The frenzy of Big Ten Media Days is fun, but often very little is learned. The coaches speak for 15 minutes on the first day, mostly in coach speak with little given away. The second day is better with more intimate roundtable interviews, but few true secrets are given out. If you mine through some things, however, you do get a little bit of new information. Here is what I was able to find:
The freshmen have numbers
Getting the freshmen represented it he countdown is always a dicey proposition, but they are slowly arriving on campus. That means we know who will be wearing what number now! Here is what the media guide had:
3 - Leroy Clark (Defense, as Carlos Carvajal is wearing #3 on offense)
4 - Keith Byars II (Offense, as Taylor Richards is #4 on defense)
5 - Danny Etling (offense) and Austin Logan (defense)
9 - Dan Monteroso (offense, as Anthony Brown will wear it on defense)
10 - Matt Burke (Offense, Sean Robinson on defense)
16 - Garrett Hudson (Defense, as Dolapo Macarthy is on offense)
20 - Dalyn Dawkins
22 - Da'Wan Hunte
23 - Keyante Green
28 - David Yancey
34 - Dezwan Polk-Campbell
35 - Johnny Thompson
36 - Danny Ezechukwu
51 - John Strauser
52 - Johnny Daniels (Defense, as Henry Lorenzen wears it on offense)
55 - Antoine Miles
76 - Jason Tretter
80 - Deangelo Yancey
82 - Miles Norwood
93 -Ra'Zahn Howard
95 - Evan Panfil
Brandon Taylor is gone
Purdue did lose a potential starter on the defensive line as Brandon Taylor, a fifth year senior, is no longer with the team. Academics were cited as the issue, as the son of NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor saw his career come to a close early.
It does clear up the scholarship situation, however, as Purdue was 1 over for the year. The scholarship grid is now updated with Drue Tranquill as well:
Who replaces Taylor?
As of now, it look like Ryan Watson, a sophomore and former 4-star recruit, will start next to Bruce Gaston on the defensive line. Ryan Isaac, Michael Rouse III, and Eric McDaniel (whom Hope moved from defensive tackle, to o-line, and now back) will also play some. That means the starting defensive line looks like Watson, Gaston, Ryan Russell, and Greg Latta.
Two more receivers
After losing out on some playing time at other positions both Bilal Marshall and E.J. Johnson are moving to wide receiver. Marshall was the first of four QBs eliminated from the starting job and with David Blough coming next year it looks unlikely he would pass Danny Etling and Austin Appleby as well as Blough.
Johnson is a player I really liked coming out of HS. I thought he would be a great ball-hawking safety after he won two state championships and had 8 picks as a junior. He never really seized the position at safety, however. He redshirted in 2010, played in four games as a reserve in 2011, and was a reserve in nine games last season. Now Purdue has young defensive backs and both Landon Feichter and Taylor Richards entrenched as starters.
Purdue has a ton of receivers
Whoever wins the QB battle will have a lot of competition at receiver. Gary Bush and Dolapo Macarthy appear to be penciled in as starters so far, but there are a ton of guys battling for playing time here. Raheem Mostert, Monteroso, Charles Torwudzo, Cameron Posey, Aloyis Gray, Marshall, Johnson, Danny Anthrop, Deangelo Yancey, Norwood, B.J. Knauf, Shane Mikesky, and Jordan Woods give Purdue 15 scholarship receivers. Only Bush, Macarthy, Torwudzo, Anthrop, and Mikesky have caught a collegiate pass, however.
I think those five get a first look, while Monteroso seems like the most likely freshman to play and not redshirt. The battle can go on for awhile too, as Bush is the lone senior of the 15.
Better non-conference games?
I found this tweet very interesting:
#Purdue coach Darrell Hazell on non-conf sked: "I want to see some marquee games that will bring people in."— GoldandBlack.com (@GoldandBlackcom) July 25, 2013
Purdue, of course, has the ongoing series with Notre Dame, but even that is in danger with the nine-game Big Ten schedule coming in 2016. There certainly not any "wow" dates on the 2014 home non-conference schedule with Western Michigan, Central Michigan, and Southern Illinois. 2015 is at Marshall and home with Notre Dame, Indiana State, and Bowling Green.
It gets trickier in 2016 with only six home games (Cincinnati and Nevada in addition to four Big Ten games) and six road games (five Big Ten plus Notre Dame). Purdue makes up for it in 2017 with potentially eight home games. In addition to five Big Ten games at home, Eastern Kentucky and Notre Dame are currently scheduled with one spot open.
That 2017 is the first open slot Purdue has, but as we have seen, schedules can be negotiable. Purdue opened 2011 with Middle Tennessee State after Kent State backed out at the last minute (ironically, it would have been against Hazell). What happens with the Notre Dame series will also have an effect.
Purdue has had recent home-and-homes with Arizona, Oregon, Wake Forest, Rice, Toledo, Central Florida, North Carolina State, and West Virginia dating back to the mid-90's. I also remember California and Washington in the early 90's. Purdue went to Cincinnati in 2001 and was supposed to have a return game in 2004, but the Bearcats convinced Syracuse to come to Ross-Ade in their place when the moved the Big East.
Other than that the non-conference schedule has been a steady diet of the MAC and FCS teams. There was a scheduled home-and-home with Oklahoma State that was cancelled. There have also been discussions of Missouri (who is playing Indiana this year) and Kentucky. Purdue is probably going to have to get a lot better before getting a "wow" opponent to come in.
I can see a game like the Eastern Kentucky game being scrapped, as the Danny Hope connection is no longer there. One of the MAC games next year could possibly be moved too.
I loved the Oregon series because it was two great games and the Ducks do usually schedule a game like that even though they are much bigger now. I'd like to get a Pac-12 or a Big 12 series going, especially since the SEC is a bunch of pansies afraid to come north. Getting someone like Miami, North Carolina, or Virginia Tech from the ACC would also be nice.
The Quarterback Battle
The biggest question I have been asked all summer is "Who will be the starting quarterback?" Personally, I have no idea. Coach Hazell did clarify that a decision would be made about two weeks before the Cincinnati game and there will be one guy that gets the job.
I will pause while everyone cheers for the end of the QB rotation.
Hazell went on to say it was down to Danny Etling and Rob Henry, with Austin Appleby still having an outside shot. Gun to my head, I think I would pick Henry. He is a senior and I think he gives Purdue its best chance to win immediately with his experience. We know he is good with his legs and he has reportedly gotten better with his accuracy. In limited throws last season his completion percentage went up and he only had one interception against three touchdowns.
The thing about Henry is that, as a running QB, he is more prone to injury. I can see him getting knocked out for a play or two and Etling coming in anyway. I have said all along that even if Etling wins the job I can see Henry taking the occasional snap in a "Wild Henry" role or lining up in the backfield as a receiver or running back.
There also might be a little bit of billy Dicken and Joey Elliott potential in Henry. Dicken took over in year 1 for Tiller and was a surprise all-Big Ten selection. Elliott had a solid year in 2009 (he wasn't the reason Purdue finished 5-7) and earned himself a CFL job. The last two coaching transitions have had a senior quarterback ready to play for the first time as THE guy in his career. I think Henry can be the third one.