Hope springs eternal at Purdue, as it searched for myriad answers coming off a 1-11 season that arguably was the worst in school history. Offense? Defense? You name it, it needs to be addressed in West Lafayette.
Second-year coach Darrell Hazell was pleased with many things he saw, as he continues to infuse talent into the roster while making over the attitudes.
Here are some impressions from the Boilermakers’ spring drills.
1. The offense has been transformed. The attack that often used tight formations with multiple tight ends and backs is now an offense with more shot gun, three-wide and single-back looks with tight ends off the line. The development of quarterbacks Danny Etling and Austin Appleby is what has precipitated the change in philosophy by coordinator John Shoop. Make no mistake about it: Etling is the No. 1 signal-caller. He flashed potential when thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2013.
2. Raheem Mostert impressed and could be the answer at running back. One of the fastest players in the Big Ten, winning the 60- and 200-meter dashes at the Big Ten Indoor Championships this winter, Mostert converted from wideout prior to last season. The kid has a swagger now. The staff tried to get Mostert on the field in concert with Akeem Hunt to give the attack a dynamic duo.
3. Myriad questions must be answered in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Until the offensive and defensive lines develop, the Boilermakers won’t make progress. Some improvement was made in the spring. On the o-line, Purdue may have found an answer at right tackle in J.J. Prince, a spring surprise. And Jordan Roos and Cameron Cermin are looking good at right guard. The d-line needs end Ryan Russell to have a huge senior season. Ra’Zahn Howard has slimmed down and could be a force at nose tackle after looking good in the spring.
4. Linebacker has been a black hole at Purdue for several seasons. Joe Gilliam and Jalani Phillips fought off competition in the spring to remain starters at two spots. Sean Robinson and Jimmy Herman are veteran presences for a defense that looked improved in the spring. There was more swarming to the ball.
The quote: “I think Ryan has had a great spring. Going up against him every day, you kind of get tired of him always in the backfield. But he’s going to be a great player for us this season. His motor has gone twofold since last season. I mean, he’s going with such a higher motor than I’ve ever seen him go.” – QB Danny Etling on DE Ryan Russell
The number: 4, sacks suffered by Danny Etling in the spring game. Purdue quarterbacks were sacked a Big Ten-high 38 times last season. This must stop—and it begins with better line play.
Offseason to-do list
1. Develop a woefully weak offensive line. This unit figures to be a work-in-progress all the way until the opening kickoff. More strength, size and toughness are needed across the board. Center Robert Kugler and left guard Jason King are legit. The other spots? The critical left tackle spot is a huge concern that may have to be answered by some JCs.
2. Work on depth at wideout. This offense needs to make some big plays down field. DeAngelo Yancey looks like a No. 1. But who else will round out the corps? Cameron Posey and B.J. Knauf have shown potential, but they missed the spring with injury. Keep an eye on Danny Anthrop and Dan Monteroso, along with Shane Mikesky.
3. The defense must continue to adapt to a 3-4 scheme that features a hybrid “Jack” spot. The alignment was used at times in the second half of last season.
4. Improve a pass rush that generated a Big Ten-low 14 sacks in 12 games. Let me type that again: Fourteen sacks in twelve games. As a point of reference, Ohio State paced the conference with 42 sacks in 14 games.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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