Darrell Hazell has had a little more than three months to get acclimated to his new surroundings and isn’t wasting any time getting down to the task at hand.
The new Purdue head coach inherits a program that’s fresh off back-to-back bowl appearances, but knows he’s in charge of a program that needs to become more competitive week in and week out.
Hazell has a handful of goals this offseason. He wants the Boilermakers to become a smart team. As he put it to ESPN.com, understanding “the whys and the reasons we’re doing things.
“We need to study the game and understand where all of our help is coming from.”
Goal No. 2 is ball security.
Goal No. 3 is playing outstanding special teams.
And last but not least is competing at a very high level no matter what the circumstances.
“I’m looking for a team that’s going to be very tough and battle no matter what the situation is, and win those close games,” Hazell told ESPN.com.
To help instill more toughness in a program that’s toughness wavered at best under former coach Danny Hope, Hazell has his players wearing “5%” t-shirts during 6 a.m. workouts.
The story behind those is requiring players to be five percent better in everything they do whether it’s five percent better in a rep, better than the previous day or five percent tougher.
Hazell wants improvement each and every day whether its the team’s early morning workouts or in spring practice, which begins later this month.
“If we’re getting give percent better on each rep, on each day, we’re going to continually get better,” said Hazell to ESPN.com.
Hazell isn’t necessarily fixated on building off of last year’s six-win season. In fact, he says he hasn’t gone back and even watched a snap from the 2012 season. Hazell was in attendance at Purdue’s blowout loss to Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and that sad showing was probably all he needed to see to let him know why Hope was fired and just how much work there is to be done.
It’s hard not to be impressed with Hazell. He’s a straight shooter, very good recruiter and took a Kent State program that had no success for decades and turned it into a winner.
Now his ultimate goal is to get Purdue back to the Rose Bowl, a place the Boilermakers haven’t been since the 2000 season. No doubt that’s a lofty goal, one that certainly won’t be achieved overnight, but with Hazell in charge of the Purdue program, Boilermaker fans can take solace in knowing a solid foundation is being laid, one that in time very well could make the program a consistent winner once again.
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.