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Boilers’ overhaul puts young players in key roles

Etling

– The changes in personnel for the Purdue football program make a dizzying laundry list.

It all happened in a few days, coach Darrell Hazell said, and the bye week between the Boilermakers’ game against Northern Illinois and its matchup Saturday against Nebraska turned into a full-fledged overhaul.

The changes started at the most important offensive position. Freshman quarterback Danny Etling is the new starter.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Rob Henry is now a safety.

“He can throw every ball,” Hazell said of Etling, the Terre Haute native, who will get the first start of his career against the Cornhuskers. “I watched him the other day throw an out cut across the field from the left hash to the right sideline on a line. That makes you cover the whole field defensively. When you start playing from sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line, you start involving your wide receivers, that creates issues for defenses.”

The 6-foot-3 freshman has a businesslike approach to the job that jibes with Hazell. The first-year coach joked that he worries his new starter might spend a bit too much time in the film room, dissecting his play and that of opposing defenses.

“It’s just tireless,” Hazell said. “He better be going to class.”

The move brought some life to a Purdue offense that is averaging 17 points per game, which is tied for 112th out of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The Boilermakers are 117th in total offense with 301.6 yards per game, all indicators to Hazell that a change needed to be made.

But that wasn’t the only switch. The Boilers will look different from the team that started the season 1-4 and 0-1 in the Big Ten.

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan Roos moved to starting right guard. Senior defensive tackle Bruce Gaston moved to defensive end, and freshman Ra’Zahn Howard will move up the depth chart in the middle.

Freshmen Evan Panfil and Jake Replogle will help out on the outside with senior defensive end Greg Latta hindered by a hamstring injury.

Freshman receiver Dan Monteroso is back from a broken collarbone and will likely take a prominent role in the passing game, as will DeAngelo Yancey, a freshman who had a career day with Etling at the helm in the second half against Northern Illinois.

For those keeping track, that makes seven first-year players who shift into key roles for the Boilermakers after the bye week. “Being able to play some of those younger guys gives those guys an opportunity to push some of those older guys,” Hazell said. “I think that drives the older guys to do better.”

Hazell said the inexperience could hurt against a team such as Nebraska (4-1, 1-1), but at the moment, it’s revitalized his squad.

Etling is a big part of that.

“We threw an incomplete pass yesterday to Danny Anthrop down the field about 45 yards, and the sideline erupted because they were excited we were able to throw the ball down the field,” Hazell said Tuesday. “Just those little things give you cues that, you know, guys are locked in a little bit more.”

Whether the new look means a better team will be determined Saturday.

“I think our energy’s a little bit better right now coming off some of the changes,” Hazell said. “It is. That’s real.”

Note: Hazell said junior safety Landon Feichter, a Bishop Dwenger grad, could be back from a broken leg suffered Sept. 7 as soon as Nov. 2 against Ohio State.

smorrison@jg.net

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