Optimism aplenty for Hazell, Purdue
When the phrase "rip off the rear-view mirror" is used to describe the transition from year one to year two of the Darrell Hazell administration, it tells you all you need to know about Purdue football in 2013.
To say it was an inauspicious debut would be an understatement. The Boilers were a Shakir Bell injury of Indiana State away from going winless a year ago. Purdue's only other realistic look at a win came against fellow cellar dwellar Illinois in week 11.
But that's in the past, and it's a topic that Hazell would rather have his still young team not think about as camp opens for the Boilers on Sunday in West Lafayette.
Hazell was part of the cavalcade of coaches to speak at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago on Monday. That will continue throughout the day, with Indiana's Kevin Wilson taking to the podium just after 2p.
Here were some of the highlights/topics of conversation from Hazell's 15 minutes in front of the assembled media:
It's been a positive offseason in West Lafayette: Hazell called the atmosphere around the football facilites a 'tremendous environment.' "These guys have done everything we've asked of them since January," said Hazell. "Above and beyond," he added in the next sentence.
"You see a different type of Boilermaker walking around here," was a statement offered on a couple of different occasions by Hazell. That alludes to the work put in during the weight room and conditioning since last November. "I'm seeing guys walk around with a lot of confidence."
What Raheem Mostert did on the track can lead to the football field: Mostert broke the Big Ten Championships' record in the 200-meter dash and the Purdue record in the 60-meter dash on his way to three Big Ten indoor titles. Then during the outdoor season, he won both the 100-meter and 200-meter titles. He finished the spring as a second-team All American on the track.
However, he touched the ball just 23 times last season, and collected 301 total yards including kick returns. And 100 yards of that total was on one run back against Penn State for a touchdown.
"I think his success on the track will play a big role in his success on the field," stated Hazell. That's good, but he's got to get more touches and opportunities for that to happen.
Line of scrimmage needs work: When asked about where the biggest single area for improvement of his team would be, the answer was quick.
"Well, I think it's up front for both sides of the ball," said Hazell. "I mean, obviously we didn't play as well as we'd like to up front on the defensive line last year...offensive line-wise, we have some very good young quarterbacks in our program right now. We have to be able to pass protect and be able to protect those guys."
Purdue averaged 2.5 yards per carry last year, gave up 38 sacks in 12 games, and allowed 5.3 yards per carry defensively.
Plenty of good numbers offered by Hazell: A couple of interesting number ranges were given by Hazell during his press conference.
First, in terms of recruiting the state of Indiana against the likes of the Hoosiers and the Irish, Hazell gave an idea into how many targets the Boilers feel they need to strive for each year in recruiting.
"There's 300 schools in the state of Indiana that play football. So we're all fighting for that same talent. But you have to go out and you've got to find those three or four guys each year that can make an impact and make a difference in your program," stated Hazell.
When it comes to freshmen that could take to the field this year for the Boilers, Hazell offered a similar set of specific numbers.
"There's going to be four or five guys that we brought in this year that will see the field because they're good players," said Hazell. Purdue's roster this year features 19 returning starters.
Etling #1 at QB, but the job isn't his...yet: If there's a position where Hazell might feel his team is the deepest, it could be under center.
Terre Haute South grad Danny Etling played the final eight games last season, throwing for just short of 1,700 yards. He's got competition from incoming freshman David Blough and returning sophomore Austin Appleby.
"Our quarterback situation, it's outstanding," said Hazell. "We have three young guys in the room, they're all gym rats. They love coming in and studying. Quite often you'll see them in the office at 6:00 a.m. just studying film by themselves, and they're all battling for that position. "Obviously Danny Etling was the guy that finished the season for us last year. Our last game he threw for 438 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions. So obviously he'll come in the camp first, but those other guys are pushing him. But it's a very healthy environment."