A football team typically doesn't like two-a-days...but as a fan, I love it when camp rolls around. It's yet another sign that we're one day closer to football season. In fact, we are within striking distance of Purdue's first game...the road contest at Cincinnati is just 26 days away.
This camp is the same as others...but very different. It's the same in the fact that the players are working hard- they worked hard at the end of last summer, and the one before that. But it's very different in the fact that their direction is different, the speed of the stations is faster and the coach is a bit more serious; and the players are reflecting that.
As Purdue fans, we had gotten pretty used to the fact that everyone clad in black and gold was an All-American each August. Darrell Hazell's perspective isn't quite as rosy. In fact, he sounded downright critical of the first day of practice. He wants to see better execution, he wants to see more "sudden-ness" and better tempo in the drills...and he wants the players to get into football shape as soon as possible...he wants more hustle...he wants the offense to take better care of the ball...he wants more from his team. Oh yeah, the level of noise and energy that we saw in the Spring is back too- music is piped onto the field from time to time and you'll hear "100 PERCENT!!!" yelled over and over by the coaches...referencing a need for more effort time and again.
Rob Henry expressed some similar feelings as his coaches after practice- he thought his first day at camp was "terrible". He hated the interceptions that he threw...and he and the other QBs threw a few. But as they noted and Hazell noted, it's tougher to keep the defense balanced with the threat of the running game isn't there- and the threat, true threat of running between the tackles doesn't exist as long as the players aren't in pads.
Coach Haze says his Boilers won't be wearing pads until day five of practice. Until then, speed is the order of the day- fast drills, crisp execution, no delay between stations.
One of the most-postive ideas I heard out of post-practice interviews was Bruce Gaston saying that regardless of what schemes opposing Olines throw at him this season, he simply needs to play his game. I like this because it doesn't put opposition in control of the game or play-by-play situation...and it reminds me of what Tony Dungy used to say- good teams should "do what they do" each and every play and focus on doing it well. Purdue's coaches talk about acting instead of reacting and controlling the game plan instead of being controlled. If you've watched our Boilers play Wisconsin or Michigan the last few years, you know how tough of a task that will be. The proof of change will be in gameday.