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Summer Opponent Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

Taking a post-spring look at in-state rival Purdue.

Ronald Martinez

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The landscape in college football and for Notre Dame has been changing in recent years so there might not be many of these Big Ten matchups in the future. Anyway, here's a summer preview of the Purdue Boilermakers---now under new management!



Location: West Lafayette, IN

Head Coach: Darrell Hazell (1st year)

2012 Record: 6-7

2012 S&P Ranking: 74

'12 S&P Offense: 72

'12 S&P Defense: 61

'12 FEI Rating: 89

After 4 years the Danny Hope era finally came to an end following the 2012 regular season. Despite 5 turnovers in the season opener the Boilers dispatched Hope's old team Eastern Kentucky and then put up a valiant fight in a close loss to Notre Dame on the road. Following a spanking of another directional school, Eastern Michigan this time, Purdue had some momentum heading in to the latter part of September.

Surrendering 500+ yards and 41 points in a much-too-close win over Marshall was an indicator of things to come when the Boilers began their conference schedule. Michigan and Wisconsin visited West Lafayette in back-to-back weeks and left Purdue distraught with 2 losses by a combined score of 82-17.

The worst defeat may have been blowing a 8-point lead in the 4th quarter and losing to Ohio State. That's enough to break a team's spirit and the Boilers summarily were blown out by Minnesota and Penn State in following weeks. Purdue pulled things together with 3 straight wins over Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana to get bowl eligible but it was too little too late for Danny Hope---he was fired and the Boilers would play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl without their head coach.

That bowl game wasn't much fun for anyone as Oklahoma State raced out to a 45-0 lead and ultimately handled Purdue by 44 points. Prior to the bowl game, on December 5, 2012, the Boilermakers hired Darrell Hazell---the long-time assistant to Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Kent State head coach who went 16-10 over the prior 2 years while coming off an impressive 11-3 season.


Q&A with Travis Miller from Hammer & Rails:

1. New head coach Darrell Hazell has injected a lot of enthusiasm in to the football program. Can you talk about how different Purdue will be in 2013 and if the systems the team runs will be different?

Well, for one, they might be competent. Last year Danny Hope famously pulled Robert Marve, who was playing extremely well, in favor of Caleb TerBush. TerBush had a fruitless third quarter with no offensive progress and an interception that set up a Notre Dame field goal. With the way Marve was playing there was a strong chance Purdue springs the upset in South Bend that day.

Hazell has already gone on record that the QB rotation is a thing of the past, something that is music to Purdue fan's ears. In 2010 Purdue started four different quarterbacks due to injury, and 2011 and 2012 was a constant battle of Marve playing better in games, but TerBush starting "because he was better in practice."

2. In your opinion what will be strength and weakness on offense for Purdue this upcoming fall?

I think Purdue's running game will greatly improve. Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom were explosive in the running game last year, but terribly underused. They are similar to Dri Archer and the second 1,000 yard back that Hazell had at Kent State last season. That could be very important if Purdue is playing a true freshman quarterback.

Purdue's passing game will be interesting. Hazell tends to favor the bigger stronger receivers as opposed to smaller, speedier guys that Hope used in the short passing game. In the spring game senior Rob Henry and true freshman Danny Etling (who graduated early to attend spring ball) were relatively even. Henry has the experience, having already started a few games, but he is more of a running quarterback. Etling is a true pocket passer with a lot of raw talent. I think one of those two will win the job.

3. Defensive tackle Kawann Short was a thorn in Notre Dame's side in recent years and was taken in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft this spring. The Boilermakers are bringing back a lot of bodies on defense though, do you expect Purdue to be stronger with this unit in 2013?

I hope so, but the questions again lie at linebacker. Purdue has not been strong there for many years. The front four and back four should be pretty good, but I can see there being a weakness in the middle. Sean Robinson is a converted quarterback at MLB, while Will Lucas is the only proven OLB on the roster.

4. What would be considered a success in Hazell's first year in West Lafeyette?

I think if Purdue makes a bowl game. The non-conference schedule is tough with a trip to Cincinnati in addition to home games against Northern Illinois and Notre Dame, who were both in deserved BCS bowls last season. Both return good quarterbacks as well. The fourth non-conference game against Indiana State should be a gimme, but they are the only team to beat two-time FBS champ North Dakota State in the last 20-some odd games, so something strange could happen.

