Meyer riled some of his new conference coaching colleagues — specifically Bielema and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio — by taking away some of their committed recruits. This stirred talk about violating a “gentlemen's agreement” that Big Ten coaches wouldn't go after conference commitments.
It's typical for many recruits to commit to a program early. Then teams have to hope that the recruits keep their word and don't change their minds, perhaps because of the influence of other coaches who don't back off.
Hope, who just landed the best signing class of his Boiler tenure at No. 32 nationally and No. 4 in the Big Ten, had some thoughts on that.
“Obviously there is some level of professionalism in the Big Ten,” he said. “It's a great conference. There are some big-time coaches and first-class operations.
“I don't know about a gentleman's agreement. When you start talking about a commitment, they come in a lot of different ways. It would be hard not to recruit a player just because you heard he might be committed. It could be a soft commitment. It could be a secret solid verbal commitment. He might commit to every school he talks to. It may be he communicated with a local Rivals.com newspaper and indicated he might be going to a school, and all of a sudden he gets identified as a potential commitment.
“There a signing date for a reason. There's a NCAA rule book for a reason. When I'm recruiting a prospect and he decides he's no longer interested in Purdue, that's all he has to say. We'll move on to the next guy.
“As long as he's interested in Purdue, we're recruiting him. That's the standard on a national level.”
Meyer insisted he and his staff did nothing wrong. They broke no NCAA rules, violated no moral standard of conduct. They did, however, recruit hard. Of course, one person's view of hard recruiting might be another's ruthlessness.
“Is it ruthless or not?” Hope said. “I don't think so. Everybody recruits hard. If your guy is committed, then he should tell the competition that he's committed and not to recruit him any more.”
Hope suggested that the player's high school coach could end a lot of the post-commitment recruiting.
“A lot of the responsibility goes to the high school coaches. If a kid is committed and is sure, he should communicate that to his high school coach, and his high school coach shouldn't allow him to get out of class (for recruiting pitches) or have other institutions come to the school. I don't think it's all that complicated. It's pretty clear cut on how it should be managed.”The Boilers have spent the offseason building size and strength under the guidance of director of sports performance Duane Carlisle, who was hired last February to upgrade the strength and conditioning program after running the San Francisco 49ers' program the previous four years.
They've been hitting it hard since returning from semester break, Hope said.
“Coach Carlisle has got a great plan. There's a lot of energy put forth in the weight room. They're really into it.”
Hope said the goal is to “increase our lean muscle mass.” In a few weeks the players will start agility and conditioning drills with the football coaches. Spring practice starts next month before spring, and finishes in April.
“I like the way the guys are working,” Hope said. “It's a lot of fun, but it's a very disciplined program. They're really progressing.”
More and more programs are starting the 15-practice spring session before spring break.
Hope said he does in it part so the team can wrap up practice a couple of weeks before finals week. He said he didn't want to have a spring game on Saturday, and then players begin finals two days later.
“That doesn't do much for the quality of life or being part of the student experience at Purdue,” he said. “Let's get it done earlier so they have a couple of weeks to be a student without a whole lot of football responsibilities.”
Hope said by stretching out the practice time you can have three practices a week for five weeks as opposed to basically four for four weeks. That provides an extra week of instruction and more time between practice sessions.
“We get a little extra meeting time in and more recovery time between practices,” he said. "From a health standpoint, it's better for the team, as well.”One of the spring practice keys, Hope said, will be introducing the new defensive system under new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, who comes to Purdue after a three-year run with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes.
Tibesar's experience in dealing with spread offenses — it's prevalent in the wide-open CFL — was particularly appealing, Hope said, given that three-quarters of the offenses Purdue faces are spread attacks.
“In a lot of ways he's tailor-made or has been battlefield-trained to be excellent against spread offenses, the zone read and the quarterback-run read game,” Hope said. “His advanced training in that area is an extra benefit.”
That benefit was lacking last season, which was apparently why defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel was let go, although Hope left out the specifics.
“I'm not going to get into a lot of details,” he said, “but it's a performance-based profession. I didn't like the performance at times on defense, and looked for ways to enhance our level of play on defense.”
There also will be the acclimation with new defensive backs coach Greg Burns, who spent the last four years at Arizona, was part of two national title teams with USC and coached for a season with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think we hit the jackpot with Greg,” Hope said.
The Boilers also will soon be hiring a new defensive coach.
“We'll have three new coaches on defense,” Hope said. “We have to get our base defense installed and get into the technical parts as far as the things we will hang our hat on with defense. There's a scheme to install and implement.”
Hope also wants to use the spring to improve quarterback efficiency. He has four veterans back in Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve, Rob Henry and Sean Robinson. Henry missed last season with a knee injury, but is expected back for the fall. Robinson redshirted.
“We have the potential to be a lot better at the quarterback position,” Hope said. “A lot of it is with the protection up front. We've got to do a better job and allow the quarterback to set his feet and have more confidence in the pocket.”