For the first time since his first week of practice last Spring, Danny Etling is showing some signs of his age...and Austin Appleby is capitalizing. Having an extra year under his belt has helped Appleby during this camp as he seems to get stronger as the contact gets heavier.
Make no mistake here- we're not rooting against Etling...or Henry for that matter. I like both of these guys, and think they can lead Purdue well on Saturdays this fall...but #12 is the guy I'm pulling for the most. I've always liked his natural ability to play the game, his confidence and his size. But it seems that as pressure mounts, he gets better; that's a great trait for a QB to have.
So in this QB battle you've got some distinct skills and advantages-
Rob Henry is the best athlete of the three...one of the fastest guys on the team...and has been steady since Hazell arrived on campus and Marve and TerBush departed. The players like him, he's a great leader and the coaches love that as he pushes his teammates, they listen. All of these traits have put him in the catbird seat in the battle.
Etling throws the most-catchable ball...and his arm strength is in between Appleby and Henry. He's accurate, has a propensity to learn quickly.
All three candidates for the starting role seem to be competitors with very strong wills. Neither wants to budge when asked who should be starting. I think they all firmly believe they're the best man for the job. But thankfully, Coach Haze will only choose one.
As these three battle to see who's going to be throwing the ball, their targets are battling for four positions. Macarthy is fighting off an old injury to get better during camp. Anthrop and Knauf are using their quickness to try to impress as they both work to get into game shape and Bilal Marshall is trying to get his mind around the situation as he settles into, what some believe to be, his natural position.
And while this quartet of young receivers strive to impress the staff, a group of even younger guys are nipping at their heels- Mikesky, Monteroso and Posey all are getting better all the time...and the coaches are noticing their improvement. Much to the chagrin of Bush, Torwudzu and Mostert, three true Freshman might be higher on the depth chart right now than three of the guys that many thought would be impact players in '13.
Yesterday, Hazell was bothered by the fact that so many guys were on the bikes instead of in the field...and he quipped that he doesn't coach the Bicycle Club...and he understands the importance of guys getting healthy and staying healthy.
Depth will be a concern within some very important position groups...Linebackers and the OLine specifically can't really afford to lose anyone...but of course, those are the groups that seem to be bitten by the injury bug thus far. Nothing is season-threatening, but having two Freshman in the 1s of a B1G OLine isn't suggested. But right now, Roos and Prince are both with the first team.
The linebackers are shifting positions in an effort to get the most-talented, most-physically-ready players on the field. Ibarra and Gilliam's injuries are stretching the already-tine LBs even further.
On the other side of the ball, Gabe Holmes is nursing a hamstring injury, so Matt Burke and former Painter recruit, Patrick Bade are getting looks with the first team at TE.
There's two ways to look at this- the optimist might say that young talent is getting a chance to prove itself and learn on the job...a pessimist might say that the lack of experience on the practice field might spell doom for our Boilers on the last day of this month.
The realists, like myself, saw this situation coming because football is a tough game that requires contact and causes injury, even when played correctly. You just keep your fingers crossed that none of them as serious...and so far all is well on that front.
My favorite quote from the last two days comes from WR coach, Kevin Sherman-
We want to have a sense of urgency...there's a time to have a good time and there's a time to go to work..." We gotta get ready for Cincinnati...We'll have a good time down the road...but we've got a long way to go.
More camp updates as things progress...