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July 24, 2013
CHICAGO - "Discipline" was the talk of the first day of the Big Ten media days on Wednesday.
Both in how the league's coaches dish it out for players who break rules and also in how defensive players will have to have more of it in regard to targeting hits.
The recent news out of Ohio State with multiple players being arrested - both top players, Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby - had all of coaches answering questions on their approach to disciplining players.
Many agreed trying to prevent those types of issues begin in recruiting.
Once players are on campus, though, Purdue's Darrell Hazell said it's key to be swift and strict in handling players who may veer off track.
"Any time you have 18 to 22 year olds, once and awhile, they're going to step out of line. The thing you have to do is get on it right away. If you let it linger, those things fester behaviors, then you've got a problem," Hazell said from just outside the main ballroom at the Chicago Hilton. "The team gets the message when you come down hard on one of them, when it first happens. The team will get the message pretty quickly that it's serious."
Hazell already has to send that message since being with the Boilermakers, though "not as hard yet and hopefully we don't have to."
Early in Hazell's tenure, he had one player's locker cleared out. Sometimes, that action is temporary. That time, though, "might have been the one we did when we first got here." (O.J. Ross, anyone?)
"That vibrates through the locker room," Hazell said. "When you clean a guy's locker out, it might be a temporary clean out, but when he comes to the locker room to dress and his stuff is gone, that sends a strong message."
During the spring and even for summer sessions, Hazell also had the players' class attendance tracked closely and whenever there was an issue of someone missing class or arriving late, he was notified. And he made sure to quickly tell players that was unacceptable behavior.
There also is a section in the "A Player's Manual" that relates to discipline and rules, though players have yet to get the book yet.
Not that having rules written and discussed frequently will prevent problems.
In Ohio State's locker room, there is a large mural that explicitly says to treat women well, among other rules, and that allegedly is why Hyde was suspended from the program.
"I don't think coaching is a lot different than parenting," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Once parents families turn over their young people to you I think all of us would agree is the most important thing is to equip them to making good decisions.
"It's an ongoing challenge, but I do think it's a big part of our responsibility as coaches to educate and arm our players to make the best decisions."
The other discipline issue is spelled out, too, in regards to players who target defenseless offensive players with high hits could be ejected, instead of drawing a 15-yard penalty.
That rule will be somewhat subjective and expects to be a controversial change.
Many coaches pointed to the importance of player safety, and they hope the change will simply be another step in that effort of protecting players. But they all know an ejection could change the course of a game.
"That's a critical rule," Hazell said. "Player safety is most important. I think a lot of times guys move, so guys are going to obviously bump heads at some point in time, but I think it's very important we do try to keep the hits underneath the shoulder pads.
"The game's very fast. When things happen at the speed that they happen, they might miss a call or two. It could affect something, but it's the right thing to do."
Ricardo Allen, the Boilermakers' four-year starting cornerback, likes the idea of making sure players are safer. But he does admit defensive players may need to change the way they play.
"If you can make that hit, yes, it's great to get a big hit on a guy, but if it's not a smart hit, just make the tackle," Allen said. "At the end of the day, a tackle is a tackle. You might have put him out of the game, you might not. But let's keep this guy safe and just get him on the ground."
Brandon Taylor isn't listed on Purdue's official roster, and Hazell said Taylor "probably won't be with us this year."
"All I can say it's some academic stuff he's working toward," Hazell said.
Taylor missed the final few games of last season with a high ankle sprain and didn't participate in spring ball after having surgery on the ankle. Still, considering he has starting experience, he was expected to step into Kawann Short's vacated starting spot alongside Bruce Gaston.
Now, though, the Boilermakers could turn to Ryan Isaac, who missed the spring with a shoulder injury, Ryan Watson and Michael Rouse III.
Not that Hazell seems worried about Taylor's loss.
"I think we'll be OK," Hazell said. "I like where we are with our defensive line. In my opinion, that's our best position right now."
The goal was to have up to 10 commitments in hand by the end of the summer, and Purdue currently sits at eight for 2014.
"I think we're doing a good job as a staff getting out and finding those guys that can help us win championships," Hazell said. "I'm very pleased where we are right now.
"I feel good. I feel really good."
Hazell consistently talks about the "state of Purdue," which also has quickly evolved into a much-used hashtag on Twitter by the coaching staff. He thinks the message is slowly getting out about the opportunity to play for the Boilermakers.
"I think we'll probably have to play a season first, but we're trying to drive the message home," Hazell said. "The state of Purdue is very important to us. That's six states, the six states we need to have be committed to Purdue for us to really take off. When I say take off, I'm talking about to keep the program up here for a long time."
But that doesn't mean all the guys are 100-percent healthy.
Receiver Dolapo Macarthy, who missed the spring game, had surgery on his left knee in the offseason to get it "cleaned out," Hazell said. Macarthy will be limited to start camp but will participate in some fashion, Hazell said.
"(He's) probably still 2-3 weeks away from being at full speed," Hazell said. "He's able to run straight-ahead, not able to cut yet. I think by Week 2 in camp, he'll be rolling pretty good."
Though Macarthy doesn't have much game experience, he is arguably Purdue's best receiver. He's 6-foot-5, 220 pounds and has some of the best hands on the team.
His presence in Purdue's lineup will be key.
"I would hope that he's a huge piece to our success offensively," Hazell said. "He's a guy who is 6-5, we need him to play at 6-5. We need him to play at 220 pounds, not play at 195. He's got to be a physical attribute to our offense."
Gaston also had another procedure on his left hand in the offseason and is wearing a hard cast. But Gaston, who joins Allen and Gabe Holmes as Purdue's player representatives at media day, said he'll get the cast off in the next week.
"I should be good (for camp)," Gaston said. "It's definitely been frustrating but, at the same time, it's out of my hands, so I can only do what I can do."
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