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August 8, 2012
D-line developing; Day 5 report
Listen: Coach Danny Hope after practice
Purdue is developing position flexibility among its defensive front, in hopes of better utilizing a rotation as well as being more versatile in its alignments and disguising defenses.
Tackle Ryan Isaac is getting some work at end to serve as a bulkier option on the edge. Freshman end Ryan Watson got his first work at tackle on Tuesday. Though Robert Maci is spending practice time working at strongside linebacker, he's also getting some reps at his more familiar end position.
And defensive line coach Kevin Wolthausen wants his tackles to play on both sides of the center, working different techniques.
"Every good team I've been on has had the ability up front to go hard, go fast, be sprinters, do what you need to do, we'll get you rest and we're not going to take a step back," Wolthausen said. "If we didn't have that type of depth, you'd be a little leery of rotating like that. I think we can play a lot of guys.
"If (a player is) getting 60, 70 snaps more a game, you can't do that physically and play the way you need to now with all the spread stuff and rushing the passer and turning and running and now you're playing the power game. It's not like it used to be. You've got to be pretty multi-faceted to do the things we like to do."
Right now, though, the starting unit seems set with returning starters Ryan Russell, Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston joined by sophomore Jalani Phillips.
Phillips didn't play a down of end in high school but still didn't redshirt last season as a freshman. He played in only five games as a reserve, and most of his snaps came in passing situations when Purdue needed a speed rush off the edge.
"I think he's a lot further along than he was in the spring," Wolthausen said. "Physically, he has all the right skills. He works at it hard. He has the right mindset. It's just a matter of gaining experience through the repetitions.
"He's an athletic guy that can run. He also is a guy that spent a lot of time in the weight room and has developed strength. He's not the strongest guy on the team nor is he the weakest. He's efficient right now with that. I think he just has to continue to learn and develop."
Wolthausen mentioned Isaac and Michael Rouse III as fourth tackle options, but that, too, could depend on the scheme.
The Boilermakers went full pads on the fifth day of camp and practiced in Ross-Ade Stadium.
For the first time this camp, the offense was able to mix up its personnel groupings and formations, showing the defense different looks and forcing that unit to get matched up. In the early part of camp, the offense was staying with one- or two-back sets, Hope said.
"It gave us a chance offensively to set the tempo and that was good for our offense," Hope said. "They gained a little bit of edge as a result of that."
The first-team offensive line also got some cut-block work in against the No. 2 defensive front, and the 1s on defense got to work on pass rush against the second-team offensive line.
There also was a bit of scrimmage work in second-and-7 situations with the first team units going head-to-head and the No. 2 groups going against each other.
The special teams units worked on protections and picking up different looks.
Nearly all the grades are in from summer school and though there's nothing definitive yet, Hope is feeling confident Purdue won't lose any players to academics this fall.
He said the incoming freshmen combined to post nearly a 3.0 GPA in the summer, and the team is closing in on a 2.8 cum GPA.
"I don't anticipate getting any bad news," Hope said once all the grades are in. "It looks like everyone is going to be eligible."
Purdue will have its first two-a-day on Thursday with morning and afternoon practices. The morning one will be in shells, but Hope said the team will scrimmage in full pads in the afternoon practice.
"I won't be able to sleep tonight I'll be so excited," Hope said.
Receiver B.J. Knauf missed his third consecutive day of practice with a back injury. Hope said Knauf is improving quicker than what the staff thought he would and hopes the freshman will be back on the field in a couple more days.
Robert Maci suffered the only injury of the first day in pads, getting stitches on his face, possibly his lip or chin. "A little worse than shaving, but he's going to be all right," Hope said.
Most of the group of freshmen offensive linemen appeared to be sporting new haircuts for practice - of the Mohawk/partially shaved head variety. Hope joked that they were just "trying to make a good first impression here as rookies at Purdue."
Hope likes what he's seen from freshmen kickers Thomas Meadows and Paul Griggs, saying Meadows has been sticking some kickoffs into the end zone and Griggs has shown a powerful leg on field goals.
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