Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes (18) is blocked by Purdue defensive end John Strauser (51)and Purdue offensive linesman Jordan Roos (70) as quarterback Danny Etling (5) gets off a pass during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. Penn State won 45-21. (AP Photo/Gene J Puskar) ORG XMIT: PAGP110
Updated: January 4, 2014 6:33AM
With the talent level, coaching change and ensuing transition, and daunting schedule, Purdue figured to have a challenging season.
Reaching the .500 mark would have been, well, a reach.
But could anyone have envisioned Darrell Hazell’s first season with the Boilermakers going this badly for them, spiraling this far downward?
They set numerous dubious records in going 1-11, including suffering the most losses in a season in program history and surrendering the most points. In ceding the Old Oaken Bucket — their 10th straight loss to close an 0-8 Big Ten season, with their only win coming against Indiana State, an FCS team that itself went 1-11 — they allowed Indiana to score its most points in the rivalry game and establish a program record for yards in any game.
Purdue had one of the worst defenses in the country — even with a relatively veteran unit, and despite the efforts of Ricardo Allen — whether it had a four- or three-man front. And one of the worst offenses.
The Boilermakers couldn’t stop the run, nor ever establish any sort of running game.
They clearly have to get bigger and stronger, faster and more physical.
The 2014 season started for them the nanosecond their loss to the Hoosiers concluded — if not sooner, though they did continue to attempt to compete until the end, even if they did tend to allow games to snowball. Hazell — who, to his credit, hasn’t wavered, has remained steadfast, at least outwardly — and his staff have been on the road recruiting since Sunday. They’re seeking, oh, offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs, and maybe a running back or two. Does that list about cover it?
They appear to have their quarterback of the present and future in Danny Etling, who capped a freshman season fraught with growing pains with a promising game against the Hoosiers (albeit not a stellar defense by any stretch of the imagination).
And there’s significant potential with the young wide receivers, a group that includes DeAngelo Yancey, as well as Danny Anthrop and B.J. Knauf.
Etling taking over the job during the game against Northern Illinois signaled the advent of personnel and schematic changes Hazell implemented after Purdue’s first bye week, including several freshmen seeing the field.
The results ultimately didn’t change for the Boilermakers, but several players — including those three freshmen defensive linemen in Evan Panfil, Ra’Zahn Howard and Jake Replogle — gained valuable experience.
It should be beneficial for the Boilermakers next season, as they need the returning players to develop. Their schedule, including in the non-conference, abates to a fair degree.
They should be better. How much remains to be seen.
Really, they have nowhere to go but up.