The Purdue Boilermakers land at No. 69 in our Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football season preview. Coming off a disappointing season in 2012, the Boilermakers enter 2013 in transition with new head coach Darrell Hazell taking over the reins. There is a new-found enthusiasm among fans due to the hiring of Hazell and the return of eight defensive and seven offensive starters.
Hazell won’t be the only new face in a prominent position as Purdue is likely to feature a true freshman quarterback in Danny Etling. He won’t be handed the job as senior Rob Henry returns and will push for the job, but he has never been a full time quarterback and is more effective as an offensive weapon.
Last year’s leading rusher Akeem Shavers graduated but another Akeem, Akeem Hunt, returns after averaging 8.0 yards on 42 carries last season. Seniors O.J. Ross and Gary Bush will enter the 2013 season as the top receiving options after combining for 97 catches and 814 yards in 2012.
Along the offensive line, three starters return in tackles Justin Kitchens and Kevin Pamphile and guard Robert Kugler, but they’ll have to replace the departed Peters Drey and Rick Schmeig. Replacing Schmeig will be especially crucial as he was the center and responsible for making the offensive line calls.
Purdue will have to fill the giant void left by Kawann Short, who moved on to the NFL, but they do return First Team All-Big Ten defensive back Ricardo Allen. Though the loss of Short will hurt, the Boilermakers return the other three starting defensive lineman from last season in Bruce Gaston, Ryan Isaac and Ryan Russell.
At linebacker, three players with playing experience return, with senior Will Lucas expected to take over the leadership role on defense. In the defensive backfield, Allen returns along with both starting safeties from 2012 in Landon Feichter and Taylor Richards, but they’ll have to find a replacement at cornerback for 2012 All-Big Ten Honorable Mention Josh Robinson.
The Boilermakers start the season off with a bang playing at Cincinatti and hosting Notre Dame in their third game before opening up Big Ten play at Wisconsin. They also have a grueling three-game stretch in which they play Nebraska at home, travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State and host Ohio State. They will also play Penn State in Happy Valley later in the season.
With that schedule, it’s hard to see Purdue making a bowl game in 2013, but new coach Hazell could spark the team to a few unexpected wins.