Don’t be surprised if new Purdue Boilermakers coach Darrell Hazell really pushes the youth movement in West Lafayette.
When Purdue kicks off its 2013 season, it might do so with an extremely young backfield.
Several starting spots are up for grabs as Hazell prepares for his first spring at Purdue, and two of those are quarterback and running back.
With starters Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush exhausting their eligibility, the answer at quarterback may be true freshman Danny Etling.
Etling was the highest-rated recruit Hazell signed in his first recruiting class last month. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder from Terre Haute, Ind., considered one of the top-10 pro-style quarterbacks in the Class of 2013, is already enrolled at Purdue and since he will participate in spring practice when the Boilermakers open spring drills March 19, he’ll have a good shot at cracking the starting lineup.
Etling, who was one of 25 high school quarterbacks in the country invited to the prestigious Elite 11 event, is a big, strong kid, who can make all the throws necessary to excel at the big-time level.
If Etling doesn’t emerge as the clear cut favorite under center this spring, Hazell may turn to veteran returnee Rob Henry. Henry is an athletic quarterback who is better running the football than throwing. Finding out exactly how Henry fits into Hazell’s offensive philosophy won’t be known until the 15 spring practices.
The Boilermakers also don’t have the luxury of much experience returning at running back. As a result, the four ball carriers that were signed about a month ago will have an excellent opportunity to see the field early in their collegiate careers and possibly could even start.
Hazell signed four running backs, including David Yancey, Dalyn Dawkins, Keyante Green and Keith Byars II. Yes, Byars’ name should ring a bell considering he’s the son of former Ohio State and NFL running back Keith Byars.
Yancey is the odds-on-favorite to see the field early considering he also enrolled early at Purdue and will take part in spring drills.
All four backs provide Hazell a variety of backs to choose from.
Byars has a high motor and is physical. Dawkins’ forte is his speed, who can go the distance every time he touches the ball. Green is another physical force who is difficult to bring down. Yancey is both physical and fast, plus he knows the game having played quarterback, and you might see him lined up in the slot this fall.
Whoever Hazell goes with in his backfield, they’ll need to better the production Purdue got from those positions in 2012.
The Boilermakers didn’t have a top-10 rusher in the Big Ten and didn’t have a top-five quarterback.
If Hazell opts to go real young in the backfield, his team won’t have much success in Year One, but things don’t look too promising for the Boilermakers in 2013 anyway when you consider the key pieces that need replaced and the daunting schedule that lies ahead.
All things considered, Purdue may takes its lumps initially by choosing to go young, but doing so could pay off down the road.
Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.