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Purdue season preview: Title-winning mindset for Boilers

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Coach: Darrell Hazel (16-10 overall in two years, first year at Purdue)
Last year: 6-7. The Boilers won their last three regular-season games to become bowl eligible, but lost to Oklahoma State 58-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
2013 schedule
Aug. 31 at Cincinnati, noon, ESPNU
Sept. 7 vs. Ind. State, noon, BTN
Sept. 14 vs. Notre Dame, 8 p.m., ESPN/ESPN/ESPN2
Sept. 21 at Wisconsin, TBA
Sept. 28 vs. Northern Illinois, noon
Oct. 12 vs. Nebraska, TBA
Oct. 19 at Michigan State, TBA
Nov. 2 vs. Ohio State, TBA
Nov. 9 vs. Iowa, TBA
Nov. 16 at Penn State, TBA
Nov. 23 vs. Illinois, TBA
Nov. 30 vs. Indiana , TBA
Key game of season for the Boilermakers
Aug. 31 at Cincinnati
Purdue needs to make a statement right away. It has a difficult nonconference schedule, and a victory on the road against a quality opponent will instantly show the Boilers are ready to make an impact in new coach Darrell Hazell's first season. A lopsided loss could wreck the confidence Hazell has brought to the program, at least in this first season.
Key players returning
Rob Henry, Sr., QB; Akeem Hunt, Jr., RB; Gary Bush, Sr., WR; Dolapo Macarthy, Jr., WR; Gabe Holmes, Sr., TE; Justin Kitchens, Sr., OL; Bruce Gaston, Sr., DT; Ryan Russell, Jr., DE; Landon Feichter, Sr., S; Ricardo Allen, Sr., CB.

New coach seeks balanced offense, attacking defense

Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

Coach Darrell Hazell was hired to bring championships, and everything he's done is geared toward that, both short and long term.

He and offensive coordinator John Shoop want a strong running game. That doesn't mean the Boilers will go away from the passing tradition that has served the school so well over the years, but they want more balance. That means running back Akeem Hunt, whose speed makes him a big-play threat every time he touches the ball, has to prove he can be durable with an increased workload.

Yes, there is quarterback uncertainty, although Rob Henry appears poised to have a solid year if he can stay healthy. He's one of the fastest players on the team and has shown improved passing accuracy. If he stumbles, redshirt freshman Austin Appleby and true freshman Danny Elting will get their chances.

It would help if tight end Gabe Holmes delivers an All-Big Ten-caliber season. He has the talent, if he can stay healthy. He caught 25 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns last season.

The receivers have speed and talent with Gary Bush, Raheem Mostert and Dolapo Macarthy. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Macarthy also has all-conference potential if he can play to his size.

A huge key rests with the offensive line. There's some impressive size with 6-foot-5, 300-pound Kevin Pamphile and 6-foot-4, 294-pound Justin Kitchens. Robert Kugler has emerged as a promising center. The group needs to develop consistency and a physical approach to maximize the offensive skill talent.

The defense under new coordinator Greg Hudson will have a more attack approach. With leading tackler Landon Feichter back (the senior safety is a former Bishop Dwenger standout), plus all-conference cornerback Ricardo Allen, there's reason for optimism. A big key is getting consistent linebacker play.

Hazell's approach to building a championship football program – on and off the field – is displayed in the 533-page “A Player's Manual.” It addresses accountability, discipline, unselfishness. Hazell has called it “the life's blood of the program.”

Intriguing aspect of the Boilermakers

Hazell was hired to bring Purdue back to the Big Ten forefront. Athletic Director Morgan Burke isn't shy about voicing his Rose Bowl hopes. This is almost certainly not a Rose Bowl team, but if it can show promise for the future, optimism – and a packed Ross-Ade Stadium – will follow. The key is a tough, disciplined approach.

Purdue fans will cheer if…

The Boilers can find a solid starting quarterback. They've been blessed in recent years with such outstanding quarterbacks as Drew Brees, Kyle Orton and Curtis Painter. Now we'll see if veteran Rob Henry, or young players such as Austin Appleby and Danny Etling, can run a consistently effective attack.

Purdue fans will boo if…

The self-inflicted mistakes that were so common under former coach Danny Hope continue. Hazell has made ball security priority No. 1.

He wants a focused, disciplined team that doesn't beat itself.

If turnovers and penalties remain a problem, so will attendance.