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April 12, 2013
In an against-the-norm decision this spring, first-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell opened the majority of his team's practices to fans.
They came in sporadic bunches, some days reaching into the low hundreds and others in the 20s.
The invitation was in an effort for the community to feel ownership in its team, Hazell said.
He's hoping that shows up in a much bigger way Saturday when the Boilermakers will conclude spring practices with a game at 1 p.m. at Ross-Ade Stadium. Because he liked what that fan support meant to the first 14 spring practices.
"We had a lot of great energy," Hazell said. "All except for one practice, I felt we had very good practices. I think the fans have a lot to do with that. I think guys will play harder when people are standing on the sideline. We tried to crank up the music to drive the energy as well."
Players said they liked the atmosphere during spring ball, too. Even though if the presence of fans has meant they've had to try to curb their outbursts a bit. Coaches remind players they're representing Purdue before themselves.
But practicing with family or friends on the sidelines has helped produce maximum effort, players said.
"It's great. They get to see everything you're going through," Ryan Russell said. "Sometimes on Saturdays, they don't understand the preparation it takes. They don't know how hard everyone is working. If you go out there and lose, they'll be like, 'Well, were they really working that hard?' But this way, fans see us busting our tail every day and they support us and hopefully it helps us get more fans to games on Saturday."
Normondo Harris has had to miss some practice because of a class conflict, and it's bummed him out because of what practice was this spring: Fun, energized and hard.
"Last year, it wasn't boring or anything, but it was work. Now, we're showing out," Harris said. "We've got a crowd out here. We've got music. Everything is just fun."
Part of the "fun" has the trash talk leading into the game, both in person and as players have taken to Twitter to proclaim which team will win the game.
The Black team has the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, the projected starting running back and a secondary that has four players who have gotten snaps with the 1s this spring (Frankie Williams, Harris, E.J. Johnson and Anthony Brown).
The Gold team has a stacked offensive line, a nice corps of receivers (Dolapo Macarthy, B.J. Knauf, Charles Torwudzo) and all the punters.
Kevin Pamphile already has claimed a "42-0" victory by the Black team.
The shutout may be more likely than the scoring outburst. Though rain is supposed to hold off, wind gusts could be up to 20 mph.
And Greg Hudson's defense already has challenged the offenses this spring with its bevy of blitzes and aggressive style.
"We just swarm to the ball," Ricardo Allen said. "We have more depth than we've ever had since I've been at Purdue. We have great coaches. One of our biggest things is getting to the ball and getting the ball out. This year, we're really focusing on getting turnovers and getting our offense back on the field. When it's third down, it's time to get off the field. That's what we preach. At Purdue, we always have been good on first and second down but third down and getting the ball back has always been one of the biggest things. That's what we work on majority of the time and I think we're getting better as a defense like that.
"I just want to get out there and have fun and just see everybody compete and see the condition of the team, see how we hit, see how we block and see how we execute our plays and make plays on the ball."
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