If you ask around, opinions vary greatly on whom will start at QB for our Boilers at Cincy.
Boiler Sports Report's Chris Emma thinks Etling's the man. A few of the people at Gold and Black think it's Henry's job...the guy that's most important seems to believe the race is still wide-open; So I'm taking him at his word.
Plus, I got to talk to a few players today after practice...and they have their opinions.
For the first time this fall, I had the chance to go to Purdue and see this year's team for myself...and as usual, my alma mater hosted me quite well.
Before I even had the chance to assess the team, I got to speak to my pal, former Purdue assistant basketball coach, Micah Shrewsberry (who was watching practice with his oldest son). Since I used to live in the Boston area, we talked about his upcoming move; based on what he said, he seems very ready and is excited to wear Celtic green. I asked if he had any pause when the opportunity presented itself to him; he said, "none."
I tried to draw a parallel with my industry...but really couldn't. He's getting to live out a dream. His family's excited for a new chapter as well...as I said when his departure was announced; you can't blame him. But at the same time, I know he'll be missed by the players, Painter and fans like me who know him.
Alright, back to football.
From what I could see, which was admittedly tough to discern, Appleby, Henry and Etling all shuffled quite a bit with the ones and twos...They all looked good at times. It did seem like Henry took the most snaps, at least today, with the ones.
After practice, I talked with Appleby at length...not as a guy with a Purdue site, but as a fan who really likes him as a representative of Purdue. What I'll tell you is he feels like he's making up ground each day. From what I saw, I'd agree...but I'm biased. He also talked a bit about how much he still appreciates that Hope stuck with him through his injury in HS...but continued saying how great he thinks the new staff is. He called Hazell "the general" and "the boss" and said when the head coach walks into a meeting room, guys kind of straighten up out of respect; not because they have to, but just as an automatic response...good insight. He also said Hazell's attention to detail has been incredible; he seems to think of every contingency.
Minutes later, I got to talk to Rob Henry while passing through Mollenkopf. As you've probably read during this camp, he seemed as confident and steady off the field as he's looked on the field. One interesting thing he told me was that he's not sure the NCAA will allow him to petition for a sixth season...but is looking into it.
What I observed is that Purdue's offense is going to make matching up a nightmare for DCs, regardless of which QB gets the nod. The motion we saw in the spring is more complex, more plentiful and more innovative. One of the things that stuck out to me was how much Patrick Bade caught the ball in this offense. He's clearly taking advantage of the situation that's been handed to him. He looks big...not like a basketball player in football pads, but a really tall TE. He ran very well after the catch, blocked well too.
Akeem Hunt had a few plays in which he simply disappeared in the middle of the field and popped out of the havoc and left the defense. Once again, it won't matter who's quarterback if he can stay healthy all season...he'll do some damage to opposing defenses.
A few of his fellow RBs were noteworthy in person too- I really paid attention to Byars and Green because I had seen video of them- they're both put together like Juniors...and run hard and finish plays well. Plus, Byars has the best damned flat-top I've seen in a grip.
Freytag plays with the reclessness of Carlino a few seasons ago...or kinda like Mike Rose a few more ago...when he's setting up the halfback, the "pop" is not only audible, but you can kinda feel it
My favorite play of the day was made by BJ Knauf who went up over a DB (can't remember whom) to catch a deep post jump ball across the middle. He really ripped it out of the air with the defender all over him.
Appleby surveys while in the pocket, Coach Freeman leads from the sideline
I'm not going to tell you I didn't think it was Anthrop who made the catch initially...but after a second, I noticed that it was 83, not 33...and he's a bit thicker than Anthrop. BUT, Purdue has more white receivers in the mix than I can ever remember. It doesn't really matter other than I can't tell one guy from another...because I don't know all of their numbers yet.
On the other side of the ball, I noted that Allen wasn't playing as much as I thought he would...didn't look like it had anything to do with injury...nor was it a sign that he wouldn't be contributing as much.
The defense is super-vocal between and during plays. They seem to being having a good time...and really like getting after the offense and special teams players; lots of trash talk, and they're mean- good mean...football nasty, I guess, but funny at the same time.
My favorite comment was from the defensive sideline when McCartney prepared to kick a 30-something yard field goal...someone yelled, "You can't kick McCartney." It was funny at the time...and I laughed to keep myself from crying, knowing how lousy the FG units have been during camp. Sure, they're both Sophomores...unfortunately, the competition won't give credit for close-enough because they're still youngish.
For the first time, I got to meet and speak with Duane Carlisle...I even got to go into his office. He actually took the picture of my brother, nephew, son and I, with Akeem Hunt (posted earlier on Twitter). He's a really nice guy; clearly likes what he's doing...likes the direction of the program and has chosen to stay at Purdue in spite of offers from NFL teams to go back to the league. Plus, from the looks of the players he's doing a good job; guys look big, strong and fast.
There are some really good things about reading comments and articles and watching videos about football practice- the info is succinct and easy to sift through, and you don't have to smell the mix of mildew and sweat that surrounds shoulder pads at the end of a hard practice. BUT, you also can't really get a feel of what's happening at the program until you've been there yourself.
This coaching staff gets it. They know they're fighting a PR battle. They've seemingly told all players to talk to everyone who's come to see practice...as players and coaches alike seemed not only welcoming, but went out of their way to be friendly to us as we walked around the football complex following practice. Players joked around with us as they soaked in the ice bath in the pit near IAC and coaches explained why they believe this transition will work out well as the new culture of Purdue football is adopted. There's no way they knew that I write on a fansite...I don't generally advertise that info; they're trying to change hearts and minds, one at a time; it's working.