College football: Coach Darrell Hazell enjoying honeymoon period at Purdue
By John Mutka Post-Tribune senior correspondent May 23, 2013 9:02PM
Purdue Head Football Coach Darrell Hazell signs an autograph for Colton Garzella, 8, as his cousins look on during the Purdue Coaches Caravan at the Radisson Hotel Thursday, May 23, 2013, in Merrillville, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 25, 2013 6:35AM
MERRILLVILLE — They call it the honeymoon period.
“It” being the time a new football coach enjoys before Monday morning quarterbacks start chirping. That’s what Purdue’s Darrell Hazell is going through now.
“The first six months have been amazing,” Hazell said Thursday at the Purdue Coaches Caravan. “They’ve been very welcoming.”
That could change as quickly as Aug. 31, which is the date of Purdue’s opener at Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, Hazell and basketball coach Matt Painter were pressing the flesh of more than 200 Purdue partisans at the Radisson.
Beating Indiana to qualify for a 58-14 bowl shellacking by Oklahoma State wasn’t enough to save Danny Hope’s job, and Hazell brings a strong midwest flavor to the red-bricked campus in West Lafayette.
He signed a six-year contract after guiding Kent State to its most successful season in history, including its first bowl game in 40 years. Arkansas State beat the Golden Flashes in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, but they finished 11-3.
“The talent is there,” said Hazell, who also served as an assistant with Jim Tressel for seven years at Ohio State. “No question about it.
“We’ve just got to change the mindset a little bit.”
His 27 years of coaching also include pitstops at Rutgers, West Virginia, Army and Pennsylvania.
Hazell’s welcoming committee on the gridiron starts with nine returning defensive starters, but only five on offense.
During Hope’s so-so tenure he was criticized for playing musical quarterbacks. He didn’t have much choice since injuries to Robert Marve and Rob Henry as well as Caleb TerBush’s suspension made it tough on the beleaguered coach.
Now Henry is being challenged by freshman Danny Etling, who left South Vigo High School early to participate in spring practice. Most likely Hazell will settle on one of those two, but won’t make his decision until two weeks before the opener.
“That’s the question a lot of people have asked,” he said. “We’re going to give ownership to one guy.”
By enrolling six months ahead of schedule Etling demonstrated why he was ranked No. 9 among pro-style quarterbacks by Rivals.com. In high school he completed 109 of 211 for 1,505 yards and 11 TDs.
“It would have been a lot harder for him if he didn’t come in early,” said Hazell. “I don’t think he would have stood a chance if he hadn’t.”
“I’d say he’s got a B+ or an A- arm for our level,” Hazell said.
Henry also changed Hazell’s preconceived viewpoint with his approach.
“The thing I’d heard he was always going to do was pull it down and run all the time,” he said. “That wasn’t the case. He made some really accurate throws. I was plesantly surprised.”
Purdue continues to enjoy a strong Northwest Indiana presence with Merrillville’s Dolapo Macarthy, a wide receiver who caught 28 passes last season, and freshman earlybird David Yancey, who rushed for 1,345 yards in his junior year at Lake Central, but was hampered by injuries last season.
“Yancey is trying to learn the system and we’ll give him a chance to make the three-deep,” Hazell said. “Dolapo’s a big guy, a big target and we need him to be productive.”
An ankle injury cut short Yancey’s participation in the spring. The fourth brother in his family to attend Purdue, he could see action in the slot because of his receiving skills out of the backfield.
Because of Hazell’s long stint with the Buckeyes and his two years at Kent State Hazell his strong Ohio connections should provide a recruiting bonus.
“I’d like to think so,” he said. “We’ll hit Ohio hard. There’s over 800 high schools in the state. Over 100 Division I athletes signed scholarships in Ohio.”
Painter has undergone some turbulence after a 16-18 season with three players transferring within five days, including 6-8 Sandi Marcius, who is headed for DePaul; Anthony Johnson and Jacob Lawson.
That leaves him with a young roster, the only two seniors being Travis Carroll and Terone Johnson. Recently, Painter added an 11th player with the signing of forward Errick Peck.
Peck played his high school ball at Indianapolis Cathedral with Kelsey Barlow, who transferred to UIC last year after being kicked off Purdue’s team.
“He could play a big guard or an undersized four,” Painter said. “Athletic, strong.”
Peck graduated from Cornell, where averaged 9.7 points and 4.8 rebounds, He has a year of eligibility left and can play next year.
“It’s tough to keep 13 guys happy,” said Painter, referring to the transfers.
He regrets the loss of Marcius the most because of his late charge. In the last 10 games the 6-foot-8 Croatian averaged 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds with highs of 13 points against Michigan State and seven rebounds against Indiana.
“He really improved, gained confidence, but it’s one of those things,” Painter said. “He probably wasn’t going to start for us.”