The spring workouts are in the books and the long offseason has arrived. But before diving into summer and the painful wait for football to return, we’re taking a look back at the developments from March and April, sneaking a peek at what to expect in the fall for Purdue.
Three things we learned in the spring
The quarterback competition continues: Danny Etling, who started eight games as a true freshman last season, apparently enters the summer months with a slight edge over fellow sophomore Austin Appleby. Neither took command of the position in the spring, leaving the door open for early enrollee true freshman David Blough.
Ryan Russell is ready for a big senior season: Much has been expected from the 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end since he arrived in West Lafayette out of Carrollton, Texas, in 2010. He’s started all but two games over the past three seasons but has yet to play at an elite level. This may be the year after his strong spring.
The Boilermakers should run the ball better: That’s not saying much after Purdue ranked as arguably the worst team in the nation last season on the ground, averaging 67.1 yards per game (better than only Washington State) and 2.5 yards per attempt (better than only Florida International). Running backs Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt performed well in the spring.
Three questions for the fall
Can Purdue muster some offensive firepower?: No one expects Darrell Hazell’s group to line up and hammer Big Ten foes. Purdue must spread the field and rely on the big-play potential of Mostert, the Big Ten's 60- and 200-meter dash champion, and receiver Danny Anthrop. Perhaps tight end Dolapo Macarthy, named the most improved offensive player of the spring, can help here.
How can this team improve defensively?: As poorly as the offense performed last season, the defense wasn’t much better, allowing 38 points and nearly 460 yards per game. Russell offers a start. Fellow end Antoine Miles and tackle Michael Rouse III played well in the spring game, and the secondary shows promise behind cornerback Frankie Williams and big-hitting safety Robert Gregory.
Who has the highest ceiling at QB?: There’s an argument to make that it’s the 6-foot-1 Blough, who came to Purdue from the same Texas high school as Russell. Of course, he is the most inexperienced. Etling (2012) and Appleby (2011), like Blough last summer, showed well at the Elite 11 finals, so all three come from a strong pedigree. After throwing for 1,690 yards last fall, Etling will be tough to overcome.
One way too early prediction
Purdue will win a Big Ten game next fall. Yes, that’s bold. In all seriousness, the schedule was brutal last season as Purdue faced six straight foes that won nine or more games, then got Iowa and Penn State as a reprieve. Still, the Boilers were not competitive after a seven-point loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 14. Next year will be different. Remember, Purdue won its final three games in the Big Ten in 2012 before last season. A return to better days are near.