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Purdue Football: Spring QB Preview

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A look at the wide open Purdue QB competition, and its implications on 2016 recruiting.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day (the most vile and repugnant day in the history of the world) has come and gone, and aside from some carpal tunnel brought on by manic pearl clutching, everyone survived. Soooo....what's next? Hold onto your hats, toupees, or in my case, few remaining strands of hair, because SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICE is right around the corner!!!!!!!!! Also, if that's not exciting enough, 2016 RECRUITING is off and running (or walking, or crawling, or laying in catatonic shock in the corner)!!!!!!

With these two super exciting things about to hit West Lafayette, I would be remiss to not provide my loyal readers with updates that encapsulates both SPRING FOOTBALL and 2016 RECRUITING (everybody stand up at your cubicle and give a strong BOILER UP!) I'm just glad we have something to occupy our time while the boring old basketball season limps to a close (booooooring). So without further ado, I present you with the SPRING FOOTBALL (!!!!!) quarterback preview.

Quarterback:

On paper, Purdue should be in good shape, however, as we all know, on paper Brandon Cottom (HAND HIM THE BALL) should have run for about 900 touchdowns last year.

The Incumbent (kind of): Austin Appleby

Last Year:

Austin played in all but two and started 7 games last season as a RS Sophomore. Appleby showed some good, some bad, and some insufferable things on the field last year, and is no way entrenched as the Boilermaker starter. Austin threw for 1449, 10 TD's, 11 Ints. Those are hardly "cradle of quarterback stats" and he never even flirted with a 300 yard game, despite throwing the ball over 30 times 3 times and over 40 times twice  last season (which is also over 30 times, meaning he threw the ball over 30 times 5 times, for all of you engineer sticklers). What was even more discouraging is Austin seemed to get worse as the season went along. When he first started and won against Illinois there were many fist pumps and knowing nods. This was it, Purdue was back! Etling was the problem, and now Appleby is going to lead us to the promised land. PIZZA BOWL HERE WE COME BABY!

Unfortunately, the honeymoon was short lived, our new savior crashed back to earth, and Purdue received no celebratory pizza at the end of the season, and Purdue enters the spring with a big question mark at the most important position in team sports.

Best Case Scenario:

Appleby works hard on possibly the longest, slowest release college football has seen since Tim Tebow was chucking ducks in Gainesville. If Appleby can transition from the way he has thrown the football since he started playing to a more compact delivery, there is hope. The problem with Austin is he brings everything you want to the quarterback position, other than the ability to consistently throw the ball. Apparently he's a good leader, has the "it" factor in the huddle, and is a deceptive athlete able to break the pocket and run for decent yardage. If he can at least work some of the kinks out of his funky throwing motion he could be a serviceable, if not, dare I say it, good quarterback.

Worst Case Scenario:

It's really hard to change the way you throw the football. You don't think about throwing it, you just do. When you start thinking about your mechanics, you stop thinking about other things, like throwing the ball to your team. Appleby works on changing his throwing motion, but reverts back to his molasses delivery when put under any sort of pressure. He is the same quarterback as last year; good enough to not get booed off the field, but not good enough to win you games. He loses the starting job to either Etling or Blough and once again becomes the most popular player on the roster, back up quarterback.

The Former Incumbent: Danny Etling

Last Year:

Danny Etling was a bad football player last year. He didn't throw the ball well, he didn't read the game well, he didn't run the ball well, and he wasn't much of a leader. Etling started the first 4 games of the season, and like Appleby, didn't even get close to a 300 yard passing game, despite never having a game where he attempted less than 25 passes. Danny's confidence was on life support, and an Iowa game where he played mind numbingly bad pulled the plug. Etling and his shattered confidence never saw the field again, despite Appleby struggling as well. Overall, Etling started 5 games, threw for 800 yards with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He was sacked 11 times, but a few of those sacks involved Etling falling down and fetaling after having a defenders pinky gently brush against his thigh.

Best Case Scenario:

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Danny Etling is Purdue's best practice quarterback. I have no doubt that he makes all the throws, makes the right reads, and generally looks like a Big 10 quarterback. In my opinion, Danny Etling's problems are all between his ears. When I watched Elting play last year, he looked like a guy waiting for the worst to happen, and why not? He spent most of his high school career getting his brains beaten out on a bad team, and he spent his freshman year of college getting his brains beaten out on a bad team. Etling has taken a bunch of hits, and the accumulation of blows seems to have cracked him. He rushed throws when he didn't have to, moved out of the pocket when no one was chasing him, and fell down at the feet of pass rushers. I can't remember the game, but when he took off running when we desperately needed a first down, only to slide down a yard short of the first down to avoid a hit I knew he was done.

However, this year is different. The time on the bench cleared his head, and our improved offensive line and new dedication to a power run game will limit the number of hits he takes. The new 6'4 WRs will make his throwing windows bigger, and Etling comes out the spring with as the starting quarterback. He has the skills to be an elite quarterback, and this season he is finally right mentally.

