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August 3, 2013
Rob Henry doesn't mind the pressure. He applies plenty to himself.
But on Day 1 of camp, as he tries to win Purdue's starting quarterback job, the fifth-year senior might sense a little extra.
"I want to complete every pass and am frustrated when I don't," Henry said Saturday afternoon, following a two-hour practice on Purdue's upper practice fields. " I definitely put a lot of pressure, but at the same time you can't put too much pressure on yourself that you don't have fun with the game. That's why you play the game, to have fun."
Henry, a starter for Purdue in 2010, is battling true freshman Danny Etling for the starting job now. The veteran took the first snap of camp Saturday, and spent the majority of the day with the first team; Etling was with the second unit, while redshirt freshman Austin Appleby ran the 3s.
Each had highlights: Henry hit Dolapo Macarthy at the goal line for a TD in a non-contact 11-on-11 - players were in shorts Saturday - but also had multiple interceptions. Etling had some nice tosses over the top, including a pair to converted QB Bilal Marshall, but threw two picks, as well.
Unsurprisingly for a Day 1, the offense was disjointed, and so was its quarterbacks.
"I'll look at the film and let you know," Coach Darrell Hazell said when he was asked the first of 11 billion or so QB questions he'll face in the next two weeks. "But I thought we needed to play a little faster at the quarterback position. When there's something that's not there, we need to take care of the ball a little bit better."
Henry, who generally talks little of himself and rather deflects to his team, wants the job. He played hurt in 2010, with a badly injured finger, then missed 2011 with an ACL injury after he held the job in training camp. Last season, he played mainly as a Wildcat QB behind two others.
"This is my last camp, so it's a privilege and something I'm not going to take for granted," he said.
Henry says he'll do what he can control, preparing as best he can every day.
"It's (about) making sure that I know everything," he said. "That I know all the signals and am comfortable with the tempo of how practice is going to be. Because if you know everything and are comfortable with everything and if you play fast, you're going to play well."
Perhaps the biggest personnel move Saturday, although maybe not a surprising one, was Andy James Garcia's jump to the first team at linebacker.
Garcia, a redshirt freshman, moved ahead of veteran Will Lucas and is playing strongside linebacker. Sean Robinson, who had been SLB in the spring, has shifted to the weakside. He and middle linebacker Joe Gilliam made up the other two starters Saturday.
"These guys are chess pieces," defensive coordinator Greg Hudson said. "And it's our job as coaches to move them where they can physically excel.
"(Garcia) can move in space, so we're giving him a chance to do that and run around. I thought he did a good job."
Hazell said Garcia had a "great" spring, a sentiment that several of his teammates had indicated in the early summer. He's only 6-foot and 218 pounds, but many have been impressed by his quickness and instincts.
"And coming into fall camp, we were going to give him an opportunity to win the job with the 1s," Hazell said. "We'll see where it goes; it's still early."
Hazell says the Boilermakers aren't yet up the pace that they ended the spring.
But it will be discussed, likely in staff and team meetings and walk-thrus later Saturday afternoon.
"They're not in great football shape yet," Hazell said. "Plus, anxiety causes a little stress, which makes them breathe a little harder, but I thought they worked pretty hard. Obviously the execution needs to rise a lot. But not a bad start."
Purdue will practice again Sunday in the late afternoon; it will have full pads for the first time on Wednesday.
"There needs to be a sense of urgency," Hazell said. "Today is Aug. 3, we play four weeks from today. We just have to have more suddenness about everything we do."
Freshman defensive tackle Ra'Zahn Howard was at practice Saturday but did not participate.
He has yet to pass a sickle cell test, although it seems like a formality to getting in uniform.
"He wasn't able to get that done prior to coming to camp, so he'll be available on Monday," Hazell said.
Freshmen Myles Norwood and DaWan Hunte were in walking boots with lower leg injuries.
But Hazell expected them to be short-term issues and predicted a return near the start of classes in two weeks.
Purdue rotated its wide receivers often Saturday, with Dolapo Macarthy, Danny Anthrop and Shane Mikesky seeming to get a majority of the first-team reps.
It was a bit of a surprise to see Macarthy with almost no restrictions. He had been rehabbing from offseason knee surgery.
"He was the one guy I thought who stood out," Hazell said. "I thought he would be a little slower starting, but he was pretty sharp for first day."
Purdue is looking for receivers to emerge. B.J. Knauf, Marshall, Dan Monteroso and Gary Bush seemed to get a number of good looks, too, mostly on the second and third teams.
"We want to see the best six guys, whoever those guys are," he said. "We're going to give some of those younger guys an opportunity to compete for that job. I saw Monteroso in there a couple times, making a couple plays."
Henry says the Boilers will have to be deep on the outside.
"The way that our offense works, we have a lot of deep routes and things of that nature, so the receivers do a lot of running, a lot of motions, a lot of shifts, so we're going to have to rotate guys in and out. We need to get as many guys ready as possible."
Purdue held "quiet time" this morning, which will be a daily occurrence.
The eight-minute session this morning, prior to practice, focused on the USA section in the team's "A Player's Manual," according to Hazell.
"It's about being worldly," the first-year coach said. "One of the first things in the book is that freedom isn't free. I want these guys to understand that there's a lot of guys out there fighting for us so we can do the things that we love to do."
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