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Purdue QBs transition to translation

Adapting to coaches’ terms could decide who gets start

– The Purdue quarterback battle could be decided by who can best master Darrell Hazell’s language.

Hazell, along with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John Shoop, created a lengthy call system for the Boilermakers. While on-field ability is the No. 1 barometer, the starter on opening day Aug. 31 – be it senior Rob Henry, freshman Danny Etling or redshirt freshman Austin Appleby – an understanding of the calls and concepts will also be key.

“Our playbook is pretty extensive right now, and we throw a lot at them,” Hazell said at Purdue’s media day on Sunday.

“There’s a lot of shifting and motioning, but the language is long. The call is extremely long, and sometimes you got to process the whole call: the shifts in the plays and the motions and all the different position tags that are on the call.”

That should help the Boilermakers protect their calls, but it also makes study a necessity.

Not that the quarterbacks mind; the extra study is part of winning the job.

“As it goes along, just like it did in the spring, we’ll get used to it,” Henry said. “We’ll be able to execute.”

That has run true from the first preseason practice to now.

Each of Purdue’s potential starters has gotten a bit more used to the system, and the staff is keeping the whole playbook open during camp. There’s no pulling punches, even for Etling, who is in his first fall college camp.

“Obviously, I need to get better, and I think all the quarterbacks need to get better at little things here and there,” said the Terre Haute native, who joined the team in the spring as an early enrollee. “I think all the quarterbacks look great, honestly. I think everyone’s really composed, and we’re all doing great things when we get out there.”

There have been mistakes, the three admitted. Henry called the first practice of the fall terrible for the quarterbacks. But the improvement since is notable.

“We came out Day One shaking the rust off,” Appleby said. “I still got a long way to go. I can only control what I can control. I’m not counting my reps, but I’m going to make my reps count.”

The competition for the No. 1 spot has been a top storyline during camp.

The quarterbacks are under the microscope at each practice, and Etling admitted that whether he was with the ones, twos or threes would make him worry the first few times out.

Now, he knows it doesn’t matter. The position is a toss-up, and whoever wins it will have earned it.

“There’s no room for selfishness here,” Etling said. “Whoever’s with the ones, whoever’s with the twos, whoever’s with the threes that particular day, we’re focused on how we’re going to get our guys in the right spot and how are we going to throw completions.”

That is important for Hazell.

Along with the language of the offense, the staff has made preventing turnovers a priority.

“The ball’s the program,” Appleby said. “If you look throughout college football, or any football, the teams that have the best turnover margin are the teams that are playing for championships. Our quarterback is going to be the guy that takes care of the ball the best.”

And that will be the guy, both in practice and the playbook, who can decipher what Hazell is telling him.

smorrison@jg.net

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