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December 5, 2012
Rob Henry likes what he hears from his soon-to-be head coach.
The junior quarterback, who is likely to take over as the starter in the spring, greeted Darrell Hazell before his introductory press conference Wednesday evening in Mackey Arena.
"I'm very impressed," Henry said. "? We're all very excited and encouraged and ready to get to know him more and get to working for him."
Henry figures to be an integral part of the Boilermakers' offense in 2013, but what that offense will look like under Hazell remains to be seen.
During the 10-day search for a new head coach, athletic director Morgan Burke talked several times of the importance of Purdue's "Cradle of Quarterbacks," and Hazell echoed those statements Wednesday, pointing out several QBs who have been key to Purdue's success.
But at Kent State this season, the Golden Flashes won without great quarterback play; instead, KSU had two 1,000-yard rushers who helped carry a ground-oriented attack.
But Burke pointed out that as Ohio State's wide receivers' coach from 2004-10, Hazell coached players like Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes, among others, and the Buckeyes had a good passing attack.
"He said 'I was their advocate. We wanted to throw that ball, and actually we got pretty good at it,'" Burke said of a conversation with Hazell during the interview process. "I said, 'You know, it's not a bad response.'"
But asked about what type of offense he'd have at Purdue, Hazell would say only that he's malleable.
"I've got to do a better job of evaluating where we are with personnel and the things we can do," he said, "because it doesn't matter at the end of the day, I'd much rather win than throw the ball over the yard 50 times. I'd much rather win than run the ball 50 times. We've got to find a way to win the football game. We're going to be like that offensively."
Henry says he likes the idea of playing to the strengths of the personnel.
"That's a sign of a successful coach," Henry said. "He's able to take what he has and win ball games with it."
Hazell described his entire philosophy, from offense to defense to special teams, as an "attacking" football team.
"Defensively we'll give them multiple looks, have a nice pressure package," he said, "and we'll come after people, and our special teams will be outstanding."
Now, Hazell will try to galvanize a fan base after a season in which Purdue averaged 43,588 per home game, the worse numbers in Ross-Ade Stadium since 1992.
Hazell thinks he can reverse the trend.
"(With) good play, that's how," he said. "I'll go out thorough campus and try to get (fans) going that way, but if you watch teams play, the energy they play with, the consistency, that will excite the fan base."
Burke thinks he's found the coach to lead the Boilermakers' resurgence, both from the players on the field and the fans in the stands.
"As he gets around and you can hear the intensity and the passion," Burke said. "I watched him tonight work the crowd. He literally went and shook every single players' hands, and it wasn't one of these how you doing and moving on to the next person, there was a genuine eye contact.
"Kids connect with him, and I will tell you that based upon his press conference today as he was leaving his team, kids have a certain passion for him. When kids have passion for the program, the goals you aspire, they play hard. They play hard and fans come into the stadium."
The No. 25 Flashes qualified for the postseason after a regular season in which they won 11 games. Hazell said it was important for him to finish out what he started.
"It's been 40 years since Kent State has been in a bowl game," said Hazell, who won 16 games in his two seasons in Kent. "And the two goals I set forth were to win a MAC Championship and play in a bowl game, so I didn't think I could leave them without coaching that bowl game."
It'll mean a busy schedule over the next month, with Hazell taking on dual roles. He'll bounce back-and-forth, from holding Flashes' practices to visiting Boilermaker recruits in the 2013 class. Burke says the NCAA allows for a coach to temporarily be part of two programs, and he supports the plan.
Hazell will attend Purdue's Heart of Dallas Bowl game on New Year's Day, then coach KSU five days later.
But as he's doing all the work, Hazell says he'll certainly keep an eye on the Boilermakers to get a first-hand account of their personnel.
"I don't think there's anything like watching live action, and I'm going to attend the Bowl game and try to get an evaluation," he said. "I'm going to have to study the film, also, to see who's where skill-wise and skill level. But being able to see them live, I think that'll help us, help us all make another evaluation.
Nord has been sidelined since early November after being injured in an accident in the Mollenkopf Athletic Center weight room, and he recently underwent couple "procedures" on his back.
Burke said after announcing Coach Danny Hope's dismissal that Nord would serve as a "special adviser" for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
""I'm going to do everything I can to get him help during his rehabilitation," Burke said. "? We can actually keep him on full benefits until almost May."
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