NCAA Football Preview - Purdue Boilermakers
By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2013 SEASON IN REVIEW: If anything, Darrell Hazell's first season as a head coach in the Big Ten produced a lot of learning opportunities. The former Kent State head man and Ohio State assistant guided the Boilermakers to a 1-11 debut campaign in 2013, with the lone victory coming against FCS foe Indiana State by a 20-14 final in Week 2.
Purdue lost by one possession at home to in-state rival Notre Dame a week later (31-24), but only one other game the rest of the way was decided by one possession.
"Obviously we didn't finish as well as we'd like to last year," coach Hazell said at Big Ten media day. "There's a lot of things for improvement. But I think this is the time where you rip off the rearview mirror and you take a look at what's in front of you and all the things that we need to do to be successful in this 2014 season."
OFFENSE: The offense should be improved, if for no other reason than 10 starters return who are now familiar with Hazell's system and coaching methods. That is especially true at the quarterback position, where Danny Etling started the final seven games as a true freshman. His growth was on display in the regular-season finale at Indiana, where he had a career-high 33 completions on 49 attempts for 485 yards and 4 touchdowns.
However, in terms of skill position players, there simply are not a lot of proven weapons. After all, the unit ranked 119th in the nation last year in both total offense (282.9 ypg) and scoring offense (14.9 ppg). Running back Akeem Hunt averaged only 3.8 ypc (38.7 ypg) and scored 1 rushing TD. In fact, the Boilermakers totaled only 6 rushing scores as a team for the season.
In the passing game, tight end Justin Sinz qualifies as the leading returning receiver, although he finished with only 340 yards on 41 catches.
DEFENSE: The defense was not without its struggles in 2013, as the Boilermakers ranked 104th nationally in total yards allowed (459.9) and 111th in scoring defense (38.0 ppg).
Safeties Anthony Brown (69 tackles) and Taylor Richards (64 tackles) ranked second and third on the team in tackles, but that was largely a result of opposing players regularly getting to the second level of the defense.
Cornerback Frankie Williams returns after collecting a pair of interceptions, but the team must find a replacement for the other corner, Ricardo Allen, who was lost to graduation after picking off 6 passes last season.
Linebacker Will Lucas, the team's top tackler in 2013, also graduated. The pass rush was virtually nonexistent last year (14 sacks), and among returning players, defensive end Ryan Russell's 2 quarterback takedowns represent a team-high.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game was something of an adventure from week to week last season, and questions remain entering the 2014 campaign. Paul Griggs tops the depth chart at the moment, although he converted only 6-of-12 field goal attempts with a long of 47 yards. Griggs was also not used on kickoffs as he does not have the strongest leg.
OUTLOOK: Purdue returns 19 starters from a year ago, and folks in West Lafayette are counting on a lot of progress from coach Hazell's first season.
"Here's the biggest thing that I've learned when you take over a program: and nobody's at fault, but there's so much learning that has to happen in that first year, how you want things done" coach Hazell said. "And it's not only coaches to coaches. It's coaches to players, to equipment people, to trainers.
"So it's a learning process. And at this junction, everybody knows where they're supposed to be. And I think that's the biggest maturity you make as a program between year one and year two. Our players, they know what the expectations are from the coaches. So we've made -- you'll be impressed on the significant strides that we've made as a program."
08/20 12:42:24 ET