Denzel Ward's commitment today was a major coup for Purdue. And while the Boilermakers have to wait until February for the 300-plus pound lineman to sign, this commitment boasts significance in a number of ways.
First off, it's a credit to what Darrell Hazell and his staff has been able to sell recruits without anything tangible to pitch.
Reviews of Hazell out of Ohio State and other previous stops have been nothing but positive, and he's assembled an enthusiastic and interesting staff of assistants around him.
Without a game played, it's produced results.
We know the Boilermakers will play power football in 2013 -- tight formations, multiple tight ends, lots of shooting off the ball. That would appeal to any lineman, and might have played a role in the senior-to-be's commitment.
But this commitment is different. It comes from an ex-Michigan pledge, a kid from IMG Academy in Florida who turned down the University of Florida. If you check the message boards on team sites for Rivals, Scout and 247Sports, you'll see a lot of "WTF"s from Gator fans.
And that's not the worst of it.
Ward has decommitted before. He very well could again. But for now, he is a Boiler, and lead recruiter John Shoop has another notch in his belt this off-season.
Shoop, in particular, has been a big part of Purdue's recruiting successes so far. He was the lead guy on the two biggest commits in the 2014 class – Ward and Creekview (Texas) High School quarterback David Blough.
Shoop, the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, is ranked as the No. 14 recruiter in the Big Ten by 247Sports based on his commits. That's No. 14 out of all coaches – head coaches, assistants at other programs, etc.
Because of him, and the new staff's ability to sell a vision in lieu of a product, the Boilermakers have their "guys" for the class in Ward and Blough. Both are high three-star players and among the top-50 at their positions in the 2014 class.
The most interesting thing is that this is just the beginning. Purdue has two of its top priorities out of the way in late June, with lots of time to go. Assuming the Boilermakers hang on to these guys – Blough is just about a lock, and a Ward decommitment is hard to imagine at this stage – this is the makings of a pretty good class that builds toward what Hazell wants his team to look like in the future.
Next up? A couple more guys, like Lake Central (Ind.) High's Gelen Robinson, a three-star defensive end, are high on the Boilers and high on Purdue's radar as well. And with the momentum this staff has built throughout June, there is plenty of reason to presume some of those mutually interested parties could hop on the train in the next month or so.
With recruiting, it's always hard to say.
After all, all 17 analysts using the 247Sports Crystal Ball, which allows reporters to publicly predict where a recruit will go, picked Florida for Ward.
But with five commits in the last two months – including one few expected in Ward – you'd think Purdue might be able to earn a few more eye-popping commits as we roll through summer camps and into the fall.