|How far off could a "magical" future be for Purdue football?|
That's the term I've heard thrown around by Boilermaker fans in the last year. How else do you try to stomach a disappointing 1-11 season? There's an easy answer to that: look to the future.
For fans of a program that's been struggling, "the future" is a magical place filled with rainbows and unicorns. In such a dreamy place, Purdue beats Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State on the way to an eight-plus win season and a berth in the Big Ten championship game.
Instead of looking five or six years down the road, I think it makes sense for us to focus on the immediate future. What should we expect to happen in Darrell Hazell's second year at the helm?
Here are some points to consider:
1. The Boilers have a considerably easier schedule.
Purdue played a brutal slate in the 2013 season. The pre-B1G schedule included a primetime clash with Notre Dame, a home contest against Northern Illinois (fresh off an Orange Bowl appearance after the 2012 season) and a difficult season opener against recently surging Cincinnati.
This time around, our Boilers begin in Ross-Ade Stadium against the Western Michigan Broncos (1-11, 1-7 in 2013) and follow with the Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6, 5-3 MAC). Two weeks later, Purdue will face the Southern Illinois Salukis (7-5, 5-3) in another home contest.
The only challenging non-conference game comes (again) against Notre Dame at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Irish bring back quarterback Everett Golson, who threw for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns in the 2012 season as Notre Dame made a national championship game appearance.
2. Freshman minutes should lead to increased maturity.
Darrell Hazell clearly began to get sick and tired of seniors who had lived a care-free life in the Danny Hope era, pulling them halfway through the 2013 season to make room for youth on the Purdue roster.
|Ra'Zahn Howard should|
be productive as he slims down. (photo
is the property of ESPN).
A ton of guys saw the field incredibly early against such difficult competition. Danny Etling replaced Rob Henry and struggled, completing 55.8 percent of his passes and throwing 10 touchdowns to seven picks. Freshman DeAngelo Yancey made noise as a rookie wide receiver and should be improved.
Defensively, players such as Ra'Zahn Howard, Evan Panfil and Jake Replogle played up front. None of them were incredibly productive, but Howard showed some athletic ability in the defensive line's interior (4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 PBU in six games). Hazell called Howard "really special" in a recent interview with ESPN.com.
3. Unproven aspects leave questions.
We still have no idea if Darrell Hazell's coaching pedigree will lead to tangible results in the near future...especially when the current level of talent is considered. For Purdue to have a chance at success on offense, the line has to be better. Defensively, the Boilers simply must be able to get pressure.
Can John Shoop's offensive schemes work at Purdue? Will an unproven coaching staff at the Big Ten level field a team that can be more prepared on a consistent basis?
I believe Hazell will have a chance to be a success at Purdue on a long-term basis. I'll preview the 2014 season in depth as we approach the opener in August, but I think fans for now should be hopeful that the team can get to 6-6 and make a bowl game in 2014.
Before the metaphorical Purdue train leaves the station and climbs the hill, it has to be built. That is what will take time.