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August 11, 2011

Young players get chance to shine; Day 6 practice report

Listen: Coach Danny Hope after practice

Less than a week into training camp, Purdue coaches are still trying to set the two-deep.

But Coach Danny Hope and his staff used the first two-a-day practices of the year to take a closer look at the rest of the roster on Thursday.

"There's some guys that haven't had as many reps, as many varsity reps, on our football team right now that can probably help us some this year," Hope said. "It was a chance for us to look at those guys and kind of get a feel for what they could do."

Hope said the young skill position players stood out, specifically mentioning running backs Akeem Hunt and Doug Gentry and defensive backs Frankie Williams and Taylor Richards.

Among the freshmen, Hope said the biggest surprise has been late signee Matt Huene, a 6-foot-5, 258-pound offensive lineman.

Otherwise, the group has been as expected.

"The other guys in the class, we thought they were awfully good, and we were right," Hope said. "It's a really good signing class. I'd take every one of those guys again. I don't think there's a bust in the class. I'm very excited with this young group of players."

Hope on Schnellenberger
In his stops at Alabama, Miami, Louisville and currently Florida Atlantic, Howard Schnellenberger didn't only build a reputation as a tireless worker and great teacher, he also built winning programs.

That's what Hope said will be Schnellenberger's legacy. The 77-year-old Florida Atlantic coach announced Thursday he's retiring after this season.

Hope was a Schnellenberger assistant at Louisville and Oklahoma.

"He's done a lot. He's rebuilt some unbelievable programs," Hope said. "He went to Miami and they had not won in a long time. Five years later, they were national champions. We went to the University of Louisville together in 1985, and they had not had a winning season there in a long time, probably the worst Division I football program in the country. Five years later, we won the Fiesta Bowl and they have a stadium and they're a BCS football team now. He went to Florida Atlantic and they hadn't even thought about having a football team there, and he manufactured the whole thing from the ground up.

"So probably the greatest builder of programs to ever coach at the collegiate level. An unbelievable football coach and a fantastic mentor. I was very, very lucky to work for him."

Schnellenberger has a 157-140-3 record as a head coach and is 6-0 bowl games.

O-line progressing
Offensive line coach Shawn Clark said earlier this week he's still searching for the top eight linemen.

By the end of the week, Clark said he'd like to have the "1s" assembled. Senior Dennis Kelly is a lock at left tackle, and junior Peters Drey is set at center. It's likely senior Nick Mondek starts the season at right tackle.

But it'll be interesting to see which players are at the guard spots.

Hope said Ken Plue, Rick Schmeig, James Shepherd, Eric McDaniel and Mondek are the team's top five guards at this point in camp.

Plue was relegated to second team in the spring because Hope was disappointed with his effort on the field and academic pursuits off it.

But Clark said, as of now, Plue is "on board right now and doing well."

If converted defensive lineman Justin Kitchens is quick on his learning curve, it could free Mondek up to move inside to guard.

"He's still not where we want him right now, but he's getting there," Clark said of Kitchens, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound sophomore. "He's probably one of the most athletic kids we've got on our football team, so it's easy to teach him. He's learning what to do, learning the small things and what it takes to be an offensive lineman."

On the mend
Hope said the Boilermakers haven't had any significant injuries during camp, but there is a list of players on the mend.

Among them: Drey (ankle), defensive end Ryan Isaac (shoulder), defensive back E.J. Johnson (shoulder), receiver T.J. Barbarette (hamstring) and end Robert Maci (hamstring).


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