Offseason to-do list: Purdue

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
1:30
PM ET
The offseason is in its early stages, and to get us through the long winter, we're taking a look at what each team must do in the months ahead before actual football returns to the field.

Taking center stage now in our series: the Purdue Boilermakers.

1. Improve the running game: Darrell Hazell's offensive philosophy revolves around a power run game, but Purdue fell far short of fulfilling that vision in 2013. The Boilermakers ranked last in the Big Ten and 122nd out of 123 FBS teams in rushing yardage at a pathetic 67.1 per game. The offensive line was not at the caliber needed to compete in the Big Ten, getting pushed around physically and giving up 38 sacks to boot. Purdue's leading rusher, Akeem Hunt, managed just 464 yards on the season. Hazell is not changing his basic plan, as evidenced by his retention of offensive coordinator John Shoop. So the Boilers are going to have to figure out a way to execute it much, much better this offseason.

2. Make a massive leap in the front seven on defense: Purdue was nearly as bad at stopping the run as it was in moving the ball on the ground. The Boilermakers ranked 114th nationally in rush defense and were second to last in the FBS in third-down defense. Linebacker has been a below-average position for the program the past couple of years. Three starters on the defensive line -- Bruce Gaston, Ryan Isaac and Greg Latta -- graduate. Recruiting is ultimately the answer in fixing this defense, but Hazell has to rebuild with young players now.

3. Let the QB competition play out: Freshman quarterback Danny Etling was one of the lone bright spots for the team in 2013. But young players need competition to get better, and after going winless as a starter, Etling needs to continue to be pushed. Early enrollee David Blough is a highly regarded prospect who should get a chance to earn first-team reps this spring and summer, along with holdover Austin Appleby. Hazell and Purdue need to foster an environment of competition, and that starts at quarterback.

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