Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Should Expectations Be Managed?

"Rome wasn't built in a day." 

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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Keeping Etling Upright

I'm going to start this post off by saying I think it's ridiculous that some fans, although a loud and vocal minority, tried to heap some of the blame for Purdue's 1-11 2013 season on freshman quarterback Danny Etling's shoulders.

The fact of the matter is this: 

1. He was a true freshman quarterback. Although it's possible for young quarterbacks to be successful, a completely new offensive scheme is going to be hard to learn for anyone (let alone someone that didn't redshirt). 

2. Very few of Purdue's skill position players had much, if any, real experience at this level. Gary Bush played extensively in the Danny Hope era (and often produced) but was benched last year in favor of underclassmen. Shane Mikesky, a sophomore by athletic standing, had no playing experience in 2012. 

3. This one is key:

Purdue's offensive line was straight up pitiful at times. And I don't say that kind of thing lightly. 

Etling was sacked again in those 30 seconds
you were reading. (Photo is property of Yahoo)

It's hard for any true freshman to come in and contribute to a Division I program right away. The exceptions typically come at schools like Alabama and other SEC powers, where depth and five-star talent run rampant. The talent at those programs likely received such recognition in high school because they have a more developed game. 

I don't think you'd see that at all on Purdue's roster...especially up front. 

Not to say there's no talent on the offensive line. According to Hazell, redshirt sophomore JJ Prince emerged in the spring as a possible starter. At 6-6 and 288 pounds, he brings improved size to a group that didn't have the physical prowess you'd expect of Big Ten pass protection.

Then there's Corey Clements. At 6-8 and 330 pounds, he's a mammoth. I'm not sure if he can be expected to play as a freshman. He could probably stand to lose a little weight in order to become a little faster.

One thing is for sure: the offensive line has to improve drastically in 2014. If it doesn't, it's hard to expect Etling to make good decisions.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jay Simpson Is Starting The Hype

If you missed Jay Simpson's tweets on June 17, you were left out of some fireworks.

The redshirt sophomore, who will be unable to play again for our Boilers due to a serious heart condition, took to Twitter after the new freshman class arrived on campus for workouts with a message for fans.

Last but not least, Jay concludes with this:

The guy is obviously optimistic about Purdue basketball's future. To be honest, I'm glad somebody is. It seems like lately, in the same vein as football in West Lafayette, fan apathy has grown too much.

How much people can actually read into stuff like this is up for debate. He's a player on the inside that's supportive of everyone in the locker room at all times. Is Bryson Scott really learning how to play point guard? How much has Basil Smotherman really worked on his all-around game?

I think Jay's comments on the freshman class are the most interesting.

We already knew that Vince Edwards has a versatile game. He's huge at 6-7 and 205 pounds. He can shoot and use some nice athleticism to create his own shot. It seems like a ridiculous comparison when it's considered that Robbie Hummel accomplished a great deal while at Purdue, but Edwards' skillset is similar in that he can really help spread the floor for this team.

Dakota Mathias and Jacquil Taylor are both described as having some skill and athleticism by Simpson. Taylor strikes me as a bit of a project at first - perhaps even a redshirt candidate. I'm glad to hear he's got some moves and speed to work with, however. Mathias is a well-known shooter; I'm curious as to what impact he could immediately have for the Boilermakers.

PJ Thompson is an unknown. With Ronnie Johnson transferring from the men's basketball program, Purdue needs someone to step in immediately as a leader. If Jay is correct, Matt Painter might have found a good option.

I really hope Simpson is right. If he is, this offseason grind will pay off big time.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Want To Write About Purdue?

Are you a passionate Boilermaker fan?

Do you bleed old gold and black? The Blitz is now actively looking for one or more new writers who have a passion for all things in Purdue athletics. We would prefer a person who:

-either is a Purdue student or a person past college age.

-has an understanding of the sports they are writing about.

-has an understanding of the recruiting landscape in college sports.

-has a passion for writing about sports.

Understand that, as a fan blog, this website is not objective. All that is expected is that you know what you're talking about when you write. I'm looking for creativity...there is nothing at all wrong with using humor in your work.

Email a sample of your writing to boilermakerblitz@gmail.com. Thank you for your interest!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Train Off the Tracks: The Football Recovery

Photo courtesy of the Purdue Alumni Association.
It's hard for fans to comprehend an athletic year as miserable as the one Purdue just experienced.

Everything began with a dud as months of hype surrounding Darrell Hazell turned into anger and disbelief in West Lafayette. Cincinnati destroyed Purdue, handing the Boilers a 42-7 embarrassment on opening Saturday.

If multiple other terrible performances weren't enough for fans to be upset, the football team finished 1-11 on the year...and let IU walk all over them in the season's final week.

So what did all of that mean? Was everything Hazell promised fans just talk? Is this guy incapable of helping the Boilermaker football program become relevant for the first time since the Brees and Orton days?

It's been rough in God's Country - brutal, even. We have a right to be upset when a turnaround that we felt could have been a "sure thing" didn't materialize right away. I just ask that we step back and consider one thing:

Maybe there's a reason for it.

