WEST LAFAYETTE – It could be because the offense isnt sharp early in camp, or the quarterbacks are still learning, or the wide receivers just arent getting open.
It could also be that the Purdue secondary is good – very good.
I havent looked up to the ceiling, defensive backs coach Jon Heacock said after the second day of camp Sunday. Im not sure there is one with this group, if thats fair to say. But were still on the base floor, and I think thats fair at this point in time. I think thats where we should be.
And the corners and safeties always seem to be where they should be: batting balls, nabbing interceptions, shadowing wideouts and preventing easy throws.
All of the Boilermakers quarterbacks have been victimized by the secondary, which coach Darrell Hazell said might be one of the most talented spots on his team.
With three returning starters – senior Ricardo Allen, junior Taylor Richards and junior and Bishop Dwenger gradute Landon Feichter – it should be.
We have a lot of good players back there, Hazell said. We have Ricardo and Frankie (Williams) and Landon and all those guys. Normando (Harris) is coming along. I think between the defensive line and the secondary, might be our deepest groups.
Williams led the team in pass breakups last year with nine, and Richards was second with six. Feichter was the team leader in tackles (80) and interceptions (four).
Its just two days into camp, but it looks as if those numbers could surge this season.
Feichter expects them to.
Honestly, I think we can be contenders for the best secondary in the Big Ten, he said. Weve got three returning starters and obviously Frankie, who played a major role last year. It would be a disappointment if we werent.
And the Boilermakers hope to keep creating the turnovers they have through a couple days of practice. In 11-on-11 and seven-on-seven play, the team has feasted on Purdues offense.
Especially as a defense, thats our goal: create turnovers, Richards said. Coach Hazell preaches that the team who gets the most turnovers usually wins. That and plays the best on special teams.
Purdue, which gave up 415.8 yards per game in 2012, will need those momentum-changing plays to win games.
Heacock said he, and his team, know that having returners on a defense in the basement of the Big Ten doesnt mean much. The Boilermakers need to improve, despite how good theyve looked early in the preseason.
Especially during individual drills, he gets on our case, Feichter said. If we do it in individual drills, its going to transpire into team period.
The players have to get conditioned, too.
Most of the corners and safeties will also play on punts and kickoffs because the staff wants its best players on special teams.
Heacock said he needs eight to 10 defensive backs as viable options for game days. Right now, he has six or seven who seem to have a good grasp of the expectations and how to perform.
But that will change.
I think were still on the ground floor, and I think thats fair, he said. I think we have some work to do. I think the best news for me and my group is that theyre just dying to do it.