The light at the end of my tunnel is definitely a train.
Media Day, if nothing else is the light at the end of the tunnel- summer is almost over...we don't need to continue to pretend to care about the Tour of France, draft boards from blowhards, every human interest story in sports trade rumors in multiple sports. College football is now officially closer. We can almost...almost smell it.
My favorite thing I heard at the yearly event was Hazell say this:
“I told them it’s going to take a lot of work, but we’re going to climb out of the middle and put this program on national prominence for a long time.”
Now here are some other statements/stories of note from Chicago...
The State of Purdue
We refer to Indiana as the state of Purdue, but Coach Hazell says the State of Purdue is actually a six state region. He didn't detail which states were the ones that he called essential to Purdue's future as a program focused on national relevence, but I'd guess (based on offers that have been handed out) that the obvious states of Indiana, Ohio and Illinois are the obvious three, but Florida, Texas and Georgia are also focal points, it seems.
Hazell wants to have 8-10 verbal commitments each season before school starts...right now, his program has eight and there will probably be two more before the end of August; solid planning, I guess.
"About his business"
Gabe Holmes says structure and discipline are notably different under this coaching staff...not much of a surprise there. Holmes continued by calling Coach Haze "a man about his business"...meaning he's focused. Seems congruent with what he shows the public.
Ricardo Allen was dressed in a bowtie, a coat and thick-rimmed glasses...but said he felt very comfortable with the program, the new direction and his role within it. Hazell can't wait to have him leading the defensive backfield full-time, without injury. Hazell really loves Allen's ability to deliver big hits in spite of his size. When Allen was asked about the Pac12's limitation of hitting for camps and practices, he said it's really like "7 on 7 out there for them"...saying that they pass the ball so much more the B1G. Conversely, he expressed the importance of B1G defenses being able to tackle and be very comfortable hitting since there is so much running in the conference. The last thing that he said that was noteworthy to me was that he's looking forward to the Notre Dame and aOSU games most...didn't give a political answer of how all games are worth just one win; liked that.
Bruce Gaston said Purdue will be disciplined and nasty...kinda like BS's J money...but different at the same time. He said the team seems more focused as a unit and they all are like-minded in their goals; that was one of his biggest points of difference between Hazell's team v. Hopes.
All three players talked about how excited and positive the team is...two of them talked about how much competition there is during drills and in the weight room.
Happy and Lucky to be a Part of This.
Holmes, Allen and Gaston all made sure to tell members of the media how lucky they felt to be a part of the program right now...and Hazell said having players that really want to be at Purdue was essential to the program's success. Hazell started his remarks in the big room by focusing on Purdue being named as one of the 50-best academic institutions in the world. If you were here a little over a week ago, you saw the photo posted by Chuck T (Torwudzu) that alluded to the importance of academics.
Signage, changing the feel of the meeting rooms and offices as well as the locker room has clearly been another one of Hazell's high points of interest. He said sending a message to the team from the first day, that it was going to be different was very important...also said an atmosphere of encouragement and honesty was imperative for the program to move forward.
Encouragement, at least to the public was never a problem for the previous coaching staff, but in hindsight, it seems honesty wasn't always prevalent.
Battle is not over.
Hazell talked about how the QB battle is still a three-way competition...but Gabe Holmes hinted that it's really the two-man battle that we saw toward the end of the Spring. Regardless, I like the candidates and what they bring to the table.
In a related story, Bilal Marshall has been moved over to WR. EJ Johnson has also been moved to WR (from DB).
Other personnel notes
Hazell says that Macarthy is nearly healthy and will be ready by camp to, at least, go through limited drills. He continued by saying that he wants and needs Macarthy to be at 100%, playing at his ideal weight and strength. When asked about trying to keep guys healthy during practice, Hazell said his goal is always to have the best players starting; that obviously means keeping guys healthy.
Brandon Taylor, who was projected to back up Bruce Gaston will not be playing in the fall. He is the sole academic casualty on the team.
Hazell and the players alike said most of the team is very healthy and in a good position as official practice gets closer.
...This is awkward...
When Hazell was in front of the podium, he represented himself and the university well...no question about that. But, the B1G staff running the meetings struggled a bit. It seems they couldn't always find the members of the media who wanted to ask questions. The end result was some awkward pauses and scans of the crowd by Hazell and other coaches. Not a big deal...it just was kind of odd.