Let's face it: Hazell wasn't left with much of anything. Danny Etling is a young talent who could develop into a star Big Ten quarterback, but he ended up on his behind in 2013 more times than could possibly be deemed acceptable. (Purdue's line gave up 38 sacks last season - that kind of horrific number will never win a single conference game.)

Recruiting positions of need and working to find Big Ten caliber players up front can start to change things. There's obviously no way to tell how effective the linemen Hazell recruited will be before they arrive on campus, but some real size is coming to the program soon. David Hedelin (285 pounds), Martesse Patterson (290 pounds), Bearooz Yacoobi (250 pounds), and the enormous Corey Clements (350 pounds) will soon be Boilermakers.

Assuming the line can protect whoever calls plays for the Boilers, chemistry should improve between Etling and stud freshman receiver DeAngelo Yancey. Cameron Posey also showed flashes of great play last season. A speedy new player in Trae Hart might see the field quickly.

Several players who have been in the program for years went through position changes. Senior Dolapo Macarthy has been converted to tight end, a position I think he could succeed in if he puts on some weight. Raheem Mostert appeared in the spring game like he might be able to run between the tackles with an extra burst this fall. He impressed in Big Ten track and field competitions.

Defensively, Ricardo Allen and Bruce Gaston were productive players that will be missed. Guys like Landon Feichter will be counted on to step up in the secondary as new players start to see the field. With Purdue's linebacker core performing far below a Big Ten level, expect a four-star talent like Gelen Robinson to see the field very quickly.

So where should expectations be for Hazell in Year 2? You tell us by answering our main page poll.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

It's Good To Be Back

To our readers: 

I'm very excited to announce my return to Boilermaker Blitz.

This blog was my baby, if you will. I started it during my junior year at Purdue with the goal of creating an environment to express how much I care about the Boilermakers. Its creation meant a lot to me. 

As you all know, I left the Blitz when the opportunity to work at The Exponent arose. I needed a way to gain valuable experience as a journalist. With the fantastic workplace environment provided there, I learned a great deal in three semesters. I had the opportunity to interact with Big Ten athletes, gained interviewing skills in the media and learned from people around me who gave me a chance to thrive. 

While I was away, I gave Nick Konkel and Chris Jewell control of the Blitz. I feel they've had ups and downs, but have done what they can to keep the site running smoothly. I thank them for keeping this blog alive. 

In the last few semesters, I've discovered another love: broadcasting. A class at Purdue called Fast Track gave me a chance to learn how to produce news packages, operate video cameras and learn how to edit the footage I've shot to create a final product. I'll have a great opportunity to produce the program in the fall semester, which will be my final few months as a Purdue student. I want to become a sports broadcaster in my professional career. 

With all of that said, I'm back to provide people with my opinions on topics around Purdue sports. I have very high hopes for the future and I hope all of you will continue to give us a chance. 

Jackson Brunner 
Contributor name: jbrunner
Twitter: @BoilerOfLegend

(I should point out that the Blitz is NOT an "objective" journalist environment. Myself, Nick and Chris are all Purdue fans writing for other fans. We're a blog, not a media outlet.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Way Too Early Look at Next Basketball Season

The end of the season was quite the representation of the Purdue basketball season as a whole. Purdue received their 5th commitment for the 2014 basketball class with Point Guard P.J. Thompson. After the exciting news, Purdue lost a close game against Ohio State (63-61) to get knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament and end the season.At the end of that week, the final nail in the terrible coffin, junior-to-be Point Guard Ronnie Johnson decided he was transferring from the team. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t ecstatic with Ronnie’s play as a PG, but what I was ecstatic about was the double digit points he averaged and the experience he brought to the team. That is now out the window, and it’s time to take an early peak into next season.

Purdue will be painfully young next year. A.J. Hammons is currently mulling the idea of jumping into the NBA; early reports have him as a high 2nd round pick. If AJH leaves for the NBA, that leaves 9 scholarship players, only one of whom, Rapheal Davis, is a junior. Luckily, Matt Painter is bringing in the third-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten, and his third sequential fourth-ranked or higher in the Big Ten. The only problem is that the seat is getting quite hot for Painter right now, and he NEEDS results next season. 

Davis looks to be emerging as a much needed leader

With Ronnie and Simpson gone, that opens up two scholarships, and possibly three if AJH leaves. If that’s the case, Painter is going to have to test the JUCO/5th year scene to land some bodies. At least getting another big guy to rotate with Haas, another true 4 and either a pure shooter or a PG. There are a lot of things up in the air right now. When AJH makes his decision, the Boilers will solidify some of their needs. Of course with Eron Harris and Trevor Thompson (who Purdue is in the top 3 for) both transferring, and both wanting to come home to play ball. 

There is a lot of talent on the team next year and a lot of players who like to play as a team. With Ronnie gone, I think Bryson Scott will have to game come to him faster because he will get more than 10-15 minutes a game. With that being said, EVERYONE has to play like an experienced team if they want to get to the NCAA tourney again. I think they have the parts to do just that. The guys just have to buy into tough defense and playing together. If that happens, it will all come together and move forward.