CHICAGO – Purdue enters the 2016 season with a substantial advantage in experience. But is that necessarily a good thing?
Darrell Hazell is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Boilermakers and he has 19 returning starters coming back to West Lafayette, the most of any Big Ten school. That’s usually a good thing, but these guys know nothing but losing.
The agony of defeat is a feeling these Boilermakers know too well. A 6-30 record during Hazell’s first three seasons has fans clamoring for something different, perhaps even a four-win campaign.
So does experience really matter for this team? Hazell used an interesting analogy to explain why it does.
“Here’s the best way to look at it: Think about the first time you’ve put together an end table or a baby carriage. How much easier it is – the second time it is – to put those things together?” Hazell explained to Land of 10 at his Big Ten Media Day session.
In a sense, it’s like riding a bike. The more you do it, the easier it becomes, he says.
“There is nothing like experience,” Hazell said. “Guys being on the field, figuring it out. We’ve got a lot of guys that played a lot of football, played a lot of good football. There’s nothing like experience.”
Purdue defensive tackle Jake Replogle has been one of those players who has played a lot of good football. He took Hazell’s comments even further, saying this is the year Purdue gets back to a level of respectability.
“I think it’s huge,” Replogle told Land of 10 about the experience factor. “I think this year is our year to get things going and bring Purdue back to where it should be.”
Getting Purdue “back to where it should be” might be a widely defined phrase depending on who you ask. But the point is this: The Boilermakers are sick of being shackled down in the Big Ten’s cellar.
“I was talking to (outside linebacker) Ja’Whaun (Bentley) about it. He was a guy that played freshman year. I played freshman year. We have a lot of guys like that coming back. For some of us, it’s our last year,” Replogle said. “Guys like me, Evan Panfil, Jordan Roos, Jason King, we know it’s our last year. Our backs are against the wall and we’re ready for the challenge.”
So there’s a sense of urgency in West Lafayette then?
“Yeah, that’s a good way to put it,” Replogle said. “Sense of urgency is all throughout the building.”
But urgency doesn’t necessarily translate to success and it’s tough to give Purdue the benefit of the doubt, given its dismal track record.
The good news is, the Boilermakers are fully aware of that.