Thursday, August 21, 2014

Boilers Bowl Bound?

With a seemingly manageable schedule, are our Boilers going to get to that magical number and go bowling this year after a hellacious 1 year hiatus? I say no, but that doesn't mean this team won't have a successful and productive season though.  Now that we have a starting quarterback set (some would argue this was never really in question), it's time to look ahead to the full schedule and what we can reasonably expect from this football team.

Week 1: vs Western Michigan
This is the type of game most Big Ten programs use as a warmup game to get their rotations set and work out a few last minute kinks.  We proved last year that these games can't be taken for granted when you're rebuilding a program from the ground up, and we cannot take them for granted this year. I think this year's team matches it's 2013 win total with a week 1 victory. Sloppy, but effective: 34-17.  1-0

Week 2: vs Central Michigan
We continue with the theme of playing directional Michigan schools, but this won't be the same Chippewas that have given power 5 conference teams fits in the past. A 6-6 team last year, I think the Boilers will be able to handle CMU and get to 2-0: 23-10

Week 3: vs Notre Dame at Lucas Oil Stadium
Well, we all know this script pretty well.  Purdue is a big underdog. Purdue plays unexpectedly well. Notre Dame gets a few "we are Notre Dame" calls. Notre Dame's vaunted recruiting classes actually look like just that. Notre Dame "escapes" and wins.  Not sure I see much different this year. Even with the Irish missing 4 starters, they will still be heavy favorites and will probably win a closer-than-most-expected one: 20-17
2-1

Week 4: vs Southern Illinois
This year's FCS opponent for Purdue. Shouldn't be as nerve wracking as the ISU near debacle last year. Boilers start to show some of that Hazell moxy and win 45-14
3-1

Week 5: Homecoming vs Iowa
In a similar fashion to the Notre Dame game, I think Purdue keeps this one within arms reach throughout, but in the end just isn't quite ready to jump up and bite a mid to upper level B10 team yet. They fall on homecoming 27-17.
3-2

Week 6: at Illinois
Outside of Indiana, this is Purdue's best shot at a road win in 2014. The only problem is, the Illini probably have the newcomer of the year in starting QB Wes Lunt.  I don't think this young Boilers team has what it takes to get this on on the road: 24-20.
3-3

Week 7: vs Michigan State
If you're able to look past the fact that we didn't actually score, this game in East Lansing last year was probably Purdue's best game of the year. They battled the eventual Rose Bowl champions well into the 4th quarter but just couldn't muster any offense with an 18 year old behind center. This year will probably not be as close. MSU wins going away: 40-10
3-4

Week 8: at Minnesota
On the surface this looks to be another shot at a road win, a la Illinois, but I love what Jerry Kill is doing up in gopher land. They came on strong last year and I think are going to surprise a lot of people this year as well.  They stay a year or so ahead of Purdue's rebuilding process and take this one 28-20.
3-5

Week 9: at Nebraska
The 3rd leg of a 4 game stretch that's the real meat of this schedule, I find it hard to see a team coming off 4 straight losses winning one in Lincoln.  Bo Pelini and his cat probably take this one. 35-17.
3-6

Week 10: vs Wisconsin
No. Just no. The Badgers tend to run for about 900 yards annually on the Boilers. Should be a little less this year with our improvement at LB, but still Purdue isn't there yet. Wisky wins 47-27.
3-7

Week 10: vs Northwestern
Seeing that Northwestern 1) absolutely imploded last year, 2) lost their starting RB, 3) lost a really solid WR, and 4) had the whole labor union thing disrupt their offseason I think Purdue gets off the schnide here and gets Darrell Hazell's first Big Ten win.  Purdue's defense makes a nice statement towards the end of the season. 34-14.
4-7

Week 11: at Indiana
I think this is the year that IU will actually have a better than average shot to get to a bowl game.  I also think that they will need to beat Purdue on November 29th to get there. Not up in here. Purdue ends the season on a nice little winning streak and dashes IU's bowl hopes, 42-35.
5-7

I could see the win total fluctuating 1 win either way, but if we go below 4 wins this year I think that's a pretty big problem. The first 4 games are going to be very telling. If they take care of business vs the non-AQ teams I think 6 wins is an outside possibility. If not, well... that's for another post.

5 wins is not a bad result from this season IMO.  It's not a full turnaround, but would show nice progress.  Above that is gravy.  If this team plays hard and cleans up the garbage that turned off fans during Hope's last 2 years I think we will be back to having a product that's fun to watch and root for. I think they will be able to do that this year and personally look forward to watching Coach Hazell mold this program into a perennial winner. This year is step 2; and it's going to be a step up.

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Calling the Bullpen

Hey Boilermaker fans!  My name is Conner Clinkenbeard and I am a proud 2011 graduate of Purdue University and thanks to Jackson I am a new writer here on Boilermaker Blitz.  I was born and raised in Indiana so basketball has always been in my blood.  Growing up in Terre Haute I witnessed some of the great cinderella moments of the 2000s with the Indiana State Sycamores, such as Michael Menser's game winning 3 against the Loosiers and an NCAA first round 13-4 upset victory over Oklahoma.



I grew up a fan of mid major basketball and in particular Missouri Valley basketball, so when I got here to Purdue in 2007 it was like I'd been watching this style of basketball all my life, because I had.  The Keady and Painter coaching trees are littered with guys that came up through the Valley and undersized, hard-nosed, defensive basketball has dominated that league over the years.

But enough about the Valley.  I was fortunate enough to have my 4 years on campus in God's country be the same 4 years of the second coming of a Purdue Big 3.  During that awesome 4 year run I was a part of things that seem legendary now.  We camped out all night not just for the best seats for games, but just to be in the Paint Crew!  Spots were (and technically still are) limited and if you didn't wait all night in line you did not get in.  I was there for Game Day when we showed out not only as a fan base but as a team by shellacking MSU.  I went on road trips to West Virginia, Michigan, and Indiana with the crew.  I was court side for the most ear splitting sports environment in recent memory when our Boilers rocked West Virginia on New Years Day.

If you can't tell, my passion is for college basketball.  But I am a huge football fan as well.  An ardent Colts fan and Curtis Painter apologist, I loved watching a former Boiler play for Indy even if it was undeniably rough. I still remember where I was when we damn near went into Eugene and took down Oregon.  I was in the stands when we nearly did it in Ross Ade too.  I was on the field after an Ohio State victory, and singing the fight song in the stands after Coach Tiller's last beatdown of IU in 2008.  I'm excited to bring the same passion, intensity, and opinion to Boilermaker Blitz that I do every time I spar with all my friends that would fall into the category of IU cronies.  Feel free to throw opinions right back at me, a little back and forth is always healthy!

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.

Conner

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.