If you're like us, you kind of feel like a junkie these days trying to get your Purdue football fix. One of the ways to get a good feel for how things are going is to watch some of the unfiltered videos via YouTube. Each day after practice, Coach Hazell conducts an informal press gaggle, gives his thoughts on the day, answers some questions, etc. Danny Hope used to do this, too, though I think most of his were right in front of the facility, communism-style, since you weren't allowed inside.
As we've made clear, we're big fans of Coach Hazell and his approach and the immediate respect he's brought to our favorite program. And I feel as though he's now seeing what he's got to deal with in just over three weeks -- and that's Danny Hope's leftovers. Understand, this is not to say these guys don't have talent or aren't capable of big wins -- we know both of those things to be true. But in the weeks leading up to fall camp really getting going, everything was all smiles and how excited we all are and how there's an energy around Purdue football (and there is). Now, after each day of practice, you can read beyond the comments the coach is making and see his facial expressions and the way in which he delivers his remarks and you can see there's some concern there. Or at least that's how I read it. For more, keep reading...
I suspect he now feels -- like any good coach would -- that there is a lot of work, prep, practice, teaching and learning to go on in a very compacting timeframe. And while you of course can keep working on these guys during the season, it's critical to start strong to keep the guys' minds in it. When seasons go awry early, things can get extrmely ugly in October. Like 62-17 ugly. Trust us, we know. (Show me on the doll where Danny Hope coached your team.)
After yesterday's practice, here were Hazell's thoughts:
First, I guess there was a truck about to back over the players. Second, Coach Hazell likes their energy and spirit, but he also chided them about composure and not allowing yourself to get too high or too low. And I think that's a distinction from tempering expectations. His point here is that in order to be successful and, to borrow an expression, to keep your wits about you when others are losing theirs, you need to stay level emotionally.
He also commented that the defensive line is "probably the most talented group on the football team." I can live with that, you know?
Coach said that penalties (or, rather, not committing penalties) is "a matter of concentration."
He talked about the players starting to "watch each other's backs more" and "caring about each other more." Sounds like the group is getting tighter -- also another mark of a team that succeeds, particularly when they're not expected to.
He also smirked when he said "absolutely not" in response to whether Rob Henry's continued practicing with the first team should be read into. I think it's safe to say right now that Rob's the starter, barring something peculiar happening over the next week.
Today's speaker at practice is going to be Leroy Keyes, so hopefully the boys will be amped by that.
Again, though, I notice how serious Coach Hazell is when talking about how much work is left. He seems to be a man with a lot on his mind, yet still fully and unquestionably in control. And I've noted this before, but good coaches are always talking about what needs to improve. Nick Saban can be 11-0 and he'll talk in his press conference about the things they did wrong and the stuff they'll need to work on in practice. Same goes for guys like Pitino, Calipari, etc. Like them or not, and we really like none of those guys, the winners are never satisfied and never happy. Sure, that can wear on players, fans and media, but Danny Hope's routine where he could smile even after 40 point blowouts was infuriating.
Regardless, it's good to have camp back and see the boys all trying to get one brick higher.