Summer QB checkup: Purdue

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
2:30
PM ET
Quarterback competitions took center stage around the Big Ten this spring and will continue to do so when preseason camps kick off in August. As camp approaches, we're examining each of the unsettled signal caller races in the league, where they stand and what needs to be done in the all important summer months.

First up, Purdue.

The candidates: Rob Henry, 6-2, 200, senior; Danny Etling, 6-3, 215, freshman; Austin Appleby, 6-5, 235, redshirt freshman

Statistics: Henry started seven games at quarterback in 2010 and passed for 996 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He added 547 rush yards and four touchdowns on 104 attempts. Henry missed the 2011 season because of injury and completed 21 of 38 passes as a reserve in 2012. Neither Etling nor Appleby has appeared in a college game.

[+] EnlargeRob Henry
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsKnown for his running ability, Purdue QB Rob Henry has impressed coach Darrell Hazell with his passing during the offseason.
Where things stand: Henry and Etling separated themselves toward the end of the spring as both men seemed to pick up the new offense under coordinator John Shoop and head coach Darrell Hazell. Appleby was with the lead group for part of the spring but seemed to fall off toward the end.

Summer buzz: Unlike some coaches overseeing quarterback races, Hazell is clear about what he has seen, what he's looking for when camp begins and the timetable to select a starter for Purdue's opener Aug. 31 at Cincinnati.

Henry and Etling are certainly the frontrunners right now, but Appleby still has some time to catch up.

"We had two guys really step out and battle -- that would be Robert Henry and Danny Etling," Hazell told ESPN.com. "Those two emerged a little bit. Austin Appleby was a little bit up and down, but those two guys did the best job of taking care of the ball and understanding what we were trying to do.

"They're probably 75 percent of job knowledge and system knowledge, where Austin might be a little bit behind, not much. When it's all said and done, they'll both be closer to 90 percent, 95 percent thinking like the coaches think."

Henry impressed Hazell with his passing. Hazell had heard Henry's first instinct had been to run and use his athleticism, but Henry "stood in there and made some tough throws with people in his face."

Etling, a decorated high school recruit and an Elite 11 finalist, came to Purdue with few questions about his arm strength and other skills. But as a freshman early enrollee, he had to show he could quickly grasp a college offense.

"For a guy that's supposed to be at his prom a couple weeks ago, he was extremely mature," Hazell said. "I think it has a lot to do with his preparation. He's in the office at 6 o'clock in the morning studying film and trying to understand what we're trying to do. He's pretty poised for a young guy."

Hazell places a premium on ball security, the area where Appleby struggled a bit this spring. But Appleby hasn't been written off and will have "a lot of opportunities" to impress the staff in camp. He'll have to act quickly, though, as Henry and Etling will take most of the first-team reps when practices begin.

"We’ve got to get down to a clear two within the first 10-12 days [of camp]," Hazell said. "You’ve got to go from there and get these guys a lot of reps, and then you decide which one you want to go with."

Hazell plans to pick a starter two weeks before the opener. All three quarterbacks have areas to upgrade in the summer, whether it's field vision for Etling, pocket passing for Henry or ball security for Appleby.

"They have to have their best summer ever," Hazell said. "Just keep getting better, that's the whole key."

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