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College football: Purdue’s keys to the season

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5 Keys To The Season

How will Darrell Hazell fare? The Boilermakers’ first-year coach has drawn glowing reviews so far, as has the staff he has assembled. Now the games start. Everything points to success.

How will Rob Henry play? So the fifth-year senior earned the QB job, winning the three-way competition. Now, he’ll get the chance to show how much he’s improved his passing skills.

What’s happening at LB? The Boilers hope middle LB Joe Gilliam (pinkie surgery) returns for the opener. Sean Robinson shifted from the strong side to the weak, with Armstead Williams (or Andy James Garcia) on the strong, with returning weak-side Will Lucas displaced.

What to make of the wide receivers? The position went from a concern in the spring to one of seeming depth during the preseason, before injuries to Danny Anthrop (MCL) and freshman Dan Monteroso (collarbone). Merrillville grad Dolapo Macarthy and B.J. Knauf have led the way, with others — Shane Mikesky, Gary Bush, freshman DeAngelo Yancey and Cameron Posey — contributing.

Can the running game produce? Akeem Hunt gets his crack as the No. 1 back. Brandon Cottom has been in the mix as a backup, with freshman Dalyn Dawkins making a move. Freshmen Keyante Green and David Yancey, a Lake Central grad, could see time.

5 Key Games

at Cincinnati, Aug. 31: The Darrell Hazell Era begins. And this game could help set the tone for the Boilermakers’ season, either way. The Bearcats, too, have a new coach in Tommy Tuberville, playing in the new American Athletic Conference, after they won a share of the Big East title last season.

at Indiana, Nov. 30: IU is expected to be improved. Most projections have them finishing ahead of Purdue in the Leaders Division. Should be one of the more compelling Bucket games in recent years.

vs. Notre Dame, Sept. 14: Ross-Ade should be rocking under the lights. The Boilermakers have lost five straight games to the No. 14 Irish, including narrowly last season, and seven of the last eight.

vs. Ohio State, Nov. 2: The Buckeyes are back from their postseason ban, and ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Boilermakers, though, have almost sorta had Ohio State’s number lately, winning the last two meetings in West Lafayette and three of the last four games overall — no, wait, Purdue blew last season’s game at the Horseshoe.

vs. Northern Illinois, Sept. 28: NIU beat Hazell and Kent State for the MAC title last year, landing a bid to the Orange Bowl, where they were coached by Rod Carey after Dave Doeren’s departure to N.C.
State. Heisman hopeful Jordan Lynch is back at quarterback for NIU.

5 Key Players

Bruce Gaston, Sr., defensive tackle: With East Chicago grad Kawann Short now in the NFL, Gaston becomes “the man” on the defensive line. He should be the Boilers’ next DT to head to the NFL.

Ryan Russell, Jr., defensive end: Sticking with the line, possibly Purdue’s strongest unit, Russell could be next to join the “Den of Defensive Ends.” He started off quickly last year, showing his talent, before ankle and knee problems slowed him.

Ricardo Allen, Sr., cornerback: The supremely confident Allen was good last season, when he was hampered by leg injuries. Part of an experienced secondary, he has to be even better this season, especially with his NFL aspirations.

Gabe Holmes, Sr., tight end: We’ve heard all about his potential. Time to deliver on it, particularly in this offense, which should feature the tight end spot pretty prominently.

Akeem Hunt, Jr., running back: Hunt is explosive, with big-play capability, but relatively undersized. All along, Purdue has said it wants to be a physical team, and he’ll have to prove he can withstand the rigors of being an every-down back. What, no quarterback mention on this list?

— Michael Osipoff

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Updated: September 29, 2013 6:32AM





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