Spring football is officially over and that means we continue our look at what went down across the conference this spring in our "Exit Interview" series. Up today are the Purdue Boilermakers, one of two teams making a coaching change this season and the only one to do so after firing a coach.
Out is Danny Hope and in is Darrell Hazel. So, what's new in West Lafayette and how did spring turn out? We spoke with BoilerDowd of Boiled Sports to get the scoop on what's happening in Boilerland. We covered everything from the new faces of the program to some of the old guys too.
Sit back and enjoy… and Boiler Up!
The B1G Time (TBT): New era, new attitude, same ole QB questions in West Lafayette. Coming out of the spring where do things stand in terms of the QB position? Is there a battle at hand or is there a clear frontrunner?
Boiler Dowd: The clear leader is Rob Henry. Hazell won't quite say it at this point, but it looks like he'll be the guy in late August unless something drastically changes. We've gotten to see a few practices, and you can see why he is the leader- he throws the ball well, is a great leader and has a tremendous attention to detail. His mechanics have improved drastically since he arrived on campus, and he's always been a great athlete, and had the ability to scramble…that might be important since there is so much youth in the O-Line.
TBT: Ricardo Allen has been an interesting prospect, but you can argue over the last few years he hasn't lived up to the potential. How did he look this spring and can he finally put it all together?
Boiler Dowd: He's worked hard to become more of a well-rounded player as he's bulked up a bit in order to be a better tackler and have the ability to shed blockers better. We've always thought he was a bit like Curtis Painter (during his time at Purdue)- great versus lesser competition and struggles mightily versus the elite teams…Last season, Josh Johnson was clearly the better corner, but Allen still got more ink because of his ability to take INTs to the house. This spring, Allen has been hampered by injuries and hasn't been fully available. It's tough to say what type of Spring he had, but in the wake of last season, he has tons of room for improvement…and that will be essential to Purdue's success on defense as he will get tested.
TBT: Speaking of putting it all together…. What about this Akeem Hunt character? Watching him in the spring game was a revelation. He looked like a different player – more like the guy we thought he'd be for the past few seasons. Was that the guy you saw or heard about all spring?
Boiler Dowd: Let's remember that Hunt has been behind Bolden and Shavers the last few seasons…both of those guys proved to be pretty damned solid when healthy. So it wasn't that Hunt wasn't good, he just wasn't as good as the two in front of him. The biggest problem he had was that he just wasn't big enough to take the pounding of B1G football…he's put on a few pounds, which will help, but I'm still not sure he's ready to be a 25 carries/game guy. We'll know soon enough. What we do know of him is that he's very quick and has tremendous vision (as we've seen on KO returns). He's still not a great blocker, but Purdue will have more two-back sets so that won't be his primary job anyway. He'll be the quickest halfback Purdue has had since Joey Harris back in the early 00s, and seems to be a very good fit for Hazell's offense (based on what we saw last season at Kent State).
TBT: Darrell Hazel allowed practices to be open to the public, good idea or just a marketing gimmick that shouldn't be done again?
Boiler Dowd: Great idea…not sure if it will happen too much after this season, but hopefully he keeps some open in the fall. The atmosphere was good and especially good in the wake of the Soviet-like control of the program under Hope.
TBT: What was the one position group and player that surprised and disappointed you the most and why?
Boiler Dowd: I was pleasantly surprised by the tight ends. Hazell's offense will use them much more than any offense we've seen at Purdue since the early 00s…and there seems to be a ton of talent in this corps. There are good blockers, H-back types and a few all-around guys who will be able to help in multiple ways. The linchpin of the success of the tight ends will be the extremely-talented and somewhat enigmatic Gabe Holmes. If he plays like I think he can, Purdue will have a ton of success underneath the coverage.
I don't know if any group disappointed me, but Edison's graduation, OJ Ross' suspension and Gary Bush's class schedule in the Spring made the receiving corps look vastly-different from last season. Bigger receivers look like they'll play an important role next season…look for Dolapo Macarthy to take a big step and flirt with being all-conference.
TBT: We can't leave without talking defense at least twice here… The biggest issue I saw in the spring game was the linebackers. Not exactly an inspiring group at least from what we witnessed in the spring game. How worried are you about that group and if there's a name to watch who is it?
BoilerDowd: It's tough not to be worried about them. The guy who is the best in the bunch was a quarterback a few seasons ago (Robinson)…after him, Gillium and Lucas need to improve and make their presence known…after those two, you've got a ton of youth that needs to mature quickly. We're pretty accustomed, as Purdue fans, to have an LB corps with lots of question marks, so I wouldn't say we're nervous. Hell, the defense was so porous last season, any improvement will be welcomed, and improving on '12 won't be difficult. All of that said, Purdue's front four will be one of the best in the league…but will need some help behind them, obviously.
We're excited about next season and think everything is headed the right direction. That's the first time we can say that in about eight years; that in itself is exciting.