Purdue did not exactly clean house on signing day, but it is hoped that Darrell Hazell found players that can at least improve upon his disastrous first season in West Lafayette. Yes, the Boilers were 1-11 and were lucky to get that one victory, but there are some key pieces returning that might be able to help a quick turnaround.
Remember: Purdue plays an FCS opponent, two lower MAC opponents, and three other teams in the Big Ten (Northwestern, Illinois, and Indiana) that did not make a bowl game this year. It is not nearly as difficult of a schedule as 2013 was.
So, with the freshman now signed and sealed, here is a way too early look at the starters:
Quarterback: Danny Etling, So. - Etling got better as the season went a long and if he can get even a modicum of protection he can shine. He finished with 1,690 yards in eight games and had10 TDs against only seven picks. Those aren't bad numbers for a freshman that was thrown to the wolves. Etling had moments where he looked as if he could be the next in the Cradle, but he will only be as good as the protection he gets. If he goes down Austin Appleby was 5 of 6 for 68 yards and a TD in very limited action.
Running Back: Akeem Hunt, Sr. - Hunt had the highest yardage total for his career, but his yards per carry was cut in half mostly because there was very little blocking for him. He did a lot of damage out of the backfield as Purdue's #2 receiver in terms of catches with 38 for 340 yards and two scores. Hunt is a special player when he gets the ball in space, but Purdue has to find ways to get him that space.
Receivers: DeAngelo Yancey, So; Cameron Posey, So.; Danny Anthrop, Jr. - Purdue has a wealth of young options at receiver. Yancey and Posey both had some big moments in 2013 while anthrop was limited due to injury. Don't forget Shane Mikesky and B.J. Knauf, either, who both had morethan one catch per game.
Tight End: Justin Sinz, Sr. - Gabe Holmes was once again expected to start here, but injured his wrist after the Indiana State game and redshirted. Sinz came through as Purdue's top receiver with 41 catches for 340 yards and four scores. Holmes will play, but Sinz's season last year was better than most of Holmes' career.
Offensive Tackles: Corey Clements, Jr.; Jack DeBoef, Sr. - The Boilers were desperate for help at tackle and got at least some in the massive Clements, who is a JuCo transfer with two years left. DeBoef is a career reserve that has some experience, but Purdue might be better served with Jason Tretter coming off of a redshirt year. J.J. Prince and Cameron Cermin could also play.
Offensive Guards: Jason King, So.; Jordan Roos, So. - The time for Roos and King to grow up is now, as they no longer have a senior safety net in front of them. The incoming freshmen who project as guards are probably too young, and both King and Roos played last year as Purdue struggled. They need to be better. Period.
Center: Rober Kugler, Jr. - Kugler was the lone underclassman on the offensive line at the start of last season and at least provides some stability. That said, there were snap problems anytime a quarterback went under center, and that could be on Kugler.
Defensive End: Ryan Russell, Sr.; Evan Panfil, So. - Russell's season in 2013 was disappointing after the hype he received, but he is still Purdue's best and most experienced pass rusher on the end. On the other side it is up in the air. Who gets the job? Walk-on Jules Williams? Panfil? Jalani Phillips? Antoine Miles coming off of a redshirt? This is a major question mark. If Langston Newton, the transfer from Kentucky, is declared immediately eligible it will be a big help.
Defensive Tackle: Ra'Zahn Howard, So.; Ryan Watson, Jr. - Purdue lost a four-year starter in Bruce Gaston, but got some promising young guys for this position. Watson is a former four-star recruit that needs to play like a four-star recruit. Look for Adam Replogle here too.
Linebackers: Gelen Robinson, Fr.; Ja'Whaun Bentley, Fr.; Joe Gilliam, Sr. - Purdue will be deficient at linebacker in terms of experience, but at least there is a light now with Bentley and Robinson. Both may have been Purdue's best linebackers last season. Will Lucas graduated and Armstead Williams transferred, so there is not a ton of experience. Sean Robinson, Jimmy Herman, and Andy James Garcia at least have experience.
Safeties: Landon Feichter, Sr.; Anthony Brown, Jr. - No one will question Feichter's toughness after last season and he led the Big Ten with four interceptions in 2012. Brown has experience and would likely start today, especially with the legal issues of Taylor Richards. Austin Logan and Juan Jenkins are young players that could start too.
Cornerbacks: Frankie Williams, Jr.; Antoine Lewis, Sr. - Both guys had extensive playing time last season, but Purdue will not get better losing Ricardo Allen. Look for Leroy Clark to get more playing time either here or at safety after showing some nice things last season.
Kicker: Paul Griggs, Jr. - Griggs attempted all placements last season, but was just 6 of 12 on field goals and only hit one in the last seven games. He also missed a PAT. Sam McCartney, also a junior, could take over as well as freshman Austin McGehee.
Punter: Austin McGeeh, Fr. - This will be McGehee's job to lose, but Thomas Meadows is also a consideration.
That list makes four newcomers (Clements, Robinson, Bentley, and McGehee) as potential starters from day one. A few others would be first time starters in their careers. Will that be enough? We'll see.