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CFN Preview 2013 - Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue CB Ricardo Allen
Purdue CB Ricardo Allen
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 17, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Purdue Boilermakers


Purdue Boilermakers

Preview 2013
 

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Darrell Hazell
1st year
3rd year overall: 16-10 
Ten Best Purdue Players
1. DT Bruce Gaston, Sr.
2. DE Ryan Russell, Jr.
3. CB Ricardo Allen, Sr.
4. RB Akeem Hunt, Jr.
5. SS Landon Feichter, Jr.
6. TE Gabe Holmes, Sr.
7. C Robert Kugler, Soph.
8. WR Gary Bush, Sr.
9. LB Joe Gilliam, Jr.
10. OT Kevin Pamphile, Sr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 at Cincinnati
9/7 Indiana State
9/14 Notre Dame
9/21 at Wisconsin
9/28 Northern Illinois
10/5 OPEN DATE
10/12 Nebraska
10/19 at Michigan State
10/26 OPEN DATE
11/2 Ohio State
11/9 Iowa
11/16 at Penn State
11/23 Illinois
11/30 at Indiana
Darrell Hazell already did the impossible and made Kent State a winner – coming painfully close to crashing the BCS party in a phenomenal 11-3 season – but making Purdue a perennial player will be even tougher.

Kent State wasn’t used to winning on a regular basis and the 1972 Tangerine Bowl was the only post-season game in the school’s history before last season, but 2012 was lightning in a bottle. Hazell made Kent State a winner despite a slew of problems and issues on both sides of the ball, and now his job will be to take a Purdue program that’s stuck in the mud and get the engines rolling.

The Boilermakers are in the Leaders for one more season before diving into the new world of Big Ten realignment, getting a big break by being in the West with Nebraska and Wisconsin the kingpins instead of the brutal East with Michigan and Ohio State. Hazell needed one year at Kent State to go 5-7 and set the foundation for his stepping-stone campaign, but the focus at Purdue might be more on trying to win right away.

Ohio State might be nasty, but last year Purdue had the game in Columbus won before collapsing late. Wisconsin is undergoing a coaching change, Penn State is irrelevant, and Indiana and Illinois, while improved, are still Indiana and Illinois. Former head coach Danny Hope knew that last season was the time to strike, and it didn’t happen. This year, the window might still be open a bit, and with a team full of experience returning, Hazell has to bust through.

On the plus side, last year’s team took Ohio State and Notre Dame down to the wire in painfully close losses. However, the rest of the defeats were brutal losing to Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Minnesota and Oklahoma State in embarrassing blowouts. It’s not tough to figure what Hazell has to do; he needs to make the offense score more and the defense give up fewer points. He has to make big things happen without the talent of Ohio State or the infrastructure of Wisconsin, and he has to do that by creating a team that does all the little things right.

The offense needs an identity. There’s speed and explosion at the skill spots, and there’s plenty of experience up front, but the attack couldn’t seem to get out of second gear last season with lots and lots and LOTS of plays designed to get the athletes in space, but the production wasn’t there. Purdue seemed like it was always going horizontal instead of vertical, and the results were ugly with too many empty drives against the better teams. The O moved the chains, but it only came up with more than 28 points four times – Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Marshall and Indiana.

Eight starters are back on defense, but everyone has to be far tougher against the power running teams and the big plays have to start coming. When it rained it poured, giving up way to many big passing yards late in the year and struggling time and again to get off the field on key third down situations. But even with all the problems and all the issues, Purdue still came up with six wins and got to a bowl game.

Hope never seemed to have any luck, whether it was with injuries, wacky late plays or simply bad timing, but it’ll be up to Hazell and his team to make their own breaks. Kent State did.

What to watch for on offense: Can the pro-style offense start to crank things up a bit? The interesting part about Hazell’s Kent State team was that the passing game went nowhere. The Golden Flashes buttered its bread with a strong defense, turnover margin – more on that in a moment – and a dangerous ground game. It’s not like KSU’s air show was even efficient – it was just plain awful. However, Purdue will be looking to start pushing the ball down the field a bit more and open up the attack. True freshman Danny Etling has all the tools but doesn’t have the experience. Rob Henry has the veteran leadership but is missing the downfield game. If nothing else, Hazell will find a way to make the ground attack more physical.

