Dienhart: What I'll be watching for at Purdue practice

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Dienhart: What I'll be watching for at Purdue practice

Darrell Hazell needs a big year. It’s no secret. He has yet to get this program off the ground in his first three seasons. The struggles can’t be sugarcoated or minimized, as 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 and a staff that has two new coordinators.

Here is what I’ll be watching at Purdue practice.

1. Quarterback. The quarterback situation has been a sore spot under Darrell Hazell, who has switched signal-callers during the season in each of his three years. This can’t continue. Sophomore David Blough was named the starter earlier this week. How does he look?

2. Offensive line. Last year, the Boilermakers couldn’t run the ball … and lost—a lot. Purdue finished 13th in the Big Ten in rushing (131.3 ypg). It all begins up front, where this program lacks size, toughness, grit and want-to. Here is what looks pretty certain: Jason King (left) and Jordan Roos (right) are no-doubters at the guard spots, and Martesse Patterson will be at left tackle with Kirk Barron at center. The right tackle will be either Matt McCann or JC Jalen Neal. Cameron Cermin also could be a factor. How does the line look?

3. Defensive line. The Boilers were shredded for a league-high 214.9 rushing yards a game in 2015. On the interior—a huge concern–Jake Replogle and Eddy Wilson, among others, need to step up. And who will rush the passer? Gelen Robinson? Evan Panfil? Antoine Miles? Shayne Henley? Once billed as the “den of defensive ends,” there is no one even remotely close to being the next Shaun Phillips, Cliff Avril, Rosevelt Colvin or Ryan Kerrigan on this roster.

4. Secondary. This area has to replace some good talent with corners Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams gone. Da’Wan Hunte looks good at one corner. Tim Carson could be the other. SS Leroy Clark may be the top defensive back.

5. Kicking. This was atrocious, an abomination last season. How bad was it? The Boilers hit just 5-of-11 field-goal attempts in 2015, by far the worst in the Big Ten. Every kick was an adventure. Has Purdue solved the riddle? Stay tuned.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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