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August 12, 2013
Ryan Watson played only sparingly as a true freshman, a snap here or there in the first half of the season, and maybe even less in the second.
But it's experience that he feels has helped him now, as he looks to solidify a spot on the first team at defensive tackle.
"My little bit of experience last year helped me get a feel for the speed and physicality of the game," he said. "It helped me a lot going in to spring practice and this summer."
Watson, a four-star signee before playing in his first season in West Lafayette, thinks he was only getting by a year ago, when he had a couple tackles in nine games. He was undersized, he said, and not accustomed to the level of physicality.
But the offseason has helped. He's 6-foot-2 and up to 306 pounds.
"I've been performing pretty well," he said. "I'm not going to boost myself or anything, but I'm mainly working on fundamentals, that's what really lacked before."
Watson is part of what appears to be a deep group of defensive linemen. He and Bruce Gaston have often been the starting DTs - although Ryan Isaac was in Watson's place a few snaps Monday - with Isaac, Eric McDaniel and Michael Rouse III backing up.
Watson thinks the depth will keep people fresh.
"You get your energy back and there's a lot of people to learn from," he said, "because everybody brings a piece of something."
But Watson will be an integral part of Purdue's success, too.
"Ryan is going to be a big plugger inside," Coach Darrell Hazell said. "He's a guy that's going to demand a double-team and he's a strong kid who plays low. He'll help us."
As Week 2 of training camp gets underway, and as practices hit their peak, Hazell thinks the Boilermakers are feeling a little tired.
"That's to be expected," the first-year coach said. "Here's the dog days of camp this week and it will be hard for them because we're going to make it hard. But also hard because they're a little bit tired. We'll get our legs back when we need to."
Monday, Purdue had a conditioning drill about midway through its practice, a change from the first week of practices.
"It's our Hoosier period, a four-minute gut check," he said.
Purdue gets another gut check Tuesday, when it has its first two-a-day this week (another is set for Thursday). The Boilermakers will have shells only Tuesday morning, but then be in full pads in the afternoon session.
Hazell says that practice should be Purdue's most difficult of camp.
"Overall we're doing pretty good," fullback Kurt Freytag said. "We've been pretty blessed with this weather; it's probably the coldest camp it's ever been. It's been nice that the weather hasn't been a factor, but our strength and conditioning staff did a great job this whole summer getting us ready for camp. Going into camp, 99.9 percent of us were in really good shape."
After the second two-a-day of the week Thursday, Purdue has its kickoff luncheon Friday, then the jersey scrimmage Saturday. Then, it's only two weeks 'til kickoff.
"As old as I am, I'm actually still holding up," joked Freytag, a nearly 23-year-old fifth-year senior. "So these young guys have no excuses to be complaining."
Hazell says Purdue will likely use two punt return men, rotating Frankie Williams and B.J. Knauf.
Those two, along with Ricardo Allen, have been getting a majority of the return opportunities lately.
"We decided last night we're going to go with two returners, just based off of kick scrimmage," Hazell said. "There's two guys back there that are very dynamic. We'll probably hold Ricardo because he's going to play so many snaps at corner, but those other two guys are pretty good."
Knauf had a punt return for a TD during the kick scrimmage Saturday.
Purdue could use two deep men together on punt returns, as it has shown that look at times during camp.
Two days after the kick scrimmage, Hazell was asked what he thought after reviewing the film.
"Obviously, we've got to get better at making field goals," he said. "I'm going to watch it with our specialists at 1:30 and find out where our deficiencies are. But that's a big part of winning football games and we need to make sure we're knocking them through."
Unofficially, Purdue hit 14-of-22 field goals on Saturday.
Raheem Mostert is trying to get adjusted to his new role, as a running back with the Boilermakers.
Mostert was carrying the ball during position drills, but didn't take a snap in late team work. But he'll need to work his way up the depth chart.
"The one thing is he's good with the ball in his hands, so that was part of the reason that we thought about making that move," RB coach Jafar Williams said of the former wide receiver. "The thing he's going to have to learn is all the little things about playing the position: footwork, the reads, things like that. We'll give him opportunities here in the next couple days and see if he can handle it and hopefully we'll move forward."
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