What to watch for on defense: The defensive front. The linebackers are experienced, but they’re not exactly going to light anyone up. The secondary is full of good, sound veterans, but they’ll get torched if the line isn’t hitting quarterbacks on a regular basis. Losing tackle Kawann Short isn’t a plus, but Bruce Gaston has the talent and ability to be one of the Big Ten’s best interior presences and the versatile Ryan Isaac should shine now that he has a steady role. There’s breakout potential for junior pass rusher Ryan Russell, and there’s good size on the outside to hold up against the run. Overall, this was a disappointing group that ran hot-and-cold, but whether in a 3-4 or a 4-3, this season the line has to be a disruptive strength.

The team will be far better if … it dominates the turnover margin. How did Kent State come within a hair of getting the honor of being blown out by Florida State in the Orange Bowl? It came up with takeaway after takeaway. The offense wasn’t exactly tight with 11 interceptions and seven lost fumbles, but the defense was something special with a ridiculous 38 takeaways – but none in the bowl game – with seven against Rutgers and six against Western Michigan. Purdue did a decent job overall in turnover margin, but it has to own the category. The five turnovers against Oklahoma State made the bowl a laugher, and the team never gave itself a chance against Michigan with four giveaways. Of the 25 takeaways, four came in the opener against Eastern Kentucky and five came in the blowout win over Indiana, but when the D came up with four against Ohio State, the upset bid was there for the taking.

The schedule: Where are the wins going to come from? Purdue might not be that bad under Hazell, but Indiana State might be the only sure-thing win. The non-conference schedule isn’t going to be fun with a trip to Cincinnati to face Tommy Tuberville’s club in the opener, and after the layup against ISU comes a visit from Notre Dame to kick off a run of three straight games against teams that played in the BCS last season going to Wisconsin the following week with Northern Illinois to follow.

After a week off, the Boilermakers get two rough games against the Legends with Nebraska coming in for a visit and a trip to Michigan State to follow. If that wasn’t rough enough, Ohio State is next. The rest of November might not be that bad with Iowa, Illinois and the road game at Indiana all winnable, but the season could be made or broken by a trip to Penn State.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Akeem Hunt. When given the chance he’s a proven playmaker with home run hitting ability, good hands and terrific straight line speed. Now he’ll get the shot to be more of a workhorse after adding several pounds of muscle to be able to work inside or out. Considering he only has 75 carries in two years, there’s plenty of tread still left on the tires, and with a slew of freshmen backing him up, the coaching staff will make him the centerpiece of the attack.

Best defensive player: Senior DT Bruce Gaston. The talent is there to be at least as good as Kawann Short, but he has to keep the motor running and he has to stay healthy. He’ll never be the interior pass rusher that Short was, but he’s built to hold up against the run and he could serve as more of an anchor. Good last year, but not great, now it’s salary drive time as the NFL types are going to be watching him closely. Stats won’t indicate how valuable he’ll be; he’ll be doing his job if he’s occupying two or three blockers to let Ryan Russell thrive on the outside and help Ryan Isaac make things happen in the interior.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Rob Henry and/or freshman QB Danny Etling. The starting 22 should be decent enough to hang around with just about anyone in the Big Ten, but the season won’t go anywhere unless the quarterback play is more than just steady. Hazell got by with a baller in Spencer Keith at Kent State, but the passing game didn’t exist. At Purdue, the offense will start winging it around a bit more, and it might take the entire year to find the right guy to do that. Henry is a good, tough veteran who’ll run through a wall to make something happen, but Etling has the arm and the poise to not need to work so hard.

The season will be a success if … Purdue wins at least seven games and beats a big name. That’s asking a lot on all counts considering all the huge teams like Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State on the slate, but Purdue should be just good enough to win at least one of those games, take out Indiana State, Northern Illinois, Iowa, Penn State, Indiana and Illinois and get to a halfway decent bowl game.

Key game: Sept. 14 vs. Notre Dame. The Boilermakers can win this. Notre Dame isn’t going to blow anyone’s doors off with its offense, and if Purdue can get down and dirty in a slugfest like it was in last season’s unattractive 20-17 Irish win, it could catch the right breaks at the right time at home to pull it off. A win would kickstart the Hazell era and give the program some desperately needed confidence going into a horrendous start to the Big Ten season.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Field Goals: Opponents 17-of-25 – Purdue 9-of-14
- Opponent 1st Quarter Scoring: 73 – Opponent 2nd Quarter Scoring 128
- Punt Return Average: Opponents 9.7 yards – Purdue 3.2 yards

- 2013 Purdue Preview | 2013 Purdue Offense
- 2013 Purdue Defense | 2013 Purdue Depth Chart