WEST LAFAYETTE -- Ricardo Allen is trying. He really is. Purdue's veteran cornerback understands the importance of staying healthy, but when you play football, stuff happens, and better now than, say, next October.
Allen hurt an ankle Friday, and sat out Monday's practice. In the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal. In the short term of spring, where he's adjusting to a new head coach (Darrell Hazell), a new defensive coordinator (Greg Hudson) and a new defense, any missed time is a setback.
Still, missing any time goes against Allen's DNA. It's why he's added five pounds, to 191, and wants to hit August training camp big and, yes, bad (in a good way).
“I want to be ready for everything,” he says. “I can't get injured, knock on wood. Last year I got the leg injury it killed me all season. This is my last year. I've only got (332) days.”
That's Allen's countdown for next year's NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Yes, he has the pro dream, just as nearly every college player does, and he knows his ability to give and receiver blows is crucial to that.
But first comes his final college season and a switch to boundary cornerback, which means the short side of the field, which means more run support and more chances to get hit by much bigger guys.
“I want to practice heavy,” he says. “When I get to camp, I'll probably lose a few. Everybody usually does. But if I practice heavy and get stronger in the weight room and feel faster, that's good. I'm going to get more blocks and get more guards and tackles coming my way, so I have to be ready to hit all game.”
Allen has done his share of hitting at Purdue. He averaged 77 tackles in his first two seasons before last year's nagging injuries limited him to 45.
“Last year I didn't have it. I didn't play as much. This year I want to get to 100 tackles if I can.”
That assumes Allen starts, which is likely given he rates among the Big Ten's best when he's at full strength. Still, all bets are off when a new coach arrives and the old depth chart is scrapped.
“They changed the depth chart before we came out (for the first spring practice,” Allen says. “Field corners switched to boundary corners. Boundary corners switched to the field. Some 2s became 3s. Some 2s became 1s.
“It will switch all year. The coaches don't care who you're with. They just want to see you make plays. Everybody is competing. It's like the coaches said, nobody is a 1, 2 or 3. Everybody is a possible starter. If you want to play, this is your time.
“All the freshmen want to play. All the sophomores want to play. I want to play. I don't want to lose my spot. I'm going to work hard every day. I hope everybody around me will, too.”
Allen and all the defensive Boilers are adapting to a new defensive approach. Hudson came from Florida State, which ranked second in the nation behind national champ Alabama in total defense.
“It's totally different,” Allen says. “It's a whole new playbook. The terminology is different. The plays are different. The coaches are different and they look at it in different ways.”
What is the difference?
“We're more attacking. Every play is penetrating. Every play is making somebody go sideways and not straight down the field.”
Hazell likes what he's seen of Allen so far. He's even given Allen the opportunity to be the punt returner. Allen is battling cornerback Frankie Williams and running back Akeem Hunt.
“He's a good player,” Hazell says. “He's a guy who is emerging into a team leader. You hear him speak up all the time. He's going to be a great player for us.”
Greatness, Allen understands, doesn't just happen. You have to grab it.
“I just want to be dominant," Allen says. “Great players never have bad games, so you've got to have a great day every day. I've got to get better in practice. I've got to be a better game player, and I've got to be a better film player. Just get better in my game all around.”
Feichter has surgery
Purdue's Landon Feichter has once again found the spring practice sidelines. The veteran safety and former Bishop Dwenger standout had surgery on Monday to repair a broken right hand. He even posted pictures of his post-surgery hand on his twitter account.
Last year Feichter had off-season shoulder surgery, missed spring practice and still came on to have a big year, leading Purdue in interceptions (four, including one returned for a touchdown) and tackles (80).
Feichter, a former walk-on, is projected as a secondary starter along with Allen, Frankie Williams and Taylor Richards.
Also, Purdue's spring game is set for Saturday, April 13, at Ross-Ade Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. It will be played rain or shine. If there is lightning, it will be delayed or postponed, but it will not be moved into the Mollenkopf Athletic Facility, as it was last year, where fans couldn't attend.
That's part of Hazell's big effort to reconnect the program with fans and alumni.
The four-quarter game will include teams determined by a draft.