It's amazing how things can change from one year to the next. "You're telling me,'' said Purdue junior quarterback Caleb TerBush. One season after the former Metamora High School star missed on a chance to play because of academic ineligibility, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound TerBush moved up the depth chart in late August and started the season's first six games after a knee injury to projected starter Rob Henry and the slow recovery from another knee injury by Robert Marve.

CHAMPAIGN -- It's amazing how things can change from one year to the next.

"You're telling me,'' said Purdue junior quarterback Caleb TerBush.

One season after the former Metamora High School star missed on a chance to play because of academic ineligibility, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound TerBush moved up the depth chart in late August and started the season's first six games after a knee injury to projected starter Rob Henry and the slow recovery from another knee injury by Robert Marve.

"There was a little bit of nerves there,'' TerBush said. "It was going to be my first start. I was definitely excited. You don't come to college for football to not play. I felt like I accomplished something. I had to do my best to keep myself there.''

TerBush has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 949 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions. His team (3-3 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten) hosts No. 23 Illinois (6-1, 2-1) on homecoming Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN2).

TerBush became the fifth different Purdue quarterback to start in a calendar year, joining Marve, Henry, Rochester's Sean Robinson and Justin Siller. TerBush had his highs (a 35-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left to win the opener against Middle Tennessee State) and his lows (an interception on the game's first play in a 28-point loss to Notre Dame).

"I've got a pretty strong arm,'' TerBush said. "I like to sit in the pocket as long as I can to get it to the faster guys. When I need to run, I feel like I can. I ran a lot in high school. I'm comfortable with that. I usually try to stay calm. I don't like getting flustered. Being the quarterback, everyone looks to you. If you get flustered, everything gets haywired.''

In the 23-18 loss at Penn State on Saturday, the Boilermakers passed for 182 yards and rushed for 162 yards. Only Alabama gained more yards on Penn State this season. Purdue's offense averaged 400.8 yards in the first six games, split almost evenly while averaging 206.5 yards rushing and 194.3 passing.

"Their quarterback gives them a chance,'' said Illini defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. "He can deliver the football. He gets them in and out of the right plays. They do a lot of different things schematically that create a lot of problems. They're pretty balanced.''

TerBush starts, then Purdue gives Marve a series or two late in the first half before TerBush takes over in the second half. Coach Danny Hope likely doesn't want to get caught without an experienced quarterback if TerBush suffers an injury.

TerBush already bounced back from the academic issues last season.

"I slacked off in a few classes,'' he said. "It came back to bite me in the butt. Coach told me I wasn't going to be able to play but keep working hard. I did what I could do on the scout team. I definitely learned a lesson. It was a humbling experience.''

The recruiting process came down to one school for TerBush. He visited Purdue for a football game, and former coach Joe Tiller offered a scholarship after the game.

"They had a spread offense,'' TerBush said. "That was a quarterback's dream. I told him I wanted a second to take it all in and talk to my parents. Right when we got out of West Lafayette, I called and let him know I wanted it.''

TerBush threw for 1,575 yards and 16 touchdowns with three interceptions while leading Metamora to the Class 5A state title as a senior.

Robinson logged snaps in the opener while throwing two incomplete passes. Illinois jumped on Purdue last season, when Robinson was a raw freshman thrown into the first string because of injury. The Illini led 37-0 on the way to a 44-10 victory.

Purdue returned nine starters on defense but lost defensive end Ryan Kerrigan to the NFL in the first round of the draft. Hope saw improvement in the last month.

"We're significantly better on defense than we were three weeks ago,'' Hope said. "We're becoming a good football team. That's what I thought would happen when we started camp. We had good potential. We weren't there yet. We're not there yet.''

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.

A look at Purdue

Record: 3-3 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten
So far: Def. Middle Tennessee State 27-24, lost to Rice 24-22, def. Southeast Missouri State 59-0, lost to Notre Dame 38-10, def. Minnesota 45-17, lost to Penn State 23-18.
Coach: Danny Hope, 12-18 in third year at Purdue, 47-40 in eighth year overall.
Players to watch: QB Caleb TerBush, RB Ralph Bolden (370 yards rushing, 3 TD), Joe Holland (43 tackles), Ricardo Allen (2 INT).
Did you know?: The Boilermakers wear a No. 22 decal for Sean Matti, a fifth-year senior running back who drowned in July.
Quote: "We feel we played really well (vs. Penn State). We've got momentum from the past couple weeks.'' -- Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush.