Last we looked over an opponent in our post-spring research it was the first time weâ€™ve laid eyes on the Terps of Maryland in a serious way. Today is much different, as we take a trip to the wonderfully horrible world of West Lafayette, Ind.
Thatâ€™s right, the 1-11 and 0 for the Big Ten Purdue Boilermakers are up next. At least there is nowhere else to go but up in head coach Darrell Hazellâ€™s second season at the helm.
Beyond that, this could be a big case of tearing it down before building it back up. Most outside of the diehard Boilermakers fan may not have been aware of just how bare the cupboard really was upon Hazellâ€™s hire, but we all found out quickly.
However, hope always springs eternal and hope is all Purdue fans can cling to until a winning streak actually piles up for them. Will it happen in 2014? Letâ€™s take a look at how things appear following spring practice.
Saying Purdue had a running game was an insult to say the least. The Boilermakers finished last year dead last in the Big Ten, averaging 67.1 yards per game (yes, as a team). It was good for 122nd in the nation, with only Washington Stateâ€™s 53.4 yards per game being worse.
In 2014, that wonâ€™t happen, as the Boilermakers appear to have found a nice answer at running back in Raheem Mostert. Heâ€™ll team with Akeem Hunt to form a decent 1-2 punch, but ask anyone around the program or watch any film and you see the explosiveness that Mostert was supposed to have all along in his career.
Mostert is the reigning 60- and 200-meter dash indoor champion in the Big Ten, and itâ€™s time to see that translate on the football field for a change. If spring was any indication, the running game is going to be a strength for Purdue.
Hunt had a great spring game,Â rushing nine times for 54 yards and catching nine passes for 73 yards. That could be the biggest advantage Purdue has, because Hunt and Mostert can be big weapons in the pass game too, helping to spread defenses out until they have a full roster capable of playing smash mouth football like Hazell wants to play.
For all the qualms about how bad the offense was last season, one could easily argue the defense was just as bad. Well, the secondary got a whole lot weaker with the loss of All-Big Ten defensive back Ricardo Allen.
His departure could be looked at as a blessing in disguise, but anytime youâ€™re losing the Purdue record holder for interceptions returned for a touchdown and is near the top in all-time interceptions with 13 career picks.
Around Allen last season were sophomores Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown, while junior Taylor Richards rounded out that group. Williams appeared to be a star in the making, but when you are giving up 27 passing touchdowns and are next-to-last in that category in the conference, youâ€™re doing it wrong.
This spring things looked better, at least in the spring game. However, given the drafted rosters itâ€™s tough to really tell how good this group is going to be. Never underestimate losing a veteran who can make big plays for you, and Allenâ€™s loss is going to be huge for Purdueâ€™s secondary.
At least they appear to have a pass rushing threat finally in Ryan Russell. He hadÂ 11 total tackles, including 3.5 sacks and a fumble forced in the spring game.
Biggest question mark:
Like most of the Big Ten, the quarterback position is far from decided heading in to the fall. Hazell refused to name a starter between the guy who started eight games in 2013, Danny Etling, and fellow sophomore Austin Appleby. Early entrant David Blough also remains in the mix and could be the surprise of the group.
Etling was not consistent enough in the pass game during a lot of the spring, while Appleby may not have the arm that Etling has. The fact that Blough remains in the mix should be a clue that something isnâ€™t clicking with the more experienced QBâ€™s.
The spring game wasnâ€™t great for the quarterbacks, however Etling did goÂ 10-of-17 for 96 yards and no interceptions at least. He also directed a late game-winning drive for his team, which shows heâ€™s got some moxie to him.
Appleby was awful in the spring game, committing a pair of turnovers and not being very accurate. It was a manifestation of the issues he had almost all spring long.
What it all means:
Purdue had a rough go of it, and when youâ€™ve played pass-happy offense for the better part of a decade-and-a-half transitioning to a power, pro-style offense was bound to be difficult. However, there were a few offensive bright spots as the season went on and most of them were young players too. Purdue appears to be on the right track offensively after the spring, and its defense looks improved everywhere but the secondary. Could this team be a miracle bowl-eligible one? It will be interesting to see what happens, but donâ€™t be surprised to see this team playing a lot closer games and a lot more physical football in 2014.