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February 6, 2013

'So much quality'

New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell had to piece together his first Boilermaker recruiting class quickly.

In so doing, he looked for not only good players, but good people, he said Wednesday after signing 23 recruits to national letters-of-intent.

"We just have so much quality coming into the program," said Hazell, to whom 11 of these recruits committed, the others being inherited from Danny Hope's staff. "That's where you start to win championships, when you have guys you can trust and you can count on, guys who you could have watch your son without having any concerns."

Mission accomplished, said Hazell, who had just weeks to fill approximately half the class.

In recruiting, coaches seek to strike up as thorough a relationship as possible with prospects, not only to help land them, but also to know exactly what they're getting into by signing a player.

Hazell, though, did not have that luxury, as the class had to be put together quickly.

"Not as well as you'd like to," Hazell said of the opportunity to build relationships. "You'd like to get to know the (family) dog and all the other things that in a three-week period, you don't have time to, but you do the best job you can in that short a period of time."

Purdue's new coach obviously felt like he did that.

In his first signing day press conference with the Boilermakers, Hazell deferred largely to the seven assistant coaches currently in place to talk specifically about the signees, and to the three recruits already on campus - freshmen Danny Etling, John Strauser and David Yancey - to speak for themselves.

But in the time the head coach spent at the microphone, he emphasized character and academics, noting that Purdue's average signee brings nearly a 3.0 GPA, with average test scores of 20 on the ACT and "a little more than" 1,000 on the SAT, very solid numbers by college football standards.

The coach, though, spoke highly of the class' ability, as well, of course, particularly at running back, where Purdue signed four players.

"You have to be able to able to run the ball in this conference," said Hazell, whose offensive coordinator, John Shoop, later talked about Purdue's aim to become a physical running team. "You can't have enough good running backs. This is a very physical conference and you're going to need good players throughout the course of the season. If you have three or four good tailbacks in these league, you're going to be pretty successful."

Priority No. 1 for Hazell when he took over at Purdue was solidifying Etling's commitment in December.

The Rivals.com four-star recruit is considered one of the top quarterbacks nationally. He was Hazell's first recruiting visit.

"That was the most important thing," Hazell said of Etling. "You can't win without quarterbacks and he was the best in the state, the best in the Midwest, and this was the perfect place for him, the Cradle of Quarterbacks. You talk about (Drew) Brees, Len Dawson and Bob Griese, guys like that, and he's in that lineage now. I'm sure he'll work to be of that quality, just like those guys did."

Etling is from Terre Haute, giving Purdue a highly regarded recruit from its home state.

In the years to come, it'll look to add many more.

"We have to do a great job at Purdue of really cultivating this whole state," Hazell said, "and making sure we go after every player we think can help us win championships."

Versatility is a defining characteristic of Class No. 1, Hazell said.

"We think it's a very unique class," Hazell said. "If you study them the thing that you see is it's a hybrid class where there's a lot of guys who can play different positions. When you look at the secondary, the corners can play safety and the safeties can play corner; there's a lot of linebackers who can put their hands in the dirt and there's a lot of defensive linemen who can stand up and play on their feet. That's one of the things we like about this class.

"When you look at the offensive side, there are running backs who can play in the slot; we have a great tight end (Matt Burke), we think, who can detach from the formation and give us some things from the outside."

Hazell said he doesn't know his current personnel well enough to speculate about which recruits - or which positions - might be in best position to contribute right away.

In the long run, though, he talks of the class like it's one that can make a profound impact on Purdue football.

"It's going to be an amazing class," he said. "... We're really excited about this class."

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