On December 5, 2012 Purdue University hired Darrell Hazell to replace Danny Hope as its football coach. In addition to Morgan Burke saving a boatload of money for the monogrammed towels in the coach's executive bathroom, Purdue finally moved in a different direction. After 16 years (12 under Joe Tiller, 4 under Hope) little had changed. The old regime peaked form 2000-2003 with a Rose Bowl appearance and near BCS bowl in 2003, slowly declining from that point.
In many ways Hope didn't change a whole lot from Tiller. The same offense that once baffled Big Ten defenses as Basketball on Grass had been figured out sometime in that 16 years. Recruiting never improved greatly and there were not many great innovations added, so it went from revolutionary to stale. The defense clearly regressed from what was the Big Ten's best in 2002 and 2003 to one of the worst.
Everything was stale, so Hazell was welcomed as a breath of fresh air. He was at least something different. He wasn't Tiller's hand-picked successor that was in over his head a bit. He brought in good assistants thanks to improved budgets as opposed to hoping for fixes with dime-store replacements. Hazell is considered a rising star among the head coaching ranks, and Purdue will either be where he gains national respect or fades back into being a top assistant somewhere else.
It has now been six months since coach Hazell came on board, and there are already a number of changes:
This is a new tradition announced this week that will take place in Mackey Arena before every home game. It will happen the morning of every game, meaning fans will have to be up early if they want to attend. The home opener against Indiana State means the 211 session, named because it is one degree short of boiling, will be at 9:45 a.m.
The session will start with the Purdue drum line and feature the All-American Marching Band performing a pre-game pep concert with the cheerleaders. This replaces the pregame Slayter Hill shows, which will now be the home of the post-game shows instead of the Engineering Fountain.
The coaches and team will also take part in this, which is a first for a day-of-game pregame pep rally. It is very similar to Ohio State's Skull Session.
In theory I like this. Yes, it is a knock off of a conference rival, but they happen to be a very successful conference rival. If it gets more fans involved and gets the team excited then I am all for it.
There will be one quarterback
Just because we are the Cradle of Quarterbacks does not mean every one on the roster has to play every game. Playing multiple QBs can work when you have two different styles of QB. Florida won a National title with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow that way. As we learned last year, it is a disaster when it is basically a variant of the same guy.
Coach Hazell has already said he is picking one guy and sticking with him. Thank God.
Expect more of a running game
Coach Hazell has said multiple times that he is going to work with what he was given, and that could mean more of a running game than we're used to. That's fine. It's not like we've had 4,000 yard passing seasons left and right of late. His Kent State team had a very successful season last year with two 1,000-yard rushers. Brandon Cottom, Akeem Hunt, and Randy Gregory give him some experienced backs to work with while four talented freshmen are also in the program.
If the running game works and wins games there is nothing wrong with using it. It beats bubble screen after bubble screen (after bubble screen).
Something clearly had to change here. Purdue hasn't been able to stop a good running game or get a key stop in ages. Instead of never heard of coaches he has brought in proven assistants that have gotten things done. I am very excited to see what Greg Hudson is going to do as defensive coordinator, especially after the way he directed some damn good linebackers at Florida State last year. Linebackers have been a huge weakness in the past and I hope this shores things up, finally.
We just beat out Florida, Oklahoma, and Ohio State for a big-time offensive line recruit. When was the last time that happened? Hazell was able to hold on to our top guys before signing day in February and he already got two big commits this week in Denzel Ward and David Blough. Now it is time to land Gelen Robinson.
We haven't even played a game and have seen a 14-0 spring game, but the general attitude seems light years better among fans and coaches than it did at this time last year. The odd thing about that is that many people expect a losing season, while last year we were expecting a possible Big Ten title. It is amazing what getting a coach in here that gets work done instead of talking about endless positives.