February 6, 2013
Hazell greets fans at Mackey
Darrell Hazell had a promise and a challenge Wednesday evening, a couple hours after signing his first recruiting class at Purdue.
First, the first-year Boilermaker coach vowed that he and his staff would do everything they're capable of to take Purdue to a higher level.
"We'll work hard," he said, speaking to about 700 members of the John Purdue Club and about 100 more students in Mackey Arena. "And in turn, we need you to come and be as loud as possible on Saturdays in Ross-Ade Stadium."
The appearance was one of Hazell's first in front of a large Purdue audience since he took over as head coach two months ago; and it likely will be the first of many this offseason, as Purdue seeks to galvanize a fan base that splintered in the final seasons of the Danny Hope Era.
Early returns on Hazell, and his ability to unite Boilermaker fans, are overwhelmingly positive.
"He's a very engaging personality," said Purdue graduate Brian Petraits, a Brownsburg resident who attended Wednesday with his wife. "And this fan base is clinging on something and ready to explode, they just need that catalyst to help unite them and get butts in the seats in Ross-Ade, because these last few years have been pretty dismal."
Petraits is hoping Hazell can be that spark. And Wednesday, the former Kent State head coach, decked out in a dark suit and tie, looked and sounded the part.
During the 30-minute presentation in Mackey Arena, Hazell talked briefly about his recently inked recruited class and allowed his assistants - seven of nine are hired, with Hazell saying he'd like to have the final two finalized "in the next week or so" - to introduce themselves. Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson joked that he was "a guy who you will blame for a lot of things, but I can take it."
About the '13 class, Hazell said Purdue looked for players with character and class.
"And guys who were going to go to class," he said. "But also guys who were dying to go to Purdue, and that's what we found."
Hazell, who had a radio show following the presentation, was asked a few questions submitted by fans. He says Purdue will have an open competition for the quarterback spot in the spring, with the decision on who starts based largely on who is the most efficient. He was asked about changing a culture and said that players would be required to show absolute discipline, a response that brought applause from the audience. And he said fans were responsible for a change too, by being in the stadium.
Asked about Purdue's offensive style, he said it'd be a "style that scores a lot of points."
"We'll do whatever we have to do to get the ball in the end zone," he said.
Defensively, he said Purdue would be aggressive, with a 4-3 base that could show some 3-4. And he warned others to look out on third downs.
"Watch out," he said of Purdue's attack. "(Pressure's) coming from everywhere."
A fan wanted to know what Hazell could bring from Ohio State, a national power where he served as an assistant for seven seasons before taking the head job at Kent State. He said learning to win close games would be huge.
"It might not always to pretty, but find a way to win," he said.
The message resonated with fans.
Purdue student Tyler Gray, a junior in the School of Health and Kinesiology, called Hazell and his staff an upgrade in about every football-related way possible. He likes Hazell's enthusiasm and smarts.
"He presents himself very well," Gray said. "When you look at him compared to Coach Hope, he sounds more knowledgeable, sounds like he knows what he's talking about. Doesn't have those statements that make you scratch your head and wonder what he's talking about. He's concise, clear and you definitely can tell he's motivated."
Will that translate to a fuller Ross-Ade Stadium in 2013? Only time will tell. But Brant Coburn, a sophomore in the College of Science, says Hazell's making the right moves to get the students more involved.
"Part of it is, as more and more people start coming out, they'll be more encouraged to start coming out," he said. "Like some of my friends, if they're like 'So and so isn't going to the game, so I don't really want to go either.' So the more students that come out, the more will go with them."
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