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August 6, 2011Listen: Coach Danny Hope after practice
Purdue began its training camp Saturday evening with an absence, which was particularly significant considering it comes at a position that the Boilermakers are in need of quality bodies.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Rashad Frazier, who was expected to at least back up at a position that was without soon-to-be NFLer Ryan Kerrigan, wasn't on the roster and wasn't at practice.
"He didn't come back," Coach Danny Hope said. "We had some concerns about it. We had talked about it some over the summer; he wasn't sure what he was going to do, so we'll move on without him."
Purdue's thin at defensive end, and especially so now with penciled-in starter Robert Maci limited by a hamstring injury. Redshirt freshman Ryan Russell was a starter today, with defensive tackle Ryan Isaac taking snaps at end as well.
"That's good, because Ryan (Isaac) is a good player," Hope said. "He's strong and physical and has a great motor. He's somebody that can whip a lineman and make a play. He's further along than Rashad anyway, but Rashad didn't come back so we'll move on without him."
Hope also mentioned tackle Bruce Gaston as a possibility at end, saying Purdue has a number of tall tackles who could move at times.
With a number of starters back, and four quarterbacks who played last season, Purdue felt it was farther ahead on Day 1 in 2011 than it was in 2010.
"We had a lot more stuff," offensive tackle Dennis Kelly said. "We're a lot more advanced than we have been in the past, a lot of players coming back. We're going at a quicker pace and don't really need to baby feed people right now. Now, we can say 'You know what to do. Let's go.' It's exciting."
Hope thought his team's experience was particularly evident at quarterback, where Rob Henry and Robert Marve are the primary signal-callers. Both played last season, although they were hampered by injuries.
"I thought the play-calling was smoother," Hope said. "The quarterbacks didn't have to look back to get the signals as often as they had to this time a year ago. We didn't have to stop and recall the plays very often. We did a better job early, as far as taking care of the football. It wasn't on the ground very much.
"We're certainly a more experienced team now than we were at this time last year."
Normondo Harris, who played the second half of last season at cornerback, is back at that position now after a brief spring stint at wide receiver.
Hope said the need was greater at corner, where starter Josh Johnson is nursing what is believed to be a minor foot injury.
"He was fine today," Hope said of Harris, "but it's one of those things that really hard to get a handle on. In the past, those things can sneak up on you and the next thing you know a guy would be out. When the season ended, Normondo was our No. 3 corner, so if something was to happen to our No. 1 or No. 2 corner, if Normondo was on offense, we'd go to the fourth corner, then fifth corner pretty quick. We don't want to do that, particularly early in the season."
Hope says he's comfortable with his receivers, but sees the need for a youngster to step up - like freshman Raheem Mostert or redshirt freshman Charles Torwudzo - in the coming weeks.
"Obviously Mostert is a talent and has to learn his plays, but he's one of our strongest fastest guys on our team right now," Hope said. "So we have plenty to work with over there."
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