Big Ten Team Previews: Purdue


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Purdue’s 2013 season was, to put it lightly, less than ideal. Head coach Darrell Hazell’s first year in West Lafayette ended with the team going 1-11 — including a 0-8 showing against Big Ten competition.

The coach admitted as much during the 2014 Big Ten media days in late July. But he said this year should be different, if only because it’s another year in his system, which, he hopes, translates to comfort and confidence.

“Obviously, we didn’t finish as well as we’d like to last year,” Hazell said. “There are a lot of things for improvement. But I think this is the time where you rip off the rearview mirror and you take a look at what’s in front of you and all the things that we need to do to be successful in this 2014 season.

“We’ve got a great locker room right now, and I can’t be more proud of our guys and how hard they’ve worked to put themselves in position to be successful for this campaign.”

Purdue finished at the bottom in a lot of statistical categories in 2013. The Boilermakers were last in the Big Ten in scoring offense, total offense, and rushing offense, second-to-last in scoring defense, and third-to-last in total defense and rushing defense.

The one thing Purdue did moderately well last season — something Hazell is hoping improves even further in 2014 — was throw the ball. The Danny Etling-led passing attack ranked sixth in the conference at 215.8 passing yards per game (better than both Ohio State and Michigan State, by the way).

The offense, said running-back Raheem Mostert, struggled at times to understand and execute plays last year, which led to the abysmal numbers. He said another year in the system would bode well for the unit.

“We lacked last year,” on offense, he said. “We’ve really focused on those key things, those key elements, that makes for a great formula, in winning. We feel as though we made great strides in the off-season and will continue to make great strides during the season.

“There’s definitely a different vibe to coach. He’s the same coach as last year, but he has a whole different mentality. The coaching staff has a whole different mentality. It’s just carrying over to us. They want us to succeed and to strive to become great.”

Hazell said a lot of the struggles from last year came because “there was so much learning that has to happen in that first year, how you want things done.” He and his players believe this year will be different — and by that, they mean they’ll be better.

Last year, when Hazell first met with the team, linebacker Sean Robinson said, the coach really submitted himself to the team. Hazell let the players know he supported them, both on and off the field.

A lot of players bought into what Hazell was preaching, Robinson said, and he believes that last year’s pain will serve as a motivation to win more games in 2014.

“We have an older group of guys on the team,” Robinson said. “They’ve been in the program for four or five years, and they’ve seen some ups and downs, and they know what it takes to be successful in the Big Ten.

“But Hazell gets his players to play for him, and that’s huge.”

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