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August 17, 2013
Although Darrell Hazell says he won't announce the starting quarterback until sometime in the next two days, Rob Henry emerged over the last two weeks as the clear frontrunner.
And Saturday's performance in Ross-Ade Stadium, where the offense beat the defense 77-43, only strengthened that standing. The fifth-year senior was unofficially 12-of-18 for 126 yards, and directed the No. 1 offense with poise and efficiency.
Not only has Henry outperformed fellow QBs Austin Appleby and Danny Etling but he's Purdue's unquestioned leader, as well.
"I think Rob is a guy we all look up to, on the field, off the field, in the classroom, anything else," wide receiver B.J. Knauf said. "Rob is really the No. 1 leader on our team. On the field, he really knows everything in the book, from what I have to linemen, to tight ends, to running backs.
"If there's ever a problem, Rob knows how to fix it and what to do, and I think right now it's looking like he's going to be it."
But it's not yet official. Although Henry's been the near exclusive quarterback with the No. 1 offense since the third day of training camp, Hazell has stuck to his timeline. Saturday, he reiterated that he'd announce his starter either Sunday or Monday.
Asked if Saturday's scrimmage helped ease the decision, Hazell wouldn't budge.
"We'll make a decision Sunday or Monday," he said.
Henry, as he's been apt to do throughout his career and during the last few months, was mum on the subject. He was asked if he had done enough to win the job.
"You'd have to ask Coach Hazell that," Henry said. "He's got the final say. I can't comment on that."
Saturday's effort helped. Unlike the previous week, when Purdue's offense struggled to move the ball vs. the No. 1 defense, Henry's group looked physical, variable and most importantly productive.
All three of Henry's drives - a fourth was shut down seemingly at random - ended in scores. The first went 11 plays, starting at the 25-yard line and ending with a 53-yard field goal by Paul Griggs. The later two totaled 155 yards on 21 plays, with five-yard touchdowns by Dalyn Dawkins and Knauf.
"Any time you come in Ross-Ade, you have to up your tempo and up your level of play," Henry said. "I think we did that, but we're going to go watch the film and see how many mistakes we had because I know things weren't perfect. But I definitely think we've gotten better and we just need to continue to stay on that track."
With starter Akeem Hunt getting only a carry Saturday, Purdue looked at others to see who would give it depth at running back.
And a few are emerging. Brandon Cottom could be the big back to counter the explosiveness of Hunt. The 260-plus pounder, who has been held out at times during camp due to a previously injured knee, unofficially had 46 yards on 10 carries.
"Today, I let it loose," Cottom said. "It was a good day.
"I felt good running the ball and had a couple good blocks out there."
Cottom, who also lines up as a fullback at times as backup to Kurt Freytag, is competing for second RB snaps with Robert Gregory and freshmen Dawkins and Keyante Green.
But Cottom shone.
"That's what we wanted to see, how well he carried the ball and he certainly showed some things," Hazell said. "We'll take a look (Sunday) at the film and see if he indeed is that guy who could be the No. 2 for us."
Dawkins had a good day, too. The slippery rookie, who stands 5-9, 175 pounds, had 35 yards on eight carries.
"I think I have a special big-play ability," Dawkins said. "I'm definitely a winner.
"The line did a good job blocking up front and the guys down field did a good job, too. Overall a good performance by the offense."
It's now two straight scrimmage-like drills in which Dawkins has stood out; he got a chance on Thursday, too, and appeared to be one of the offense's standout players.
"He's special," Hazell said. "He's got that quick-twitch fiber in tight spaces that can give you some heartache as a defense, missing in the hole. He'll play for us."
Hazell says Dan Monteroso is likely out six weeks after having surgery early Saturday to fix his broken collarbone.
The freshman wideout was injured while trying to make a catch during a position drill Thursday.
That could mean Monteroso would be available for the second half of the season. However, by then, a redshirt might be the best option.
"It all depends," Hazell said. "It's hard to say what kind of shape he's in at that point in time. We'll just take it day-by-day."
As for others who were out Saturday, Hazell thinks most could be back by the opener at Cincinnati on Aug. 31. That's certainly true for defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, who's been out with a hamstring injury.
Left guard Devin Smith (knee) and middle linebacker Joe Gilliam (finger) are more questionable. Smith's availability may not be known until Monday or Tuesday of game week, Hazell said.
Gilliam will get the pin out of his finger next week.
"And then it's how long it takes for that thing to heal," Hazell said.
It's hard to determine in an intrasquad scrimmage, but the Boilermakers look more physical than years past.
It showed up in the play of the offensive line Saturday, especially the first unit, which largely kept Henry clean.
"All the coaches preach physical attitude, we have to block," Knauf said. "It's not even just block, we have to put them in the ground basically. As much as they preach it, we're going to do it."
Hazell says that's the big takeaway from camp.
"That's one thing that I can positively tell you that we came off the field a much more physical football team and that's what you need to be," Hazell said.
Led by the three from Jalani Phillips, Purdue unofficially had seven "sacks" in the scrimmage. (The top three quarterbacks weren't live.)
Defensive linemen Ryan Isaac, Jules Williams, Evan Panfil and Antoine Miles each had one.
"I think our defensive line can bang and hang with anyone," Robinson said. "They have a lot of depth, a lot of good players and a lot of experience, too. It starts with them."
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