Darrell Hazell takes over as head coach of the Purdue Boilermakers and has some work to do to turn things around. Despite making a bowl game last season, Purdue is far from being considered a contender in the Big Ten. A major component to that turnaround will be a revitalized running game and juniors Akeem Hunt and Bradon Cottom will provide a one-two punch to get things going in 2013.
Purdue finished last season ranked No. 58 in rushing offense, averaging 164 yards per game in 2012. That won’t cut it under Hazell, whose Kent State Golden Flashes ranked as the No. 18 rushing team in the nation last year, averaging 226 yards per game. Finding playmakers to fit into his dynamic running scheme will be one of Hazell’s top priorities in spring practice.
That’s where Hunt and Cottom look to become major factors in 2013. They saw limited action last season, finishing No. 3 and 4 respectively among running backs in carries in 2012 behind Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden. Shavers and Bolden are both gone, leaving Hunt and Cottom as the senior members of the backfield.
Hunt, at 5-foot-9, 184 pounds, is the shifty speedster of the group. He finished second on the team in rushing yards last season, gaining 335 yards with two touchdowns. He was also an asset out of the backfield in the passing game, catching 13 passes for 204 yards and another two touchdowns. He showed off his big-play potential with an 81-yard touchdown scamper against the Wisconsin Badgers last fall, though Purdue lost the game 38-14.
Cottom, meanwhile, will act as the change of pace back for the Boilermakers. At 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, Cottom is built like a defensive end with running back speed. He carried the ball 23 times in 2012 for 209 yards, a 9.09 yards per rush average, and two touchdowns. He also showed nice hands in the passing game, catching seven passes for 79 yards with another pair of touchdowns.
Lightning and thunder, sizzle and steak, Flash and Gordon; whatever you want to call Hunt and Cottom, there’s no denying they will be key to what Purdue wants to do next season. Will their one-two combination be enough to take the Boilermakers’ running game over the top in 2013?