The dog days are coming, and that’s a good thing. With Big Ten Media Days kicking off Monday, Land Of 10 is breaking down the three biggest questions each team is hoping to answer coming out of Chicago. We’ll post two per day, with one from each division, turning this time in the Big Ten West to …
1. Has the revolving door at quarterback finally stopped?
Once upon a time, there was Len Dawson and Bob Griese and Gary Danielson and Mark Herrmann and Drew Brees, and they referred to West Lafayette as “The Cradle of Quarterbacks.”
Under coach Darrell Hazell, Purdue has become the place where arms go to die.
Since 2013, the most consistent feature of the Boilermakers’ offense has been utter inconsistency under center. The currrent line of succession runs from Rob Henry to Danny Etling to Austin Appleby to David Blough, none of whom have been able to keep a grip on the job, and who’ve managed to throw for a combined 49 touchdowns against 45 interceptions.
Blough likely opens preseason camp with the No. 1 tag and probably offers the best run-pass threat (10 passing touchdowns last fall, four scores on the ground) in the stable of options. But he could be pushed by redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar, who brings a bigger frame (6-4, 226) and arm to the table.
The Boilers return three senior starters on the offensive line and tailback Markell Jones is the kind you can build an offense around. But can Blough hang on to the wheel through late November, given inconsistency and a concussion against Iowa last year?
2. New coordinators: Wise move, or rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?
Somewhere in between? When you drop 22 out 24 Big Ten contests, someone’s going to have to fall on the sword. In this case, Hazell went with both coordinators.
Exit Greg Hudson and John Shoop in the offeseason, enter Ross Els and Terry Malone to run the defense and offense, respectively.
Malone cut his teeth under Lloyd Carr at Michigan, and if Purdue can shore up the pocket (30 sacks allowed) and sustain drives (35 percent third-down rate was 12th out of 14 in the league), an offense that’s taken baby steps since 2013 might have a shot at adding some strides to the mix.
Then again, when you’re converting field goals at less than a 50 percent clip — Paul Griggs whiffed on six of 11 last fall — you tend to get what you deserve.
3. Is there reason for hope? Any hope?
You mean Danny? (We kid.)
Make no mistake: the clock is officially ticking for Hazell. The man who hired him, athletic director Morgan Burke, is retiring next July. If not for a buyout that sits at a reported $4.45 million after this season and $2.25 million after 2017, this fall would be an absolute make-or-break referendum on a coach who’d worked wonders at Kent State.
And heck, it still might be.
But if it’s hope you want, we’ll offer this: The schedule doesn’t offer up a Power 5 team that played in a bowl until a visit from Iowa on October 15, so the potential is there to build up a head of steam. Defensive tackle Jake Replogle is hell on wheels.
Plus, among Big Ten squads, only Michigan (15) and Illinois (13) return more senior starters than the Boilers’ 12. And only Indiana returns a higher percentage of 2015 tackles (82.6) than Purdue’s 81.6.
Considering that it’s returning from a defense that gave up 458 yards and 36.5 points per tilt, we’ll leave it up to you as to whether that’s actually a good thing.
You can reach Sean Keeler via email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @seankeeler