Worst Case Scenario:

Danny Etling continues to be Purdue's best practice quarterback, and he convinces the coaching staff that he has his head together. He leaves spring practice as the favorite, wins the starting job and receives the majority of reps in fall practice. He proceeds to look really good until the first Marshall D-End comes around the corner and lights him up. At that point he falls apart again, starts throwing his patented out route to the coaching staff, and gets pulled after a disaster against Va Tech, basically wasting all of the fall practice reps. It's really a dangerous game the coaching staff is going to have to play with Etling, because physically, I still think he's the best man for the job, and I'm going to bet the coaches feel the same way. Unfortunately, I have no idea if he has his head back on straight, and I'm going to bet the coaches don't either. So, if he looks the best in practice, do you give him the reps, start him and hope? I'm glad I don't have to make this decision, because in all honesty, it's possible that Darrell Hazell and John Shoop's job rest on this decision. If they screw up the QB position again this year, it's going to be much harder to defend Hazell and Shoop is gone. No pressure guys.

The Unknown: David Blough

Last Year:

Hey did you guys know that David Blough is from Texas? You know, a certain Purdue QB/NFL MVP/Super Bowl Winner/Future Hall of Famer is also from Texas. I repeat, DAVID BLOUGH IS FROM THE SAME STATE AS DREW F'ING BREES AND WE DIDN'T PLAY HIM BECAUSE DARRELL HAZELL IS STUPID, JOHN SHOOP IS STUPID, AND MORGAN BURKE IS STUPID! David Blough is the great unknown, and when you had marginal/bad like we had last year at QB, unknown is pretty popular.

Best Case Scenario:

Hey did you guys know that David Blough is from Texas? You know, a certain Purdue QB/NFL MVP/Super Bowl Winner/Future Hall of Famer is also from Texas. Well, David Blough is the next Drew Brees. He comes into spring camp full of confidence, knocks out the two guys ahead of him who haven't produced and goes into fall camp as the starter. He gets the majority of reps in fall practice and throws for 300+ yards and 3 touchdowns to start the season. He goes on to lead Purdue to a 8-4 regular season and to a victory in the Alamo Bowl over a good Kansas St. team. From there he wages an all out assault on the Big 10 record books. Hazell scraps the run game because Blough is just that good. By the time he is a senior Purdue makes the college football playoff and knock off a Southern Cal in the first game to reach the championship. T-Mill and Juan both make a 2 week walk, completely naked, to New Jersey, site of the 2019/2020 National Championship game (The N.C. game is probably not in Jersey, but I'm on a roll). Despite walking through a freak blizzard, T-Mill and Juan arrive to the game unscathed and are promptly greeted by ThelegendofShawnMcCarthy and ACTUAL SHAWN McCARTHY, who welcome them into a luxury suit provided by Drew F'ing Brees because he has taken note of a plucky writer on H&R and has welcomed him into the inner circle. Blough throws for 400 yards in a 67-0 throttling of Notre Dame. Or.....he takes over in the fall and plays respectably for a freshman...I like my scenario better.

Worst Case Scenario:

Hey did you guys know that David Blough is from Texas? You know, a certain Purdue QB/NFL MVP/Super Bowl Winner/Future Hall of Famer is also from Texas. Well, it doesn't really matter because so are a lot of 3* quarterbacks. Blough is decent in the spring, but doesn't show enough to win the starting job in the fall. He sits on the bench as the 3rd string QB while Appleby and Etling compete in a game of who can throw the most interceptions. Blough sits the bench as an average quarterback while fans scream and yell for the reincarnation of Drew Brees to get in the F'ing game because DREW BREES IS FROM TEXAS AND SO IS DAVID BLOUGH! Blough finally makes his debut after Purdue is knocked out of Bowl Contention and proceeds to play like an average quarterback. All hope is lost and Ross Aide is converted into a library. ThelegendofShawnMcCarthy is relegated to covering women's club badminton.

The Injured: Elijah Sindelar

Last Year:

Sindelar put up crazy passing stats before blowing his knee out on a run in the playoffs.

Best Case Scenario:

His knee gets better and he learns the offense while sitting on the bench and rehabbing his knee.

Worst Case Scenario:

His knee is royally screwed up because meniscus injuries are always tricky, and Purdue doesn't have a great history of rehabbing knee injuries.

Overall:

My Hope:

David Blough wins the job

My Fear:

Appleby and Blough both beat out Etling because the coaches have no confidence in Danny. Etling transfers after spring practice leaving Purdue with 2 healthy QBs. Appleby wins the job, but hurts his knee against Va Tech, ushering the David Blough with no back up QB era at Purdue.

My Bold Prediction:

Etling wins the job and looks like the 4* quarterback he was coming out of high school. Except he is putting up big yardage and winning games instead of just putting up big yardage.

2016 Recruiting Implications:

If no one transfers, Purdue will have 4 QB's on the roster for 2016 and will only take a Quarterback unless they find one they really like. However, I'm going to bet that at least one of the above mentioned QB's isn't on the 2016 roster, making picking up a QB a priority. Purdue will sprinkle some just in case offers out to a few QB's but this is going to be touch and go all season unless a transfer happens early. There are a couple intriguing talents at QB in Indiana, namely Brandon Peters from Avon and Noah Wezensky from Bishop Leurs. I can't see either of them signing with Purdue unless the depth chart clears up a little, but, as they say, stranger things have happened.