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August 15, 2013
Jules Williams likely will trot onto the field for Purdue in certain packages.
Most of the time, it'll be when the Boilermakers want to bring pressure, whether on a third-and-long with Williams coming off the edge hard from his defensive end spot or entering the game as a "jack" linebacker and zipping toward the quarterback on a blitz.
It's the perfect scenario for a defensive player.
"I've been doing that since third, fourth grade, just go," Williams said of getting after the quarterback. "So hopefully I can help the team out any way I can."
Williams still is adjusting to play defensive line after playing mostly linebacker during his football career. Most of that "career" is not college, considering he was cut three times trying out for the Boilermakers before being yanked off the rugby fields to join the team last year.
Last spring, Williams was honest in his assessment of his defensive line abilities, calling himself a "bad" end and "terrible" run defender.
He feels a bit more confident in himself this camp after an offseason in which he worked on coming off the ball harder, developing better hands and adding strength to hold his ground against the run. He's worked to not get pushed off the ball and compete with bigger offensive tackles. He's up to 245 pounds and would like to add another five or 10.
But it's also important he keep his speed, something coaches like about his pass-rush ability.
"He's such a big guy that can run," Coach Darrell Hazell said. "He's got great pad level. We'll bring him off the edge and do some other things with him. He'll be a good player for us this year."
Only part of Williams' value lies in his rushing off the edge, an element he's had success in by using his short stature and leverage to get under tackles.
He'll be just as important when Purdue switches its packages and uses Williams as a "jack" linebacker.
Williams estimates he'll blitz from that position about "50, 60 percent" of the time, and when he's not, he can drop back into coverage, be used as a spy for the quarterback or jam tight ends off the line.
"It's really whatever coach (Greg) Hudson needs me to do based off what the offense is doing," Williams said.
Williams is eager about playing what could be a key piece to Purdue's aggressive, attacking defense, but he also knows he'll only get snaps if he produces.
So he wasn't happy Thursday, coming off what he called his worst practice of camp.
"I understand that (I can be important), but bottom line, like today, if I keep making mental mistakes, I'll be pulled out just like anybody else," he said. "I have to continue gradually getting better every practice. I can't miss any opportunities.
"I get in where I fit in and have to do the best I can."
Rouse's first day of playing on the O-line was three days ago, when coaches opted to switch him from defensive tackle where they think they have depth for this season to offensive tackle.
Rouse would seem to fit the physical bill - he's 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds - and he thinks he has good strength and some athleticism. But right now, it's all about trying to grasp the challenges mentally.
"Obviously he doesn't know a thing, so Coach (Jim) Bridge is telling him every single play what he's doing," Hazell said. "Sometimes he gets paralyzed because he doesn't know what he's doing. We tell him, 'You've got to run fast no matter what, go somewhere with some urgency.' "
Admittedly, Rouse was a bit surprised when coaches came to ask him to make a move, which may not be permanent. But Rouse has tried to attack the new position and absorb as much information as he can, whether that's coming from Bridge, offensive linemen or even defensive linemen.
"I'm definitely marking off a lot of firsts for this first week," Rouse said, smiling. "I'm definitely just watching and getting mental reps if I'm not out there and trying to mimic what the other guys in front of me are doing, that way it can help benefit me when I'm not out there.
"Nothing comes easy, especially in this sport. There's a lot of stuff I have to pick up and pick up quick. Luckily through some education, I'm used to picking up things quick. Hopefully I can do it a little bit quicker and get out there."
Nothing is the same for Rouse. He's left the meeting room with the group he's spent the last two years with, he's wearing bulky knee braces now like the rest of the O-linemen and he's tasked with being physical with his closest friends.
The only ting that's "kind of" the same is his number. After wearing No. 97 on defense, Rouse asked if he could just flip-flop those to be No. 79 on offense. That's what he's wearing.
"It's one of those mentalities where it's just easier to jump in the pool," he said about being fully immersed in the position.
Those will include some 1s vs. 2s team work, Hazell said, after individual periods and team periods.
On Saturday, though, is the biggest scrimmage of camp. The "jersey" scrimmage will be the final audition, so to speak, for players to make a push for the two-deeps.
That practice, the last one open to the public, is at 11:15 a.m. at Ross-Ade Stadium.
"Saturday's scrimmage is huge for us," Hazell said. "We're going to find out who are our tough guys because we're going to go over 100 plays."
Most of the members of that unit likely are on Purdue's two-deep, though it hasn't officially been released. But receiver Shane Mikesky, back Robert Gregory, safety Anthony Brown and fullback Kurt Freytag were among the "blue collar" blockers on Thursday. But that will depend on the return, too. Tight ends also will be key pieces to the return team.
All but Raheem Mostert of the return men currently are starters, Akeem Hunt and B.J. Knauf working as part of what could be the first group.
"I think we're starting to understand the importance of it," Hazell said. "Guys are working at it. We'll be good at special teams. We'll keep the package small, and we'll work hard at it."
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