In the conference Purdue needs to beat all three I schools again (Illinois, Iowa, Indiana) and two are at home. Even though Ohio State was undefeated last year, Purdue does not fear them. They've won two in a row in West Lafayette against the Buckeyes and lost in overtime last year in Columbus. Games like Penn State and Michigan State could decide the season.

5. Can you talk about some players that haven't made an impact yet at Purdue but who you think will find a regular role on the team this upcoming season?

Well, Etling could start from day one as a true freshman at quarterback. Austin Appleby is a promising QB that is also coming off of redshirt. David Yancey, Dalyn Dawkins, or Keyante Green could also play a lot as true freshmen at running back.

6. Some comments by the Purdue AD recently intimated that it will be tough when the B1G goes to a 9-game schedule to keep Notre Dame as a regular opponent. The Irish are also moving ahead with a new scheduling dynamic that might only have room for Purdue a few times per decade. What are your thoughts on a possible de-emphasis of this in-state rivalry?

It would be interesting. With the nine-game conference season Purdue only has three slots and it wants to maintain seven home games per season. In years where Purdue has five Big Ten home games it likely means those are years where Purdue would have to go to Notre Dame. At the same time, I know Notre Dame has its own scheduling issues with its ACC commitments as well as long-standing rivalries like Boston College, Stanford, USC, Navy, etc.

Something eventually has to give.

It sucks giving up a game where Purdue is always going to get national attention, but at the same time it has been six years since Purdue won against ND and only once in the past 40 has Purdue won in South Bend. I can't say I would miss losing.



BOLD denotes returning starter


Rob Henry, 5th Sr.

Danny Etling, Fr.

Austin Appleby, RS Fr.

2011-12 co-starters Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush are now gone opening up a quarterback competition this spring and fall under first year head coach Darrell Hazell. 5th-year senior Rob Henry (who made 7 starts back in 2010) returns and should have the edge to start in 2013.


Rob Henry. [Andrew Weber, US Presswire]

Many Purdue fans hoped to see Austin Appleby step up during his second year with the team but it is true freshman and early enrollee Danny Etling who had a stronger spring. Expect Henry to hold off Etling in the fall.

*Running Back

Akeem Hunt, Jr.

Brandon Cottom, Jr.

Kurt Freytag, 5th Sr.

Former Tyler Community College transfer Akeem Shavers is gone after 1,390 yards over the past two seasons. In his place another Akeem (Hunt) steps in to a starting role after an explosive first two years in West Lafayette where he's gained 622 yards on just 75 carries.

Cottom is a massive running back (6'4" 258) and will be fighting for a lot of carries after playing sparingly since 2011. Purdue has a lot of bodies at running back---including 6 players with 4 years of eligibility---but expect Hunt and Cottom to carry the load this season. 5th-year senior Kurt Freytag has been brought back to fill the role of fullback.

*Wide Receiver 1

Gary Bush, 5th Sr.

Danny Anthrop, So.

*Wide Receiver 2

Dolapo Macarthy, So.

Raheem Mostert, Jr.

*Wide Receiver 3

Charles Torwudzo, RS Jr.

Shane Mikesky, RS So.

Purdue is inexperienced at receiver with the loss of 2012 leading receiver Antavian Edison and the indefinite suspension of senior O.J. Ross. If Ross isn't reinstated this fall that will be 235 career receptions the Boilermakers will have to replace.

Gary Bush (41 receptions in 2012) is the lone returner starter while Dolapo Macarthy (28 catches) is the only other receiver coming back with more than 2 receptions from a year ago. Look for a big youth movement at wideout this season for Purdue.

*Tight End

Gabe Holmes, 5th Sr.

Justin Sinz, RS Jr.

Co-starter Crosby Wright has graduated but 5th-year senior Gabe Holmes and his 25 receptions from last season are back. Justin Sinz also chipped in some production last year and offers some depth.

Speaking of depth the Boilers have a lot of bodies at tight end. Besides the two players listed above Purdue also has 5 other tight ends to work with this fall.

*Left Tackle

Kevin Pamphile, 5th Sr.

Jack De Boef, RS Jr.

*Left Guard

Devin Smith, Sr.

Jordan Roos, RS Fr.


Cody Davis, 5th Sr.

Henry Lorenzen, 5th Sr.

*Right Guard

Robert Kugler, RS So.

Jason King, RS Fr.

*Right Tackle

Trevor Foy, 5th Sr.

