 1-3 Central Michigan, and 1-3 Minnesota), that kind of improvement on interception rate can't be chalked up solely to cupcake opponents. Painter looks smooth and confident in the pocket and has really cut down on his mistakes.
A lot of the credit for Painter's improvement should go to quarterback coach Ed Zaunbrecher, in his second year with the Boilers.
Ten of [Coach Z's] quarterback pupils have set school passing records, including Painter, who threw for a Big Ten Conference record 3,985 yards last season.Painter's been able to spread the ball around pretty well so far this year. Wideout Dorien Bryant leads the team with 32 catches, but four other guys are very much in the mix: TE Keller (15 catches), WR Orton (14), WR Lymon (14), and RB Sheets (14).
"We've grown closer as a quarterback and coach," Painter said of Zaunbrecher, who is in his second season as Purdue's quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator.
"From a technique standpoint and from a football aspect, the two things he's really worked on with me is my balance and reading defenses. Those were probably the two biggest things that were a problem in my game, and those are the two things that have come along the most."
Despite his record-setting season in 2006, Painter was inconsistent. While he passed for 22 touchdowns, he led the nation with 19 interceptions.
After four games this season, Painter has shown drastic improvement.
He leads the Big Ten, and is No. 11 in the nation, with his 322.5 per-game passing average. He's completing 68.7 percent of his passes (114 of 166) for 1,290 yards.
"He's better than he was at this point a year ago, and he's better than he was at the first part of this season," Zaunbrecher said. "He's gotten better on some of the footwork things and the balance, and it's shown up in his completion percentage.
"That's the biggest thing, that he can throw the ball where he knows to throw it."
Let's not forget about that touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Painter currently is second in the nation with 16 touchdown passes, and he's thrown only one interception.
"He hasn't thrown into trouble too much," Zaunbrecher said. "For the most part, if we can't catch it then he's thrown it away. To me that's a good throw.