FORT WAYNE – Purdue coach Darrell Hazell has made a point of getting fans involved throughout his first spring with the program.
Today will be his biggest showcase: the Boilermakers’ spring game.
It will help him learn a bit more about what his team has to offer in the fall, as well.
I wanted our community to feel like they’re involved in our football team, Hazell said. I think guys will play harder when there’s people playing on the sidelines.
The game will start at 1 p.m. and has no admission fee. The rosters were set Wednesday, with plenty of hemming and hawing from players as team leaders drafted position by position for the Black and Gold squads.
The players are excited to compete in front of a slightly more sizeable crowd than at recent scrimmages, projected starting quarterback Rob Henry said. The game is also another opportunity to get accustomed to what the coaches expect and what the players need to improve on.
We’re all kind of adjusting to a new system, so it’s going to continue to get better, Henry said after a scrimmage Saturday. I think we’re slowly getting there.
While the defense has made some mental errors throughout the spring in live action, it has also shown an ability to tackle well – and hard. Sophomore defensive back Frankie Williams has been among the best in that regard, and he said he expects that growth to continue today and into the rest of the offseason.
It all starts in practice, Williams said. Just going out in practice, being consistent, staying focused and working on our technique.
A big part of that renewed focus, Henry said, has been a young, energized staff that isn’t afraid to assert new standards. The fifth-year senior has been a beneficiary of the new approach.
They’re just demanding a lot out of us, each and every individual, Henry said. That’s what we need. We need to be pushed, we need to be able to know the ins and outs of our assignments and not have any mental errors.
The game today will be a chance for Hazell, and the rest of the staff, to drive home their message. It will also be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network website and shown on the network at 9 p.m. Monday.
I think we’ve made major improvements in the last 3 1/2 weeks, Hazell said. There’s a little bit of a learning curve in the first couple weeks, and you’re really seeing guys start to get comfortable in the last five or six practices.