First year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell brought a businesslike approach with him from Kent State. He hopes that emphasis on discipline, work ethic and toughness will carry over to better days for the Boilermakers.
Here are five storylines as Purdue enters camp, and five things to keep an eye on as the season approaches:
1. Hazell’s approach has to translate: Players have raved about their new coach, who kept most of his players in-step throughout spring practice and will try to improve those relationships.
But whether that leads to success is tough to tell.
Purdue is implementing a new offense and defense and working with a different tempo than it did in the past, all while facing a slate that includes Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois out of conference.
Results will probably be mixed, but it will be Hazell’s job to make sure success – or lack thereof – doesn’t affect his long-term vision.
2. Henry, Etling battle for QB spot: The top two options at quarterback are very different.
Rob Henry is a fifth-year senior who has experience, leadership ability and an improved arm. Danny Etling is a true freshman who dazzled coaches in spring practice.
Hazell has complimented both quarterbacks evenly.
Whether Purdue goes with a leader or the talented newcomer, he said, depends on which player can keep the ball out of the opponent’s hands.
3. Boilers seek depth at receiver: Purdue’s receivers gave Hazell cause for concern during the spring, particularly because of a lack of depth and go-to talent at the position.
He said the group got very deep very quickly in the offseason, with the addition of incoming freshmen as well as position switches.
4. Defense should show experience: Purdue’s defense will face some schematic changes but will keep a base 4-3 look this season.
The defense lost lineman Kawann Short, a second-round selection in the NFL draft, and Josh Johnson, a cornerback. But Bruce Gaston and Ricardo Allen are prepared to lead the group.
Purdue will implement many more substitutions into its game plan on defense, which should keep players fresh and help the team finish against opponents this year. Look for second-string talent to be a key, as well.
5. Change could come at running back: Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom split time in the spring at running back. But Hunt showed a lot of promise as an every-down back, and his mix of speed and power could help the Boilermakers take pressure off the passing game.
Camp will show whether Hunt is being looked at by the staff as a guy capable of carrying the load.
Keep an eye on
1. Tight end strength a necessity: Purdue will rely on its tight ends quite a bit in the tight formations of Hazell’s smash-mouth style. Gabe Holmes’ development will be integral, as will growth at the position.
2. Team plans to finish the fight: The Boilermakers gave up key plays in losses to Ohio State and Notre Dame.
3. Tough schedule will test Boilers: Purdue has a rough slate in front of it. It plays Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State on the road, and also has matchups with Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State on its calendar.
4. Shoop a shot in the arm for QBs: Henry and Etling are big fans of offensive coordinator John Shoop, who spent plenty of time with the signal callers in the spring. That spring brought big improvements for both guys. It will be interesting to see how they develop throughout camp, as well as the season.
5. DBs could keep Boilers in games: Allen, along with Taylor Richards, Frankie Williams and Fort Wayne’s Landon Feichter, create a troublesome secondary for any opponent. This unit should be the strength of the Purdue defense.