Dienhart: Purdue Boilermakers' offseason to-do list
This is a big season for Purdue’s Darrell Hazell. Results are needed for a program that has failed to win more than three games in any of his three seasons. Hazell has gone 6-30 overall and 2-22 in the Big Ten. Three of the victories have been vs. FCS foes; another was vs. a MAC team.
Will 2016 be the year the script is flipped? Hazell will move forward with a veteran roster that has potential. There is a lot of work to do.
Here is the to-do list for the Boilermakers.
1. The QBs must improve. For too long, the quarterback situation has been a sore spot in West Lafayette. How bad has it been? Darrell Hazell has switched signal-callers during the season in each of his three years. This can’t continue. In 2015, David Blough replaced Austin Appleby and made eight starts. He looks to be the No. 1 guy this fall. The sophomore still has a lot to prove. Blough has improved footwork and has enhanced his passing in the pocket. He knows he can’t run at the first sign of trouble. Behind him is Elijah Sindelar, a highly touted prospect and former Mr. Football in Kentucky who redshirted. He can really spin it. But, if Purdue switches QBs again, it probably won’t be a good sign.
2. Adapt to the new staff. No Big Ten coaching staff that retained its head coach underwent more change than the Boilermakers. Hazell radically altered his staff. He had to do something after a 2-10 clunker, right? Gone are offensive coordinator John Shoop and defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, along with defensive line coach Rubin Carter. All three were canned moments after the final gun sounded to end 2015. The offensive line coach (Jim Bridge to Duke) and running backs coach (Jafar Williams to Rutgers) left of their own volition. Terry Malone was promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator; Ross Ells was hired as defensive coordinator; Tim Lester is the new quarterbacks coach; DeAndre Smith works with running backs; Randy Melvin is back for a second stint as d-line coach; Darrell Funk is the offensive line coach. Will this all work?
3. The offensive line needs to develop. If the front doesn’t develop an edge, this offense will struggle for consistency once again—and the season could get sideways quickly. To wit, Purdue finished 13th in the Big Ten in rushing (131.3 ypg) in 2015. A lack of depth exasperates problems. Marteese Patterson, Matt McCann, Jordan Roos, Kirk Barron and Jason King are the likely starters in what has to be a solid front. If Purdue can’t develop a running game, it faces the prospects of yet another dreary season.
4. Improve in the kicking game. How bad was it in 2015? The Boilermakers were last in the Big Ten in field goals, hitting just 5-of-11. It got so bad at times that the staff eschewed even trying to attempt a field goal. The spring game showed this is still a massive area of concern. The squad made just 2-of-4 field-goal attempts—and none of the attempts were bombs. Don’t be shocked if the team opts to rely on a true freshman kicker. And that’s always a dicey proposition.
5. Hone the secondary. The unit has two big holes to fill with corners Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown gone. The staff feels Da’Wan Hunte has break-through potential at one corner spot and is one of the most improved players on the team. But who will be the other corner? The safety spot will have a three-man rotation with Robert Gregory, Brandon Roberts and Leroy Clark. The staff says it could play five or six DBs—and it may have to.
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