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August 7, 2013
Rob Henry spent his third consecutive day as Purdue's first-unit quarterback, and although Darrell Hazell won't budge from his timeline to name a starter, it appears the senior has emerged as the front-runner.
Hazell, however, did offer his assessment of Henry's performance following Wednesday's practice, the first in full pads this training camp.
"Rob has done an excellent job," said the first-year coach, who has previously set a date of two weeks before the Aug. 31 opener to name a starter. "He's had five really good practices. We're still not there yet. But there's a battle going on there still, just so you guys know."
Danny Etling, who first took consistent first-team snaps on Sunday, has been with the second unit for the last three days, while Austin Appleby leads the 3s. But like Tuesday, Hazell repeated his refrain that nothing should be read into the consistency of the depth chart.
"Absolutely not, absolutely not," he said.
Wednesday, Henry led the Boilermakers on a 65-yard touchdown drive in the two-minute offense, using a 40-yard screen to Akeem Hunt to set up a 19-yard scoring pass to Justin Sinz in a full-contact team drill.
But earlier, the 1s struggled to get off their own goal line, being denied a first down by the defense.
"I'm still learning," Henry said. "And Coach (John) Shoop and Coach Hazell are continuing to push me. We still have like 24 days - you lose count during camp; it kind of runs together - to improve and we need to."
Considering Hazell's praise Wednesday, Henry was asked to assess his own play, perhaps by giving it a letter grade. But the quarterback, as he's generally done throughout his career, was hesitant to talk about himself.
"I hate to do that," he said. "There's so many things that go into playing quarterback. The numbers don't always tell the whole story. You have to have good blocking by the offensive line, the receivers have to catch the ball. The backs have to pick up blitzes. It's hard to give myself a grade because there's so much that goes into it."
Then how about a grade for the offense?
"We've had our ups and downs, but I'll give us probably a C-plus, B-minus at this point," he said. "We haven't had too many mistakes and we're continuing to reduce our missed assignments and mental errors. We have to continue to improve and be A-plus come Aug. 31."
For the first time in camp, on Day 5, the Boilermakers were in full pads.
It allowed them to tackle in team drills - they did so late in practice - and to get physical in position work. For instance, running backs faced linebackers in a hard-hitting face-off. And in "Steeler Drill," three offensive linemen faced three defensive linemen, with a running back trying to get across the goal line.
"It's a good welcome to full pads," defensive end Ryan Russell said. "Go in, get into it and compete against the best and really fight for every inch. That's really what the 'Steeler Drill' is, a man fighting for every inch."
Hazell was encouraged by want he saw.
"I thought their spirits were really good," he said. "A lot of energy out here."
Tight end Gabe Holmes was limited Wednesday - and did not take part in any contact team drills - due to a minor hamstring suffered late in Tuesday's session.
In his absence, Patrick Bade moved in as the No. 2 tight end in the two-TE packages on the first team (with Sinz).
During the first five days of practice, Purdue has shown a tendency to frequently look underneath in the passing game, hitting running backs in the flat or tight ends near the line.
The running back screen appears likely to be a staple of the offense and could be a weapon. Hunt took one 40 yards Wednesday to set up a score.
But Hazell says the Boilers want to spread the ball to all of their eligible receivers.
"We talk about getting completions, no matter where the ball is going," he said. "Those are easy throws for the quarterbacks, dropping it off to the running backs and tight ends. But we do need to push the ball vertically."
Bilal Marshall was sidelined again, his third straight day, with a hip flexor injury.
Scouts have been attending practices. On Wednesday, three teams were represented, including the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots.
While coming off their own goal line in a team drill, the Boilermaker offenses repeatedly were called for pre-snap penalties.
Three straight against the No. 2 offense had it starting on its own inch-line.
"It's frustrating and there's a reason for it," Hazell said, possibly alluding to a hard count. "I can't share it with you, but there's a reason for it."
Trevor Foy has moved to right guard.
The senior, a right tackle previously, was with the second unit Wednesday.
"We needed to move Trevor inside to help us out a little bit, on the right side," Hazell said.
Meanwhile, Cody Davis, who had started with the first team at RG, is at backup center and could give the Boilers depth on the interior of the line.
Hazell said Foy will compete with Jordan Roos for first-team snaps. Roos has been with the No. 1s the last two days.
David Kohout, of the non-profit organization "Talk Is Cheap," was a guest speaker for the Boilermakers at a team meeting Tuesday night.
Afterward Austin Appleby tweeted "What we just heard was unbelievable. #BeGreat #MakeDifference."
"I wish you guys could have been there for the message," said Hazell of the take-care-of-others themed speech. "It was outstanding."
Hazell will bring others in over the next couple weeks, including former Boiler Leroy Keyes on Thursday.
"We try to get our guys a little bit of perspective from different guys coming in," Hazell said.
Purdue's first two-a-day is Thursday.
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