Yesterday I looked into Darrell Hazell’s first recruiting class, the bulk of which should be fifth year seniors that are leading the team into 2017. The results did not look good. Of the 23 man class five have already exhausted their eligibility at Purdue: Jake Replogle, Leroy Clark, Evan Panfil, Austin Logan, and DeAngelo Yancey. Of the remaining 19, only seven (Antoine Miles, DaWan Hunte, Danny Ezechukwu, Dezwan Polk-Campbell, Johnny Daniels, David Yancey, and Keyante Green) were still with the program this spring. Of those seven, only two (Hunte and Ezechukwu) are expected to be major contributors this fall.
When paired with Replogle, DeAngelo Yancey, Clark, and Panfil, that means only six of the 23 were major contributors by their final season. Eight transferred or left the program for various reasons. One (Ra’Zahn Howard) was booted from the team early and went the supplemental draft route to the NFL.
While some would argue that Danny Hope did much of the recruiting for this class, Hazell still had a large hand in it. He still had two months to convince them to stay on board and four years to develop them. This was also his best class ranking by 18 spots.
So let’s look at the first recruiting cycle where Hazell was fully in charge. These are guys that should be juniors and seniors on the roster and should also be playing large roles by now.
2014 Recruiting Class
Rivals Ranking: 71 nationally, 13th in Big Ten
247 Ranking: 69, 13th in Big Ten
In year two Hazell dropped from 53 to 71 in the Rivals rankings and from 61 to 69 in the 247 rankings.
Austin McGehee – K – 2-star – McGehee signed with Purdue in February 2014 and was expected to be a starter as a true freshman at punter that fall. He transferred away July 26, not even making it to fall camp. He later spent time at Arkansas, then Fullerton College in JuCo. He signed a scholarship to punt at North Texas this fall. Transfer
Bearooz Yacoobi – OL – 2-star – Yacoobi is entering year four with the program and has yet to have an impact on the offensive line. He has played in a handful of games as a reserve, but he plays at a position of desperate need and was barely on the two deep this spring. Deep Reserve
Brandon Roberts – DB – 2-star – Roberts redshirted in 2014, but by 2015 he was playing a lot and even started a few times as a redshirt freshman. He was primarily Purdue’s nickel back and had an interception at Northwestern that year. Last year he was suspended midseason. He was later dismissed from the team by Jeff Brohm due to an off the field incident. Dismissed from the team
Cedric Dale – DB – 2-star – Dale redshirted in 2014, then left Purdue without ever playing a down. In 2015 he played a few games at FCS Abilene Christian in Texas, but is no longer on the roster. Transfer
Cole Herdman – TE – 2-star – An all-too-rare success story, Herdman was a starter last season and is the top returning receiver headed into his junior year. Last season he had 35 receptions for 344 yards and 3 TDs. In 2015 he had 18 receptions for 139 yards and two more scores. Starter
Corey Clements – OL – 3-star – The massive JuCo offensive lineman was a little too massive. He was close to 400 pounds for much of his tenure and in two years he played sparingly as a result with conditioning issues. He graduated in 2015. Fringe contributor
David Blough – QB – 3-star – Blough led the Big Ten in passing last season and is entering his third season entrenched as the starter. He stands to be the first Purdue quarterback in almost a decade to start two straight season openers. He already has over 4,900 yards passing. Starter
David Hedelin – OL – 3-star – Hedelin had to serve an NCAA suspension due to some amateurism issues, but was a starter for the majority of his two years after being a JuCo transfer from City College of San Francisco. He even got a look in an NFL training camp. Starter
D.J. Knox – RB – 2-star – Knox had a wasted redshirt year in 2014 playing on special teams, but rushed for 409 yards in 2015 as one of the primary backs. He is attempting to come back from a torn ACL suffered in the 2016 spring game, where his redshirt came in handy in 2016. He has two years left. Contributor
Gelen Robinson – DE – 4-star – It was a huge get when Hazell landed the son of the Big Dog. Robinson has played extensively in his first three years and led Purdue with five sacks last season. He hasn’t evolved into the fearsome defensive end we had hoped, but he has been decent overall. Last year he was nominated for the Piesman Trophy for his 78-yard interception return for a TD in the season opener. He would later finish 7th for the award. Starter
Gregory Phillips – WR – 2-star – Phillips avoided a redshirt and has been a decent reserve receiver for three years now. In his career he has 40 receptions for 465 yards and two touchdowns. That makes him the most experienced non-tight end on the roster when it comes to catching the football. Contributor
Ja’Whaun Bentley – LB – 3-star – Arguably Hazell’s best pickup, Bentley gave Purdue a real, live linebacker from day one for the first time in a decade. He has been a starter his entire career and even after tearing his ACL in 2015 he has been a major part of Purdue’s defense. He has all-Big Ten potential this season, something you can say about very few of our players. Starter, fringe all-Big Ten
Juan Jenkins – DB – 3-star – Jenkins never made it to Purdue as an academic casualty. Never Enrolled
Keiwan Jones – DT – 2-star – Jones has yet to play and he tore his ACL in training camp in 2015. In what was a common refrain for Hazell, he showed some promise and was even competing to start last fall, but mysteriously never played. He still has two years of eligibility, and we do need defensive tackles. Deep Reserve
Kirk Barron – OL – 2-star – Barron redshirted in 2014, was a reserve in 2015, and took over at center last season as the full-time starter. With two years left he is arguably Purdue’s best offensive lineman and the only one that is a definite starter going into this year. Starter
Martesse Patterson – OL – 3-star – Patterson was the starter at left tackle and we really need him, but he was suspended last season after punching a teammate and breaking his nose, then further suspended for another off the field incident. Brohm booted him from the team at the same time as Roberts. Dismissed from the team
Tim Cason – DB – 3-star – Cason played extensively last season as Purdue looked for a second cornerback. He had 17 tackles in nine games and is in the mix to start this season opposite Hunte. Contributor
Trae Hart – WR – 2-star – Hart had 16 receptions for 11 yards in his first two seasons, but left the team and transferred to FCS Stephen F. Austin in Texas before last year. He was a second team all-conference selection there as a junior with 42 receptions for 511 yards and 2 TDs. He was also an excellent punt returner for them with 210 punt return yards and another TD. He is in line for a big senior season this year. Transfer
Will Colmery – DE – 3-star – Colmery redshirted in 2014 and did not play in 2015, but was developing into a contributor for 2016 before a benign brain tumor sidelined him for all of last season. He has a very positive prognosis and could even play this coming season. Deep Reserve
Expected 2017 Starters at Purdue: 5
Other contributors for 2017: 3
2-year JuCo guys gone: 2
Never made it to Purdue: 1
Deep Reserve/Not expected to contribute: 3
Dismissed from team for “other Reasons”: 2
Still on Purdue’s roster: 11
Overall this class is better, as several have developed into at least serviceable players. Bentley is likely the best of the bunch, but Robinson, Blough, Herdman, and Barron are all solid, locked in starters heading into 2017. Purdue does not have many of those types of players. You can’t fault anyone for Colmery, while Patterson and Roberts were starters who pissed their careers away with dumb decisions. Considering how lowly rated this class was, Hazell deserves some credit for those that did develop into regular contributors. Counting Patterosn and Roberts . Seven members would be starters in 2017 with at least three more contributing. Hedelin was a very good pickup too that was a two-year starter.
That means 11 out of 19 have been starters or major contributors so far. The real test will be what Brohm can do with this group in the 1-2 years they each have remaining. There are 11 players still here from this class, and they will be the ones that will have to lead the charge this season.