Justin Kitchens, 5th Sr.

Purdue is bringing a lot of experience on the offensive line in Hazell's first year. Kevin Pamphile is back after making 9 starts at left tackle and JUCO senior Devin Smith slides in to the left guard spot after making 6 starts at right guard last season.

Robert Kugler started the last 7 games at right guard, Trevor Foy started the first 8 games at right tackle, while Justin Kitchens started 4 games at left tackle and the last 5 games at right tackle.

While the Boilers are losing 2 starters they are bringing back 5 linemen with a lot of experience.

*Defensive End

Ryan Isaac, Sr.

Greg Latta, Sr.

*Defensive Tackle

Bruce Gaston, Sr.

Ryan Watson, RS So.

*Defensive Tackle

Brandon Taylor, 5th Sr.

Michael Rouse, RS So.

*Defensive End

Ryan Russell, RS Jr.

Ryan DeBusk, RS Fr.

All-Big Ten tackle Kawann Short and his 18 career sacks have moved on as the Carolina Panthers took him with the 12th pick in the 2nd round of this spring's NFL Draft. He's a big loss but the Boilers have 3 other starting linemen returning for a unit that should be pretty strong.

Gaston and Russell started every game last year for Purdue, while Isaac earned 7 starts. Collectively these returning starters notched a modest 79 tackles and 14 tackles for loss in 2012. Russell and Gaston are established starters although there could be some movement at other positions to supplement the line---including dropping down a couple rush linebackers.

*Strong-side Linebacker

Armstead Williams, RS So.

Jalani Phillips, Jr.

*Middle Linebacker

Joe Gilliam, RS Jr.

Sean Robinson, RS Jr.

*Weak-side Linebacker

Will Lucas, Sr.

Ruben Ibarra, Sr.

Will Lucas (2nd best 66 tackles in '12) and Joe Gilliam (4th best 57 tackles) return and offer some experience and leadership at the linebacker position. Behind them the Boilermakers are still trying to sort their way through the best backups.

The strong-side position may evolve in to a hybrid position that gets after the quarterback so you can expect Williams and Phillips to see some time in a defensive end role as well.


Ricardo Allen, Sr.

Antoine Lewis, RS Jr.

Anthony Brown, So.


Normondo Harris, Sr.

Frankie Williams, RS So.

*Free Safety

Taylor Richards, Jr.

E.J. Johnson, RS Jr.

*Strong Safety

Landon Feichter, RS Jr.

Ashkan Mizani, RS Fr.

Josh Johnson and his 185 career tackles and 4 interceptions have moved on but 3 starters and good experience returns in the secondary in what is unquestionably Purdue's strongest unit on defense.


Landon Feichter. [Sandra Dukes, US Presswire]

Ricardo Allen (45 tackles in '12) is a budding star with 3 years of experience, while Normondo Harris (41 career tackles) is fighting off the young Frankie Williams (45 tackles in '12) for the other starting job. Both Lewis and Brown offer nice depth in nickel and dime coverage.

Both safeties return for the Boilers including Landon Feichter who had a strong 2012 with a team-leading 80 tackles as well as 4 interceptions and 2 tackles for loss.


Final Thoughts

There's a new sheriff in town and you can't blame Purdue fans for being excited about the future. We'll see if Darrell Hazell is an upgrade over the Hope era but these turnarounds don't often happen over night. Hazell was a solid hire for the Boilermakers but his coaching isn't going to suddenly turn them into Rose Bowl contenders.

Defensively this looks like it will be a fairly strong team for Big Ten standards. The loss of Short could be big but there is talent up front and plenty of experience in the secondary. Can they improve upon the effort from last year where they gave up 30+ points in 6 games? I think they might be an improved team on defense if Hazell puts enough emphasis on it.

Offensively there should be much more worry at Purdue with little pieces coming back. Hazell will have his hands full improving this unit and it took him a year to do so at Kent State as the Golden Flashes went from 253.2 yards per game (119th nationally) in 2011 to 388.3 yards per game (74th nationally) last year. I don't see the Boilermakers improving on their below average offense from last year.

Interesting to note that this will be Notre Dame's second straight road night game following the the trip to Ann Arbor and preceding the home game against Michigan State. There is some let down voodoo in there to guard against. It also might be a long time before we see the Irish play 3 Big Ten teams in a season, let alone in a row.

Predicted Game Day Spread- Purdue (+13.5)