Last night's article from Nathan Baird in the Journal & Courier gives me a small amount of hope that another disastrous season might actually mean the end of Darrell Hazell's ignominious tenure in West Lafayette. Because they are FINALLY seeing the financial problems of having an awful football team it means change could occur:
"While we continue our steadfast belief in and support of Darrell Hazell, the fact is we are in a results-oriented organization, and we need to win ... for financial reasons as well as for department, campus and alumni morale."
I love how that is the top reason. The department has been a mess for years. Campus and alumni morale has been low for years. But financial reasons, THAT's what finally gets them to change.
Anyway, Hazell still has 12 games to turn this around and that path truly begins today. There are key games very early at home against Cincinnati and Nevada that will tell us a lot about if there really is going to be a turnaround or if we're in for another long fall. Purdue simply cannot afford to come out of its first three games at anything less than 2-1. If it goes 1-2 or even worse the season is already over.
With that in mind, here are your top training camp battles that need to be settled:
Quarterback: David Blough vs. Elijah Sindelar
Same battle, different year. I feel like this has been a headline every camp under Hazell. You have a presumptive incumbent trying to hold off a promising backup. So far we are three for three with the promising backup starting by midseason. Former promising backups Austin Appleby and Danny Etling could be starting this year too, only at SEC schools.
It is the same thing as the past, too. The backup has little or no experience, but a strong pedigree. The presumptive starter has had some good moments in what little experience they have, but hasn't set the world on fire. We even know how this will play out. They will split first team snaps and then about two weeks before the opener. Blough, because of his experience, will be named the starter. Will he still be the starter on October 1, however?
Right Tackle: Cameron Cermin vs. Matt McCann
Cermin is one of Purdue's most experienced linemen, but is still coming off of offseason shoulder surgery. He can play pretty much anywhere along the line, but both guard spots and the center spot are locked down. Martesse Patterson looks to have the left tackle spot down, leaving this the biggest question mark.
At minimum, this is where some depth can be developed. Purdue has almost nothing after the starting five. Jalen Neal was brought in to play immediately as a JuCo guy, but that is a hit-or-miss proposition. The good news is that if McCann, Patterson, and Kirk Barron can really play they will be anchors ont his line for the next few years.
Cornerback: Tim Cason vs. Myles Norwood vs. Evyn Cooper vs. Kamal Hardy vs. Mike Little vs. David Rose vs. Josh Hayes vs. Brandon Shuman vs. Race Johnson vs. Antonio Blackmon vs. Simeon Smiley
We know that Da'Wan Hunte will start at one of the corner spots. The second one is completely up for grabs with a JuCo guy (Hardy), a position switch guy (Norwood), a few walkons (Blackmon and Johnson), and a bunch of freshman battling for not just the other starting spot, but the two primary backup spots AND the nickel/dime spots. Beyond Hunte we basically have the freaking Hunger Games breaking out for playing time.
What makes this battle even more critical is Purdue's new 4-2-5 Nickel plan that has more inexperienced defensive backs on the field most of the time. I like the way the Legend broke it down a few days ago, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't extremely nervous about how this is supposed to work out.
Of course, any scheme that doesn't have two of the Big Ten's better corners playing 10 yards off the receiver on 3rd and 7 is an improvement.
Defensive Tackle: Fred Brown vs. Anthony Watts vs. Alex Criddle vs. Keiwan Jones vs. Lorenzo Neal
We know Jake Replogle is one of the best in the Big Ten here. We know Eddy Wilson Will started beside him. Beyond that, we have another Hunger Games as no one really has any experience to back them up. Neal and Criddle come in as gigantic true freshmen that could play immediately both out of necessity and because they are really good. Watts is also a true freshman.
Kicker: J.D. Dellinger vs. Brian Bravo vs. Myles Homan vs. Tyler Duncan
Kicker was another disaster last year. Paul Griggs melted down so badly, missing critical field goals in winnable games against Marshall and Bowling Green, that Purdue didn't even try a field goal in five straight games. Griggs has one make outside of 22 yards last year. The closest field goal you can possibly take is 18 yards, and 20 is the distance on an extra point.
Griggs is gone and everyone but Dellinger was at least an option to replace him last year. It is probably Dellinger's job to lose, but I want someone that can at least make a 35 yard field goal with some regularity. Also, someone needs to be able to kick the ball far enough for a touchback.
Brian Lankford-Johnson vs. David Yancey vs. Tario Fuller vs. Richie Worship vs. Keyante Green
Who will get the bulk of the carries when Markell Jones needs a rest? We need someone who can carry the ball effectively for 5-10 times per game while also pass blocking and serving as a safety valve receiver. Is that the massive Worship as a change of pace? Is it the reliable, but not spectacular Yancey? Is it the blinding speed of Lankford-Johnson? Does Green come back from the dead and show why he was a four-star talent?