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March 22, 2013
The Boilermakers describe their new defensive scheme as simple in concept, yet aggressive in style.
"I love the defense," junior safety Taylor Richards said. "Our motto is 'Run full speed.' That's really what we're aiming for. It has some of the same things that we've done before, but it's more about playing style: 'Run to the ball and do your job.'"
That sounds simple enough. Through three days of practice, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson has been pleased with the progress he's seen thus far. And Purdue's consistent groupings have given those with the first-team an opportunity to grow in the system.
"They're picking it up," said Hudson following Friday afternoon's session. "The defense, it's not too difficult, because No. 1, I have to learn it. I have to remember it. I have to keep it good so I can make the right call at the right time. But these are smart kids, they're at Purdue for a reason and that helps."
The system, as Hudson has described before, is 4-3 in its base, with a zone secondary. But Purdue's been multiple too at times throughout the first three days, mixing in a fourth linebacker with a three-man front. And Richards says Purdue has played about 50-50 between zone and man in the secondary.
"The concepts have been easy," Richards said. "And these new coaches, they've been defensive coordinators and they explain things pretty well. We stay in the playbook all day, every day, so it's going pretty well."
Hudson and Co., are trying to instill good habits in the Boilermakers. During drills, the players are charged with touching the ball-carrier, no matter if the play has been blown dead or not. It's in an attempt to get them all around the ball-carrier as quickly as possible.
"The conditioning supercedes everything in this defense," Hudson said. "We're going to have 11 men running to the ball, fanatical, and that's where the turnovers happen. It's the second and third guys who usually get to that ball."
Senior cornerback Ricardo Allen has liked what he's seen.
"Every play is penetrating and every play is making somebody go sideways and not straight down the field," he said.
Purdue knew it'd need at least one of its redshirt freshmen offensive linemen to step into a much bigger role this season.
And at least one will. Perhaps the most likely candidate early this spring is left guard Jason King. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder has been taking snaps with the first team through the first three practices.
Following a redshirt season, King admits it's been a challenge to move right in to a starter's role, with the number of reps he's getting.
"But with this coaching staff, they're brilliant, and we can tell that," King said. "They are always available, and we have a good group of senior leaders, so we can meet with them."
King has practiced at both center and left guard during the last year, but says he's not favoring one over the other. In high school, he hadn't played either.
"But those are the two positions that they have me at," he said. "But right now, I'm at left guard and I'm liking it."
King's not the only redshirt freshmen getting an opportunity early in spring. Friday, Jordan Roos started the day with the No. 1 unit at right guard and J.J. Prince lined up frequently with the second unit at right tackle but also got a chance with the 1s.
Those three were part of a five-man recruiting class on the O-line a year ago that was brought in to be able to play early. And after a redshirt year, that appears to be the case.
"It was great," King said of the redshirt season. "I came in from high school and the five of us, we're all good players, but there was a lot of stuff we all needed to work on. We needed to get in the weight room, all that stuff. But even if we were strong enough - and some of us were strong - it's just a whole different speed on the field and we needed the practice time."
Hudson has liked what he's seen of Purdue's offense thus far.
On Friday, John Shoop's group challenged the D with some deep throws in the end-of-session 11-on-11.
"One good thing that we're seeing is that the offense is very multiple," the D-coordinator said. "There's a lot of motions and shifts, so we're stressed cerebrally before the snap. Now, we want to see less mistakes when we've got to move a gap over or move the front over. It's picking up that stuff."
Of Purdue's assistant coaches, the secondary's Jon Heacock might be the most animated.
He certainly appears to be the loudest, encouraging his unit one moment then riding it the next.
"He's very hard, can't put a word on it, but he's very demanding," sophomore corner Frankie Williams said. "He wants us to be great."
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