It has to be tough to drum up support for Purdue football this year. There is nothing on the outside to suggest that a turnaround is going to happen. The situation couldn't look worse at this point for Darrell Hazell, and fans of the program have heard enough platitudes. We want to wins some damn football games instead of seeing our football team get its head kicked in every Saturday. We are tired of being the Big Ten laughingstock as evidenced by twitter during Hazell's press conference:
As in 'miraculously I'm still employed' great place https://t.co/FfYC5IeZLr— Ted Glover (@purplebuckeye) July 25, 2016
Darrell Hazell says Purdue is "in a great place right now." Uhhhhhh... pic.twitter.com/OFhAkmBuNv— Inside NU (@insidenu) July 25, 2016
Purdue football: pic.twitter.com/rH2tu3KaHp— Eleven Warriors (@11W) July 25, 2016
Still, there is at least some small reason for hope. The schedule is much easier. John Shoop is gone. Markell Jones looks like a stud. Ja'Whaun Bentley is healthy. The offensive line is breaking records in the weight room. Maybe, just maybe, there is a breakthrough coming. We've got about 40 days until we find out.
Here is the bulk of what coach Hazell had to say today:
"It's been three and a half years in the making to get to this point and we're at a great place right now."
Uh, okay? I know that with coachspeak engaged you're not going to come right out and diss your team, but this is a coach with a 6-30 record over three seasons. That comes off like this:
"The sign said, 'The train is coming', but at some point the train has to arrive. That sign is no longer there. I think you're going to like what steps off the train this year. Ja'Whaun Bentely, Jake Replogle, and DeAngelo Yancey won't only be the best players in the Big Ten, they'll be the best players in the country."
Well, at least he is confident. There was a rambling anecdote about a billboard on I-65 and it is not even there, but we're going to like what gets off the train anyway (if it ever arrives?). Then there is Bentley, Replogle, and Yancey. all are good dudes and good players. If Purdue has a stunning breakout they can even be all-conference guys, but let's pump the brakes on "Best players in the country."
"It starts on the offensive line with those guys playing in unison. In the spring we only had 9 bodies int hat room but now we have 19 so you have to build depth from young guys in that room. We have two experienced guards and a brand new center that is very strong and explosive. We have a couple of guys where we're trying to figure out that right tackle spot but we have to get them playing in unison. Protecting the quarterback is the number one thing because they are more than capable of being successful if they have time."
This tells me Cameron Cermin's shoulder is still a question, which is not good. Cermin needed to be healthy to lock down one of ht tackle spots as one of Purdue's most experienced lineman and it is probably not good that we didn't get the "Yep, he is starting." A-OK. I like the guards and Barron has been a monster int he weight room, but the tackle spots need to be settled.
"David Blough obviously has an edge coming out of spring football, but both both David and Elijah are more than capable of winning a lot of football games. They have slowed the game down, shown tremendous leadership, thrown with some accuracy, and they are playing with some confidence so it will be a few weeks before we make that decision."
This is the same quote about the quarterback position as the last three years. Just sub in Blough and Sindelar for Henry, Etling, and Appleby. it will not change until 1. Purdue protects the quarterback, and 2. One finally plays well when protected.
"The most important people where the morale counts is in your locker room and our morale is off the charts right now."
Many would rip on this quote, me included, but after thinking about it, it makes sense. No one is giving this team a chance right now. The players know it. They know what the press is saying about them. Cameron Posey said as much in the preview magazine. It is impossible for them not to know they are seen as a joke. If the morale is up that is good because that is the only way true change is going to happen.
"We have some young backs in the room, Richie Worship and Tario Fuller, and Brian Lankford-Johnson has the fastest 20-yard dash time on the whole team and he's only been there two weeks. One or two of those guys will step up and spell Markell when he needs it."
I do like Lankford-Johnson's speed. It seems like he will get a look early because blinding speed is always a good thing. It would be nice to get a true freshman surprise like him. Unfortunately, we need several like that.
"There is a combination of things that may go into the quarterback struggles. We felt that simplification was paramount this offseason. We hired Terry Malone as our offensive coordinator and our number goal was to get more productivity out of the position. They are going to be more confident and know where to go with the ball both pre- and post-snap."
You mean a needlessly complicated offense was a main reason the offense couldn't get out of its own way? No shit! If the offense gets even marginal improvement it will be huge. Far too often the defense would play well for a half, but wilt because the offense under Shoop did less than nothing. If the offense can just stay on the field even a little more it will help a lot. not to mention that whole "actually scoring points" thing that is all the rave.
"I don't look at it as a funk. I look at it as a growing process. A lot of times on the outside you can't see the things going on with the program that are making progress. That's the vision I see."
You knew we couldn't get out of it without this one. How funny that getting blown out by Indiana at home and losing three in a row to them for the first time in 70 years was just me not seeing where the real progress was made.