No, Darrell Hazell did not pick the starting quarterback today for the 2013 season. That is still two weeks away. Even though the opening salvos of the battle between Rob Henry, Danny Etling, and Austin Appleby were fired today, we're not even close to settling accounts. There was some important news though when it comes to starters.
Linebacker Andy Garcia notably moved in front of Will Lucas at one of the outside linebacker spots. This move is not small when you consider three major factors:
1. At only 6' 220 pounds Garcia I considered to me undersized as a Big Ten linebacker. In fact, he is one of the smallest linebackers on the team.
2. He is a redshirt freshman that has yet to set foot on the field collegiately.
3. Lucas is Purdue's most experienced linebacker with 20 starts, 38 games (every possible game of his career) of experience, and 191 tackles. Lucas is the player on the defense with the most career tackles and he should be a senior leader by now.
Still, Garcia passed him and is now with the No. 1 defense:
"These guys are chess pieces," defensive coordinator Greg Hudson said. "And it's our job as coaches to move them where they can physically excel.
"(Garcia) can move in space, so we're giving him a chance to do that and run around. ... I thought he did a good job."
Hazell said Garcia had a "great" spring, a sentiment that several of his teammates had indicated in the early summer. He's only 6-foot and 218 pounds, but many have been impressed by his quickness and instincts.
You have to think that Garcia earned this spot. It is no secret that Purdue's play at linebacker has been awful. In fact, Tom Dienhart of BTN called it an abomination over the course of the last decade. It is harsh considering the guys we have had at the position that have played hard, but they are not Big Ten linebackers.
Big Ten linebackers are 6'5" 240 pound hulking masses of humanity that dole out pain with little regard for human life, fly all over the field, get into the backfield for big plays, and are strong against the pass. We have had an assortment of undersized guys and players playing out of position since Landon Johnson and Niko Koutouvides were back there.
Is Garcia an answer? We don't know. Gelen Robinson and Drue Tranquill seem like the biggest answers there, but they are a year away. In the meantime, it looks like Garcia will either be there because he worked his ass off or because he is being used to light a fire underneath a player that should be a leader of the defense by now. I know Lucas should be a leader of the defense. I saw his high school tape. He had a ton of tackles for a big time HS program and enrolled early just to get an extra spring practice. Having a freshman pass him should be embarrassing.
The quarterback derby:
Yes, it is still a Henry-Etling-Appleby derby and allow me to save everyone some time and poor coach Hazell from answering the same question for the next two weeks: We don't know who the starter is and he will be named two weeks before the opener at Cincinnati.
Today Henry took the snaps with the No. 1 offense, Etling with the No. 2's, and Appleby with the No. 3's. Hazell wasn't exactly blown away with any of them:
"I'll look at the film and let you know," Coach Darrell Hazell said when he was asked the first of 11 billion or so QB questions he'll face in the next two weeks. "But I thought we needed to play a little faster at the quarterback position. When there's something that's not there, we need to take care of the ball a little bit better."
This, of course, is a welcome relief because it is a dose of honesty. Hazell is not blowing sunshine up our butts because a year ago Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve could do no wrong in practice. Everything wasn't roses and sunshine today, as you should expected from the first day of practice for a team that was 6-7 last year and has a new coach.
Danny Hope was infinitely positive. Not Darrell Hazell:
"They're not in great football shape yet," Hazell said. "Plus, anxiety causes a little stress, which makes them breathe a little harder, but I thought they worked pretty hard. Obviously the execution needs to rise a lot. But not a bad start."
Today should be the freshest day of camp because no one is worn down from practice. Coach Hazell wasn't pleased with their freshness. Those first seven words show a world of difference from the Hope regime.