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October 8, 2013
Purdue's offense will try to take advantage of freshman quarterback Danny Etling's physical tools: An ability to throw the ball with zip, spread the field vertically and sling it from sideline to sideline.
So expect to see a different look when Etling makes his first start Saturday against Nebraska.
The Boilermakers had identified themselves a pro style offense - a scheme that utilizes two backs, a tight end, play-action passes off base run plays and a quick passing game, as Darrell Hazell described.
With Etling at quarterback, though, Purdue won't be defined in such a way, Hazell said.
"Slightly but not drastically," Hazell said when asked, then, if there'd been a change in philosophy. "We're still doing some things out of the pro style offense, but that's not where we are exclusively."
And that's because of Etling, who will be making the first start by a true freshman quarterback for Purdue since Sean Robinson in 2010.
Having arrived last spring and being a mainstay over the summer, Etling quickly built a rapport with Purdue's also-young receivers, namely fellow true freshman DeAngelo Yancey and Dan Monteroso. Last week, Yancey had a career-high seven catches for 117 yards, and five of those receptions were on Etling passes. Monteroso will make his debut against the Cornhuskers after missing the first five games while recovering from a broken collarbone. He's expected to play significant snaps, partly because B.J. Knauf will serve the first of his two-game suspension and also because Purdue is expected to play more receivers, Hazell said Tuesday.
"He can throw every ball," Hazell said of Etling. "He can throw the deep ball. I watched him the other day throw an out cut across the field from the left hash to the right sideline on a line. That makes you cover the whole field defensively. When you start playing from sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line, you start involving your wide receivers, that creates another issue for defenses. That's what we weren't doing. We were playing between the hashes before, and now we get a chance to use the whole field. Now, all of a sudden, you can put another wideout on the field and spread the field a little bit more."
Certainly, Etling is eager to get the ball distributed to his receivers, backs and tight ends and pass as many times as necessary.
He said he thinks the offense is "meant to be built around a nice passing game," which he's ready to show.
Coaches have lauded his arm strength since he stepped on campus, and he showcased some of that talent against Northern Illinois, throwing darts on deep out routes as well as quickly sticking throws to the sideline.
But Etling's success won't be all based on his physical tools.
And he's counting on that.
He realizes he can develop an edge over opponents mentally, by preparing for every scenario.
So he does.
Etling often is in early - Hazell said he's seen him at 6 a.m. - to watch film and study. He knows what and how to watch now, he says, because quarterbacks coach John Shoop has taught him what's critical.
Etling will draw up plays on the board, say them out loud, watch film of himself, of opposing defenses and sometimes even of NFL quarterbacks and offenses. He takes meticulous notes, already having filled one notebook this season, with observations and ways to attack defenses. He'll essentially make his own game plan within Purdue's game plan, after tracking tendencies of defense's against certain formations.
"It's just something you can get in there and focus on and be working at all the time," Etling said. "I think when I realized how much it helps you, that's when I started (thinking), 'This is how you become great' because talent is common, but that mental aspect of the game, that's where people become great.
"I might be doing a little more now just because now you know you're going to be playing, so you kind of obsess about it a little more. It's a little tough because all you think about all the time, it's always in your mind, so you'll be sitting there eating and you'll be like, 'I should be watching some film, I could be studying my game plan right now.' "
That kind of approach has wowed Hazell, who went as far as saying Etling prepares like a "nine-year vet in the league."
"If he can continue to do those things, you're going to love watching him play," Hazell said.
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