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December 29, 2012

First practice is strong; Saturday notes

DALLAS - Despite missing one schedule practice in West Lafayette before heading to Dallas, Purdue interim head coach Patrick Higgins said his team didn't miss a beat.

The Boilermakers had a short, crisp session Saturday at SMU in preparation for their game against Oklahoma State on Tuesday.

"They came out today and their intensity was good and their focus was good, so we're right on track," Higgins said. "They're eager. After you spend about five, six weeks away from the game, you want to get back at it.

"Our intensity has been really good because they know they still haven't proven what they set out to prove, and that is to become bowl eligible and win the bowl game."

Many of the players have said how they've enjoyed bowl practices, which have had a bit of a different approach than regular-season practices under Danny Hope.

Safety Max Charlot said there are several reasons for that.

"I feel like the practices we had before we came up here might have been some of the best practices we had all year, probably the most competitive that's for sure, since camp," he said on Saturday. "We did a lot more good on good (drills), rather than against scout team, and just the whole coaching situation (gives motivation). We feel we all have something to prove. We want to do well not just for our coaching staff but for Coach (Danny) Hope as well."

Filling the schedule
After their practice wrapped at about 12:30, players and coaches grabbed a bite to eat from a huge BBQ spread at Heritage Hall, a complex near SMU's stadium and practice field.

After lunch, the group split a bit and headed into the community. Some players joined up with youngsters at a football skill camp and others went to the North Texas Food Bank to sort and pack food.

On Friday night, the Boilermakers watched a Dallas Mavericks game and had some time to enjoy downtown Dallas, where the team hotel is located.

"The whole experience is great," Charlot said. "I personally try to take in the whole thing from the games, the little things we have, even the locker room we're in now. I'm just trying to grasp everything, take as many pictures as I can."

Moving around
Though Robert Maci's dual role has gotten the most notice - he's playing defensive end and linebacker - Purdue has had other players learning new versatile roles.

Charlot has played some linebacker this season, and that could help Purdue against a pass-heavy Oklahoma State offense, and Ryan Isaac has spent time at both end and tackle.

Isaac has gotten more time at end, but he's slid inside to play tackle in pass-rush packages.

"I have the speed to be outside, but I'm big enough to be inside. That gives me the edge to play both inside and outside," he said. "It's something I like because the more you can do, the more valuable you are."

Charlot wouldn't share if he's going to play linebacker against the Cowboys, but he enjoys the challenge of coming up and making stops against the run as a linebacker as well as being able to drop into coverage against tight ends.

"It's been fun. I enjoy moving around," he said. "It doesn't really matter as long as I'm on the field. I'm kind of sad it's going to be over.

"Their running back might be the best all-around running back we've faced all year. Maybe close to Montee Ball. He's a tough runner. We have to be ready for everything. They are a pass-heavy team, but when they run it, they can kill you with it."

Boiler bits
Higgins said linebacker Sean Robinson is "probable" for the game. Robinson has missed about two weeks of practice with an undisclosed injury that had him in a walking boot.
"He's getting better every day," Higgins said.

All of Purdue's players are now in Dallas, Higgins said. Some of the players who were already in Texas over Christmas and couldn't get back because of weather stayed there and met up with the team on Friday.

Higgins wouldn't comment on his future post-bowl game, saying he's working on a 24-hour schedule.
He said he hasn't been informed yet as to whether he'll be retained by new coach Darrell Hazell.
Hazell is expected to arrive in Dallas on Sunday.

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2012. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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