Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Our First Look at Spring Ball

What a day- watched practice on the field in Mollenkopf, enjoyed a healthy meal at TripleXXX, had the best seats I've ever had for a Purdue basketball game...let's not talk about how that ended; let's stay positive.

Thanks to our pal Joe who scored me a box seat...and Purdue's security who let my son sit on my lap or stand in front of me for the entire contest...The perspective of looking at the players at eye level a few feet from the out of bounds line was awesome.  I understand why all the rich guys don't like cheering down there...wait a second, no I don't.  I loved the fact that officials heard every complaint and Sandi reacted when I urged him on...loved that I could gaze longingly admire coach Ryne Smith's tenacity up close...sitting down low is definitely where I belong.  So wealthy benefactors, for the best possible coverage, keep the club seats coming.  I kid...or do I?

Alright, back to the important stuff.  My Purvis burger was cooked to perfection and the onion rings were on point as well...

Alright, the really important stuff...we're finally moving on to football.

I had read practice reports from J&C and Gold and Black, but seeing things in person is even better.

LBD and I got to talk at length with Josh Johnson about what he's been up to and how the new staff compares to the one that just left.  He said the practice methodology was closer to the philosophy of Coach Higgins than Hope- high-paced, station-based, timed sections of practiced designed to get individual groups chances to work on fundamentals.

QBs worked on getting their drops right and keeping the ball high...WRs, RBs and TEs ran a ton of seam routes that are easy for the QB to throw, but difficult for the receiver to catch. Lineman blasted off of the ball, changed direction quickly.  In larger group sessions, defensive intensity was notably high. There even seems to be a touch of intersquad rivalry between the two sides of the ball.  Veterans like Ricardo Allen were pissed if they didn't make plays, on the other side, Gary Bush showed some emotion when not effectively finishing plays.

One notable difference from the offense was the tightend was verrrrry important, it seemed. Sinz, Holmes, Curry, Carvajal and Carter were all active and had the ball in their hands a lot. A few things stood out to me about this group- Carvajal is still ginormous.  Among tall men, he's nearly a head taller. Curry has a ton of tools in the shed- good hands, runs hard and quick feet. And Holmes looks like he's working very hard and has a sense of urgency (finally). I like the corps of TEs a lot.

The big WRs seem to be the most active. Macarthy, Mikesky and Torwudzu, specifically stuck out to me. The out routes thrown to a spot obviously favor guys with big bodies who can block out a DB.  I haven't seen the entire offense, but if this practice is any indicator, bigger possession receivers are going to be imperative.

Watching the RBs, I didn't get to see a ton...but what I did see was Akeem Hunt seems to be one of the fastest guys on the field. Curry (who seemed to play a bit of RB and TE) and Cottom both look like bruising backs that might fit on a Wisconsin squad...I liked watching both in drills as they blasted through stations.

The QBs look like this: At this point, it's a two-horse race. Appleby and Henry both are pretty accurate, both feel pressure well, both look the part. In two step drop drills, they're the guys who are the most consistent. In 7-on-7, they were the guys who had the grasp of where to throw it to keep it away from DBs. Henry is an obvious leader and seems to do the little things and is clearly the best runner of the group right now.  Appleby has the best mechanics and is by far the most accurate passer. BUT, Marshall seems to throw a very catchable ball, if that makes sense...but his don't have a ton of zip on them. Berzynskas surprised me as much as anyone; big guy, good mechanics and looked accurate. I heard Shoop telling him that if he does things the right way, has a real chance of earning a schollie (during a drill). Etling looks like a guy whose head is spinning a bit...floats the ball a lot during drills and in 7-on-7.  Decent mechanics and footwork...I fully expect him to redshirt this fall and compete next spring...I also still expect Appleby to start; and think Henry should be on the field somewhere; he's too good of an athlete, too good of a leader, not to be utilized heavily.

I'm biased; Appleby, once again took time to talk to LBD and even gave him a memento of the visit to practice; really like this kid. I re-introduced us to him...reminded him that we met a year ago in Mackey and had "talked" on Twitter; he remembered before I was done speaking. My boy is kind of tough to forget though, I believe...once again though, I'm terribly biased.

Sean Robinson is a guy that I'm still kind of taken back by- I spent a bit of time with he and his Dad a few years ago, after a game that he started.  Granted, I didn't go out to eat with them, but was just near them...and remember how he looked and acted. He is a different guy- looks like a defensive player...bigger, stronger, meaner...should be an anchor for the defense. Gillium also looked good at LB.

