5 things Tom Dienhart learned at Purdue football practice

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

5 things Tom Dienhart learned at Purdue football practice

The BTN bus tour continues the trek through Big Ten country. On Wednesday, we reached our 14th and final stop at West Lafayette, Indiana.

[ MORE: See our team’s tweets from Purdue football practice ]

Our crew got the chance to watch the Boilermakers practice on Wednesday.

Here are five things I learned after watching the practice.

1. The offensive line should be good. No doubt, this is the best front in Darrell Hazell’s three seasons in West Lafayette. The unit his regime inherited was a disaster. This group has size, experience and depth; the bodies look better. And the top talents are small-but-brainy center Robert Kugler and senior Swedish left tackle David Hedelin, who plays with a nasty attitude. It’s vital for this front to be physical and get a push in the rushing attack. The group has nice size and showed good pop on this day in practice. Today, the first unit was Hedelin at left tackle; junior Jordan Roos at left guard; Kugler at center; redshirt freshman Martesse Patterson at right guard; junior J.J. Prince at right tackle. Junior Jason King typically mans a guard spot. He was dressed but not overly active.

2. The senior cornerback duo of Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown is a proverbial cut-above. Williams is an undersized playmaker who can cover and tackle. He has instincts you can’t coach. Brown is a big, physical corner. The defense would like to put these guys on an island in man coverage often to free up the other nine defenders to stop the run. The rest of the secondary? The staff feels good about junior Leroy Clark at strong safety. The free safety? Junior Robert Gregory and redshirt freshman Brandon Roberts are in the mix. Each has something to prove. True freshman David Rose and sophomore Da’Wan Hunte (banged up) could be nickels. The Boilermakers need better play from the unit. No doubt, they are playing faster as the players are more familiar with scheme. More reacting/attacking. Less thinking.

3. Are there enough playmakers on offense? Not sure. Senior WR Danny Anthrop has good wheels and reminds me of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. He’s one of seven wideouts that offensive coordinator John Shoop told me will contribute. It’s key to have many wideouts, as Shoop wants to play multiple-receiver formations. Purdue needs a big rebound season from junior DeAngelo Yancey. Shoop told me Yancey has reshaped his body and has a new attitude after a sophomore slump. Other wideouts to watch: junior Cameron Posey, junior Bilal Marshall and sophomore Gregory Phillips. JCs Anthony Mahoungou and Domonique Young bring needed size to the corps. Young may be a bit ahead of Mahoungou, a native of France.

4. The ground game has potential after losing Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert. OC John Shoop wants to play two guys. And those two are diminutive sophomore D.J. Knox and true freshman Markell Jones, 2014 Indiana Mr. Football. Sophomore Keyante Green, a thumper, also will get some turns. These guys are tough and physical and can break tackles. But Knox may be the lone difference maker. He has zip.

5. Junior Austin Appleby was declared the starting quarterback on Tuesday, winning a battle with redshirt freshman David Blough. It wasn’t a shock, as Appleby had sat atop the depth chart since taking over for Danny Etling for the final seven games of 2014. Appleby will be the seventh different season-opening signal-caller in seven seasons in West Lafayette. And Hazell has changed starters in Game Five in each of his previous two seasons at Purdue. Will Appleby start 12 games in 2015? If the QB carousel continues, the Boilers figure to struggle again. Appleby has a mojo with teammates, a well-liked player. OC John Shoop doesn’t need Appleby to be John Elway. Appleby—who looked good today–just needs to make the “makeable” play, as Hazell says. Until then, Boilermaker fans watch and wait to see touted true freshman Elijah Sindelar, Kentucky’s Mr. Football who is the most talented quarterback on campus and the future. He can really spin it, as he showed today.

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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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