Purdue coach Darrell Hazell went with the sure thing.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Rob Henry didn’t have the best arm of the bunch battling to start Aug. 31 at Cincinnati. He, like the rest of Purdue’s quarterbacks, had his bad days during camp.
But what the 6-foot-2 Florida native lacked, he made up for in experience and consistency.
His poise was evident from Day One, Hazell said after making his announcement Sunday. Everyone in the room looks up to him.
And that’s what the Boilermakers need right now.
Hazell’s first year will be a trying experiment. There will be bumps in the road, from a schedule that includes seven games against teams either in or receiving votes in the Top 25 preseason polls by The Associated Press and USA Today.
Now, at least one question is answered. What this program needs in Year One is consistency, someone or something that the team can count on as everything around it shifts.
Henry is that guy.
I’m excited to be the starting quarterback, but I’m more excited to see what we can do as a team, he told reporters in West Lafayette. Being the starting quarterback at a place like Purdue, it’s kind of a big deal.
Freshman Danny Etling and redshirt freshman Austin Appleby gave Henry some tough competition. Although they have less experience, they have better arms, which fits well with the deep throw-heavy offensive system John Shoop and Hazell want to run.
But Etling made too many mistakes during camp, and Appleby surged but not quite enough.
The Purdue system doesn’t need a big-play quarterback. It needs a player who can manage a game, avoid mistakes and provide consistency.
At this juncture, with so many questions left to answer, Purdue needs Henry.
He’s hungry, Hazell said. And there’s something to be said about that.
Henry showed promise during a 2010 season when he became the first Boilermaker to lead the team in rushing and passing yards in a season.
He earned co-captaincy of the 2011 squad but suffered a season-ending injury before the first game.
And last season, he sat behind Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush, waiting for his turn.
He finally got it.
This season will be Henry’s last. He wants to make it count. And that, coupled with Henry’s abilities and consistency, made him the right choice for Purdue’s noon opener Aug. 31.
This season will be a fresh start for Purdue fans, and in many ways for Henry after four topsy-turvy years.
And with the season fast approaching, Hazell and his Boilermakers have one less thing to worry about.
I’m excited, Henry said. I feel good about it. Our goal is to be sitting here in 14 days and be 1-0.
Note: Hazell announced during his news conference Sunday that sophomore wide receiver Danny Anthrop injured his left MCL and will be out for six to eight weeks.