The offensive line is a gaggle of massive men...probably the biggest corps of Olineman that I can remember (at least those that I've been able to see up close). They all seem to be working hard on getting their hands on the guys on the other side of the ball and firing quickly.

Coach Freeman looks like he not only could, but should suit up for Purdue in the fall.

...sorry for the rapid fire thoughts; I took no notes...
New Boiler Head Coach with grizzled
Boiler vet, LBD

Finally, my quick first meeting with Coach Hazell-

I actually met his son first...and if an intermediate school kid is a reflection of his Dad as a man, Hazell is doing a fine job. His son shook my hand (good hand shake)- looked me in the eye and introduced himself...seemed poised like his Pop.

Darrell Hazell is a very engaging guy- I liked him from the articles and TV interviews, liked him even more in person. Where as Hope was likable because of his lack of polish, Hazell's easy to like because of his poise and perceived thoughtfulness...Seems to take time to really look someone in the eye and listen.  We only spoke for a few seconds, but I was impressed and am more of a fan than I was when the day started.

He also has the practices running in a way that clearly reflect his personality- orderly yet energetic, cerebral yet fast-paced. Purdue's new football regime is only a few practices in...and they have already began to change the culture, in my opinion. Gabe Holmes might be the biggest emblem of the change to me...getting veterans to change attitudes and buy into a new system is a big deal.

I might get to one more practice before the B/G game...might not...all depends on my stupid job.  If I do, I'll be back here to let you know what I see/hear.


BoilerWhat said...

Thanks to everyone at BS for the bball season coverage. I just can't see how a result like this indicates anything other than a shake up of the roster. Did you hear anything of the sort during your visit?

Coach Hazell is refreshing. Excited to see the change in culture next year, but am afraid the schedule is just too tough. Who doesn't like a good surprise?

Purdue Matt said...

Hope's lack of polish didn't make him likeable for me. Made him seem like a moron in over his head.

Purdue Matt said...

Thanks for the report. I like what I hear about Hazell and the culture change.

boilerdowd said...

Matt- did you ever meet Hope? It was pretty easy, while talking to the guy, to see why players liked him...rambled a bit at times though.

Anonymous said...

I'm very encouraged by your observations and other reports I've read. Seems to me the added attention to detail and discipline has to translate to wins. At least not looking grossly unprepared on Saturdays.

Don't mean to rain on the parade at this early date, but I remember hearing the same things out of Detroit when Marinelli took over there. Same kind of deal, strucutred practices, no more BS, accountability, etc. Then they went 0-16. Now those were "pros", and maybe it rubbed them the wrong way.

Maybe zlionsfan could comment?

Wilson06 said...

I have followed the changes for this team very closely and am excited. I feel like this team has a chance to be very competitive not only in the future, but hopefully this year also. I feel like the attention to detail and the consequences for screwing up will pay dividends for this team. I felt like that was a big missing part of our teams since Hope had been the coach. I also feel like several of the close games in the past few years would have, or could have very well been wins with better coaching decisions (timeouts and such).

I still feel that this upcoming season's success will rest solely on how quickly our QB spot develops. If I am a betting man, I would guess its Henry at the start, Appleby very close 2nd, and Etling redshirts.

Hazell knows we are inexperienced at QB, and is showing that in practice by practicing easy routes for the QB to throw, but more difficult on the receivers/tightends to catch. We will be using several RB's and the playbook will look a lot different than what we have seen in the recent years past. He loves hybrid style players and I think we will definitely be a hybrid offense. He will play to the strengths of the team, not his personal preference.

I could be completely wrong, and that is fine, but I am extremely hopeful for this team and coaching staff.

As a coach myself, getting players to buy in is the #1 goal. With Hazell he not only had to get the players, but also all his staff. I feel that he has done a fantastic job of that and has everyone on board!

I hope for the best! I am a Boilermaker through and through!

Ill see you all in the Furnace! BTFU and POTFH!

AZBoiler said...

It's good to hear the "playbook will look a lot different then what we have seen in recent years...". Nordfense consisted of 5 plays (1 being punt) on a twister wheel, spun while Nord drinks Zimas until he's giggly.

J Money said...

Looking at the photo in this post again, I find myself thinking, "Yes, AJ, that's exactly where you should be shooting from against a team without any bigs nearly as talented as you."