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OSIPOFF: Boilers will focus on fundamentals on this bye

Purdue's BrandCottom (25) rushes against Michigan State's Denicos Allen left Taiwan Jones right during second quarter an NCAA college football

Purdue's Brandon Cottom (25) rushes against Michigan State's Denicos Allen, left, and Taiwan Jones, right, during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 14-0. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

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Updated: November 25, 2013 1:33PM



Don’t expect Purdue to enact dramatic changes in terms of personnel and scheme this time around.

The Boilermakers made those moves — including officially naming Danny Etling as starting quarterback, planning to take three freshman defensive linemen out of redshirt (and following through), and shifting to a three-man defensive front — during their first bye week. As they have their second and final bye week of the season, they will truly focus on fundamentals and technique, executing and fine-tuning what they have in place.

“Every week we’ve gotten a little bit better in some area, or areas, which is what you look for,” coach Darrell Hazell said. “You look for growth in individuals, you’re looking for growth in the scheme. I’m not displeased at the progress that we’re making at all.”

In its last game, Purdue (1-6, 0-3 Big Ten) competed better than most had anticipated in a 14-0 loss at Michigan State, especially with its new-look defense (granted, as stifling as the Spartans are defensively, they’re not exactly an offensive juggernaut). The Boilermakers next play against undefeated No. 4 Ohio State on Nov. 2 at Ross-Ade Stadium.

“That’s one of our staples in our program, is talking about the real football teams (that) show up in November,” said Hazell, as he and his staff have spent this week recruiting and studying the Buckeyes, with whom he spent seven seasons as an assistant under Jim Tressel. “… We’ve talked about that from Day 1 when we got here in January, and we keep re-emphasizing. … It’s going to be good for us to get on a little bit of a roll, and hopefully get this thing going.”

Other items of note during this open week for Purdue, which was scheduled to practice on Tuesday through Thursday before returning on Sunday, include:

Brandon Cottom, who started at running back at Michigan State, suffered a rib injury on the first play of the second half. He was not expected to practice this week, but the Boilermakers were hoping he will be available against Ohio State. After playing a limited role to that point, Cottom had 12 carries for 39 yards against the Spartans’ top-ranked rushing defense, providing a physical between-the-tackles presence to complement the more perimeter-oriented Akeem Hunt.

Hazell has continued to stress that running backs must be complete — able to run, catch passes out of the backfield and block — in order to receive significant playing time.

Ruben Ibarra was expected to challenge incumbent Sean Robinson for a starting linebacker spot. Ibarra, a junior college transfer who has played sparingly in his two seasons with the Boilermakers, had four tackles at Michigan State, including one for loss.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver B.J. Knauf has completed his two-game suspension, following his arrest. He has returned to practice this week, after having worked on the scout team. Previously a starter and one of Purdue’s more productive offensive players, he will have to earn his way back into the lineup, Hazell said.

There are no guarantees, but safety Landon Feichter, who broke his right fibula against Indiana State on Sept. 7, should be back on the field against Ohio State.



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