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August 9, 2013
Austin Appleby got to do some celebrating Friday.
After a pair of nice play fakes, first to the running back and then to a receiver in motion, Appleby let sail a deep ball that dropped perfectly into the hands of Shane Mikesky for about a 60-yard touchdown in team work on Day 7 of Purdue training camp.
Appleby's hands zipped up in the air, as the rest of the offense was screaming.
That's about the only show of positive emotion Appleby has allowed himself this camp, at least publicly, while he's in the midst of a quarterback competition.
It's been one in which Appleby entered camp as third behind Rob Henry and Danny Etling.
It's been one in which Coach Darrell Hazell and coordinator John Shoop seemingly always mention Appleby as an "and "
But a strong handful of recent practices - and Etling's struggles over the same period - had Appleby getting his first snaps with the No. 1 offense on Thursday afternoon and kept him with the No. 2 offense on Friday.
"I feel like the last couple days I've been able to put a couple good practices together," Appleby said Friday. "(I'm) just focusing on all the things I said at the beginning of camp, focusing on playing faster, focusing on taking care of the ball, focusing on getting it out of my hand and going through the reads as fast as possible and been fortunate to put a couple good days together."
Appleby always has been one to spend as much time as possible watching film, has even joked he's closed up with the janitor in Mollenkopf since he's been at Purdue.
But knowing the offense hasn't always translated to producing in it. That showed up some in the spring when he had too many turnovers for Hazell's liking, which helped push him to third on the depth chart. This camp, getting more reps against blitzes and more coverages has helped him apply what he's learned practically, and he's starting to feel more comfortable.
The challenge with that, though, is not taking too many chances. Forcing plays hurt him in the spring, but he's rarely had turnovers through the first week of camp. That's not happenstance.
"The more reps you get, the better you get at it. I've just been being conscious about trying to get through it as fast as I can and if it's not there, don't force it," he said. "There's nothing wrong with checking it down to a back who can go get five yards for you or break it. We've got a lot of great athletes, and when you throw the ball to Akeem Hunt out in the flat and he makes a guy miss, we might have an 80-yarder.
"I've just really been trying to have the mental endurance. I trust my arm a lot. I believe I can make any throw on the field. With that, sometimes you greedy that I can stick it in there, maybe. For me, it's just been the mental endurance to check the ball down and live to fight another down. It's working out."
Henry continues to be the first quarterback to get a snap with the first team, and he has taken the bulk of those snaps, too, the last two days.
But Appleby, ever the fighter, knows there still are eight more days of camp.
"It's a long way from being over," he said.
"But they pushed through it and that's what camp is all about is building that mental toughness and being able to push through some situations where you don't feel as comfortable as you'd like to feel," Hazell said. "But we'll keep grinding and we'll probably peak on the 13th and then we'll start to taper off from there. But we're doing a good job of working."
Saturday also qualifies as a two-a-day, even if the afternoon session is strictly a kick scrimmage. The team will practice at 10:30, get a break and have some meetings and then head out to Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time this camp for some heavy special team work.
Not only is Hazell hoping for one kicker to emerge - Paul Griggs and Sam McCartney are the options - but he'll also get to see his team get some work on kickoffs, which hasn't happened much yet this camp.
During a late field goal drill on Friday, Griggs missed badly and then Hazell called a "timeout" to try to ice McCartney.
Marcus Freeman and Jafar Williams will coach each team, which already has been divided, Hazell said.
Hazell said it's for a series called "One Brick Higher" that will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the program. Hazel said it will start next week.
The series will debut on school's website, according to Purdue.
Gilliam had a splint-type wrap on his left pinkie finger after having a procedure done Thursday afternoon, which kept him away from practice. The injury could keep Gilliam out up to three weeks, Hazell said.
"It's going to be right close to the first game," Hazell said. "Hopefully by Cincinnati, we can get him back."
Jimmy Herman stayed with the first-team defense in Gilliam's place and made three consecutive "tackles" during team work late in practice, but Will Lucas also got a couple snaps in the middle with the 1s, too. Lucas has started at weakside linebacker but was switched to strongside this year and was backing up Andy James Garcia.
"I think it's just that we have some new quarterbacks working with centers," Davis said. "It's definitely something we've got to get fixed fast. It's inexcusable really. But it's something we've got to work on, focus on the center-to-quarterback exchange early in practice, recognize that you don't have a job if you can't snap the ball."
Normondo Harris didn't hesitate when asked which young receiver has most impressed him in camp.
"Dan Monteroso is putting on a show," he said. "He's climbing. I like what he's doing. Everyone is coming in and picking things up fast, but, to me, he's standing out. He gets open pretty much on every play. He just knows how to get open and when the ball comes his way, he catches it and he usually doesn't go down right away, he gets a couple more yards after the catch, which is good."
Much is being made of the strength of Purdue's starting secondary, but there's some depth, too, especially at cornerback.
Harris and Antoine Lewis have shown up in camp, making aggressive and big plays.
"Everyone is looking at it like we have starters and then we have the backups. The way we all see it is in the end, everyone who knows their stuff and is good enough to play is going to play," Harris said. "No one is going to ride the bench if you're good enough to play. Someone is going to need a break, and we trust each other to come in and make the same play they would have played if they were in. So we might as well have four starting corners."
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