I've read what you have- whether the Journal and Courier or Gold and Black...and listened to what you've heard- whether via the BTN's scant coverage of our Boilers or Indy and Fort Wayne affiliates talking about our Boilers. But earlier today, I finally took the 1.5 hour journey to watch our Boilers play with themselves in a scrimmage...that is against themselves. As LBD surmised, Purdue ended the day 1-1. Five more days like this, and they're going bowling! And that's kind of the problem with scrimmage and practice reports...always has been. We can revel in successes or hang our collective heads about the failure or missed play on the other side of the ball...either way, it's just kind of silly to read too much into camp/practice reports on the heels of what we've watched the last two seasons.
For the last week to ten days, my outlook was a bit dark. Gold and Black made it sound like the offense was flat-out lousy. Appleby missing a lot of passes and the first string OL flat-out getting whooped by the defensive front. I didn't see much evidence of either of those problems today...but here's a quick synopsis:
Appleby looks like the starter to me...and I think Hazell might already know it. He takes more snaps with/against the ones than Blough, and has throughout camp/practice. That said, Blough is nifty at times. He's quicker, goes through his progressions fast and has a notably-faster release. BUT, he makes mistakes...that younger guys make. He threw two picks today. And if your pre-season fan stinger is sharp, you know that Coach Shoop wants his QBs perfect. Interceptions are far from that.
Appleby looks improved, but his delivery is a bit slower than both Blough and Sindelar's. He looks a bit like a baseball player with his windup...coincidentally, he was a pretty damned good baseball player in HS, and it kinda shows. Is his motion a huge problem? Maybe not if his pre-snap reads are fast and accurate...and he prides himself in being a film room junkie.
Regardless of who was playing QB today, the receivers helped out MUCH more than we've seen the past two seasons. From JuCo newcomers Mahoungou and Young to veterans like Montoroso and Posey...Purdue's receivers are catching the ball consistently. And let's keep in mind that Anthrop was held out today. Remember waaaaaaaay back to late last season when Purdue's offense absolutely fell apart in Anthrop's absence? It looks like the JuCo WR additions and a better between-the-tackles running game might help the Boilers O not fall off the cliff in the case of another skilled player injury.
Speaking of running backs, the stable looks quite solid. The reports of that are accurate. DJ Knox is a fire hydrant filled with explosives. He hits holes quickly, is shifty-enough, quick-enough...but NOBODY gets their pad level lower than him. He deals out some pop when finishing runs. We didn't get to see a ton of him today, but what we did was impressive. Behind him, Markell Jones looks like the real deal to me. His vision is very good, and even though he clearly isn't completely comfortable with the offense, he's still a very good running back. His upside, even in this season, is massive. Green and Worship both looked solid, but the soon-to-be redshirted Freshman might battle to start next fall, if today was any indicator. Tario Fuller had a late drive that was pretty much all him. Granted, he was working against 2s and 3s...but so were a few of his fellow RBs in other drives, and they didn't do what he did.
A few personnel quick-hitters:
Anthrop was dressed, but didn't play a down. Bentley neither dressed nor played. Panfil was a force at times. I haven't had this confirmed by anyone in the program yet, but I think Shane Mikesky played TE...and looked good as a pass-catching end (I've been waiting for the Zionsville product to 'blossom' for years). Gelen Robinson was dressed, but I don't think he played (he looks massive). Trae Hart reminded me of a young Stubblefield on a few plays the way he smartly ran routes and avoided hits after the catch. Jimmy Herman didn't play, but was dressed. Danny E was injured, but from what I've heard, it's not serious (easy for me to say). Howard looks like he's lost weight...but looks massive in the #14 jersey. Griggs isn't really built like a kicker anymore, but still blasts the ball like one. Antoine Miles might be the rush end Purdue has wanted and needed for a few seasons as his first step is super-quick.
I spoke with Appleby and Williams at length after the game, and both are optimistic for different reasons. AA thinks this offense has more tools in the quiver than its had since he's been a threat to start. The reason for that seems multi-faceted- the OLine is better and more experienced, the receivers are more sure-handed, and everyone seems to understand their role now...finally.
Williams likes the other DBs around him and is confident in the play makers in the defensive backfield. He also thinks the LBs and ends might be a bit saltier when it comes to getting to the QB...which will help make his job easier. Both of these guys, and every player that I got to talk to after the game was impressive...as was their coach.
I needed to go today to remind me why I need to be in Ross-Ade for the home opener against ISU. This is a likable bunch...and progress is being made. How much? Like I said earlier, I really don't know. But, I've been to practices, scrimmages and games during the Hazell era...and the team looked more organized and sharp than it had. Does that mean 5 wins or 7? I'd lean toward 5 still...but my skeptical, cynical, sarcastic side is still awfully loud when the voices come out.
Would I consider 5 wins as a successful season because Hazell and the players are likable, hard-working guys? No.
But dammit, like you, I'm ready to see fun football. I don't care if it's a nasty defense that hits hard or is just sure-tackling, a clock-controlling running game or an aerial attack like a Mark Hermann, Jim Everett or Drew Brees-led offense...I just wanna see something...anything good.
One note- I really thought the loss of Mostert and Hunt would be absolutely crippling to the offense...it seems it might not be. The stable of traditional running backs looks to be a good fit with what Hazell and Shoop want to do...we'll see how that plays in real action, in just two weeks.