posttrib
CALM 
Weather Updates

College football: Purdue’s David Yancey acclimating himself to Big Ten football

LAF S 0320 Pfoot

LAF S 0320 Pfoot

storyidforme: 47064819
tmspicid: 17438545
fileheaderid: 7862400

Updated: July 31, 2013 8:14PM



WEST LAFAYETTE — It doesn’t take running back David Yancey very long to come up with reasons his decision to enroll at Purdue in January has already been beneficial.

Some are simple: The former Lake Central standout isn’t wandering around campus looking lost, now easily able to find his classes and team facilities.

The biggest dividend of early enrollment, however, is ongoing. As Purdue inches toward the midway point of its spring football season, culminating with the April 13 spring game, Yancey is adjusting to the level of play in the Big Ten.

“There are a lot bigger guys and a lot faster guys, so it definitely felt different,” Yancey said, “but it felt good at the same time. …You’ve got 280-pound guys moving really fast. I need to get used to the game speed. I think I know football really well, so I think when I combine those two together, I’ll be fine.”

Purdue lost two of its top three rushers last season, as Akeem Shavers (871 yards, 6 touchdowns) and Ralph Bolden (325 yards) each ran out of eligibility. Akeem Hunt (335 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Brandon Cottom (209, 2) are the top two returning rushers for the Boilermakers, led by first-year coach Darrell Hazell.

Hunt has good speed, but is slight in build at 185 pounds. Cottom is a bruising back, listed at 6-foot-2, 256 pounds. Yancey, who measures 5-10 and 206 pounds, could contribute immediately, and in the long run, may be best suited to play as an every-down back.

“He’s ahead of the curve mentally for a freshman,” said Purdue running backs coach Jafar Williams. “Usually when you get freshmen in, it’s kind of hard because they struggle with protections.... (Yancey) has been unbelievable and he’s a student of the game. He comes in and watches film and I think it’s showing.”

As he adjusts to the speed and physicality of high-level college football, Yancey’s approach needs to change in some respects, said Williams.

“Sometimes you can make too many cuts and you have to live with a three-yard gain,” Williams said. “A three-yard gain in college is a positive gain. Sometimes (Yancey) wants to create so much, he starts dancing. He’s gotten better with that in the last couple of practices and I think he’ll continue to improve.”

Yancey has played with the second-team unit in some recent practices, but Williams said he will rotate all of the running backs periodically during the spring.

“It’s hard for a freshman to play, but I’m going to play the best player,” Williams said. “We have to put the best product on the field and if it’s an incoming freshman who can pick up the protections and reads, then I have no problem putting him on the field.”

Williams said he wants running backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield, a task Yancey has shown capable of completing during Purdue’s recent open practices.

Most important, Williams wants a physical group.

“I told those guys on Day 1 when we came in that we’re going to be the most physical group on the team, we’re going to be the most physical group in the conference and then we’re going to be the most physical group in the country,” Williams said. “You have to groom them not only physically, but mentally with how they approach every practice and that carries over when it’s Saturday and it’s second nature.”

Yancey also has been working as a kick and punt returner, and is ready for whatever else may be thrown his way.

“I’m going to keep working at (being a running back) and competing for the spot,” Yancey said. “I’m going to compete every time I step on the field, whether I’m a starter or on the field on special teams. … I’m just trying to make a play for my team and hopefully get noticed.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.