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March 19, 2013

Spring ball primer

The Boilermakers open their first spring practice under first-year head coach Darrell Hazell this afternoon, looking to springboard their way into the 2013 season.

Following is a look at general information about spring football, from what you need to know, to what we need to learn, to the coverage expected over the next month, leading up to the spring game on April 13.

What We Know

Fifth-year senior Rob Henry will take the first first-team snaps at quarterback this afternoon, being the No. 1 on Hazell's loose - and likely free-flowing, at least early in the spring - depth chart.

But holding the starting job until Aug. 31 will be challenging. Expect Austin Appleby in particular to make a strong push; he might be, at this point, Purdue's most accurate passer, its strongest QB physically and best at adapting to a new system.

We'll see.

Freshman Danny Etling and redshirt freshman Bilal Marshall should also see first-team snaps.

O.J. Ross will not be in attendance. The senior wide receiver, the top returning pass-catcher from last season, remains indefinitely suspended.

Among those we know to be sidelined: DT Bruce Gaston (hand); DT Brandon Taylor (ankle); DT/DE Ryan Isaac (unknown); WR Danny Anthrop (foot); and OL Trevor Foy (unknown) and Josh Davis.

Sophomore Robert Kugler shifts to back to center, where he's likely to anchor the rest of the offensive line. Senior Justin Kitchens can likely be penciled in at one of the tackle spots. But those are probably the only knowns on the offensive line.

Expect Purdue's spring practices to be crisp, with segments divided and very little leeway for dead time in between. Hazell has said he anticipates practices being no longer than two hours.

The Boilermakers' starting secondary unit is likely set, one would think, with CBs Ricardo Allen and Frankie Williams and safeties Landon Feichter and Taylor Richards.

The rest of the defense, however …

What We Don't Know

A lot, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Who gets first team carries at running back?

Who are the top six wide receivers, particularly after Gary Bush and Dolapo Macarthy?

Who is the left tackle?

Will either Paul Griggs or Sam McCartney separate himself for the place-kicking job?

Can a young linebacker - perhaps Jimmy Herman or Andy Garcia - make a move toward what would seemingly be opportunities?

Will a quarterback step up?

Where will Raheem Mostert line up?


What You Can Expect

For the first time since midway through the 2005 spring, Purdue's practices will be open to the public.

Today's starts at 3:30 p.m. - either inside Mollenkopf Athletic Facility or on the practice fields north of it - and will end around 5:15 p.m.

The short-term forecast calls for unseasonably cold weather to continue, so if the Boilermakers are outside, bundle up. Doubtful that bonfires will be allowed.

Follow practices live on Gold and Black's Twitter account, for observations, breaking news and pictures and more.

Then, after practices, we'll have full reports, with coach/player reaction, daily reports, features, video, galleries and - perhaps most importantly - analysis of the today's events.

For a recap of stories leading up to the start of spring practices, look here.

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