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2014 Big Ten Media Days: T-Mill’s Take

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Coach Hazell made some good points today at Big Ten Media Days.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

You can tell that no one expects anything of Purdue because of the allotted 15 minutes for each coach, Darrell Hazell was done before the end of his session simply because no one had any questions. Even then, you could tell that it was a stretch to get him going as long as he was up there. The consensus from the media was clear: Purdue was awful last year and nothing is expected from them this year.

Really, can you blame them? The offense was not just bad, it was historically bad. The defense did have some moments, but when it was on the field for 70% of the game it was eventually going to break down, and did in games like Cincinnati, Iowa, and Nebraska. It is not like we have a recruiting class of rock stars coming in either, so many in the media expected that today would be the last they would have to deal with Purdue unless we happened to play their teams.

Fortunately, coach Hazell did have some good things to say:

Let me first start off by saying I'm extremely proud of our football team. There's a tremendous environment right now around our facilities that's very conducive for learning and success. And our guys have done everything we've asked since January, above and beyond what we've asked.

And as you see our players, as they come to work every single day, there's a different Boilermaker walking around our facilities. And I'm excited about all the things those guys have done since January.

I like this, because really, there is nowhere to go but up. It cannot get any worse than last season, as we were a single play away from 0-12 and having a loss to a an FCS team that would have been 2-10. A lot of things needed to be different this year.

I have had many meetings with Morgan Burke, and it's very important to him for Purdue to have success on the football field. And we've talked extensively about the things that we need to do to get to that level we need to get to, and we're working in that direction, absolutely.

This really doesn't say anything, but we have seen that Morgan, as much as I have maligned him in this forum, he is now willing to try some new ideas with the new tailgate area in the south end zone. I'd be curious to see what Hazell has really said to Morgan, given his background at Ohio State.

I mean, obviously we didn't play as well as we'd like to up front on the defensive line last year. We lost the edge way too many times. We have to be much more sound, gap sound. But also offensive line-wise, we have some very good young quarterbacks in our program right now. We have to be able to pass protect and be able to protect those guys.

If we can do those two things on both sides of the ball, we'll have some success.

I agree with this 100%. Improved offensive line play alone can help us get better in a hurry. I like all the skill players we have. We have some good, speedy receivers and we're very deep both there and at running back. I like that we have three very promising young quarterbacks. We just need an offensive line to make it all go. It would be twice as good, too, because it then keeps the defense off the field by not immediately punting it back after the 15th three and out.

Of course, an improved defensive line is important too. Generally, we've been good on first and second downs, but third downs of any distance has meant a quarterback with no pressure and time to find the wide open receiver over the middle. I tend to think that the defensive line will be one of the strengths of the team.

There's going to be four or five guys that we brought in this year that will see the field because they're good players. And being able to analyze and watch them this summer has really helped us to say, OK, this guy can run, this guy moves well enough to help us.

Especially, you look, can they help us in the offense and defense, but also in the special teams game as well.

Yeah, we're going to see lots of new guys play right away. I think David Hedelin and Corey Clements will start immediately on the offensive line. I like Ja'Whaun Bentley and Gelen Robinson to play on defense. On special teams we could very well see Ian McDougall take over on placekicks. When you're1-11, no starting position should be safe.

I know Coach Shoop has done a great job with those guys and getting them ready to understand the offense. And last year at this time -- I'll be honest with you -- last year at this time, we couldn't even call a play. We couldn't call a play at this time last year.Now, at this point in time, those guys are advanced, not only calling a play, but making sure the play works efficiently.

Purdue football: Now with first downs and red zone visits!

I really feel like this is our football team right now, our coaches staff football team. It's a great environment around our facility right now, because it starts with trust. It really does. It starts with trust. And players -- coaches trust in players and players trust in coaches. And I think that's where we are right now.

That's good, because it has to be. If you take away the Indiana State game (the one win) and the Notre Dame game (where Purdue led for most of the night) Purdue held a lead for a grand total of two minutes and 10 seconds of the Northern Illinois game (at 7-3) and for a 3:14 stretch at 7-0 against Illinois and 3:35 stretch at 14-7. That means in the final nine games of the season, 540 minutes of football, Purdue actually held a lead for eight minutes and 59 seconds. Of that, only six seconds came beyond the first quarter.

That's bad, so the only people that really believe in this team anymore are in that locker room. That is the only place where any turnaround can start, so it is good to hear there might be one in the making.