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April 9, 2013

Appleby pressing on; notes

Austin Appleby isn't making any drastic changes.

There is no panic in the redshirt freshman despite Darrell Hazell's announcement after the "jersey" scrimmage on Saturday that Danny Etling was the No. 2 quarterback behind Rob Henry. Appleby had seemingly occupied that backup spot for the first two weeks of spring practice, based on practice rotations.

But by Saturday - after two practices were closed - Etling trotted onto the field to get snaps after Henry, not Appleby.

In typical fashion of a competitor, though, Appleby isn't complaining about the shift in depth chart.

He's working.

"I can control what I can control, just my effort, my work ethic, my preparation," Appleby said after Tuesday's practice, Purdue's 13th of the spring. "Everything else, I have no say in what reps are given to me, but I can make the most of my reps. Don't count the reps, make the reps count. I know that when my number is called, I'm going to do what I did in the jersey scrimmage, which is lead us to win games."

Appleby said he thinks he's had a "good" spring, though he lamented starting slowly in the scrimmage last week by missing some reads and missing some passes. But he liked the way he responded, considering he guided the offense down the field for the game-winning touchdown on the final play.

He completed 7-of-13 passes, officially, in the scrimmage, but he said he "easily" could have been 11-of-13. Not that he was counting negatively against his teammates, who dropped four of his passes. Appleby had none of that kind of talk.

"The O-line did an absolutely awesome job on that drive, so did the receivers. It's not all me by any means. We do this together," he said. "I don't put the ball in the perfect spot every time. They bailed me out multiple times during that jersey scrimmage, and if it's a completion, everything looks great.

"It's a constant battle for us to continue to keep getting better and keep picking each other up and staying tight as a team because we're all we have."

The offense has been challenged throughout the spring by Greg Hudson's defense, Appleby said, and the different looks it is giving. Hudson has been bringing blitzes often, too, and so all the quarterbacks are having to be quick decision-makers and keenly aware of their reads.

But it's all part of the development process for Purdue's QBs.

And Appleby, his worst critic, is ever pushing himself to make those strides.

"I'd say all aspects," Appleby said when asked how he's gotten better since the first day of spring ball. "I'm continuing to try to grow as a passer. Continuing to grow in the sense of everything that's being thrown at me as a college quarterback, from what a defense is throwing at me and everything maybe off the field, just continuing to grow and mature and just the way to conduct myself as a leader. I'm just continuing to grow and mature and prove to my team that I'm the guy who can lead them to a championship."

Demanding approach
Rubin Carter may not be the assistant coach whose voice raises the loudest during Purdue's practices. But he gets his point across.

He'll stop a drill if he doesn't like the effort or the mistakes - like he did twice on Tuesday - and tell his players to go back and do it again.

He's firm.

He's demanding.

He doesn't know how else to be.

"I was the same way with myself. I was never good enough," said Carter, an NFL veteran and pivotal cog in the Denver Broncos' Orange Crush defense at nose tackle. "I constantly work on the fundamentals, the skills and everything it took to try to be a good player. I never thought I really got there. I was constantly working on it. My son is the same way, Andre, he plays now (in the NFL). He has the same mentality. He's constantly working to evolve and get his game to be better. There's some areas to always improve to be better.

"I think the players have bought into it. They're really coachable. I think they absorb things very well. They're very attentive in the meetings and also in the practice field and they're really trying to do the things that they're taught."

Carter has had to work with a thin bunch this spring, not having the services of projected starters Bruce Gaston (thumb) and Brandon Taylor (ankle) and tackle Ryan Isaac for much of the spring. He's since gotten Gaston back but then lost Greg Latta, who was working with the No. 1 defensive opposite Ryan Russell, to a foot sprain.

Still, Carter has been stressing aggressive play while also trying to develop "two-dimensional" players, guys who can defend against the run or bring a pass rush and stay in the game for 70 snaps and have "great mental and physical endurance."

He also is trying to groom players to play multiple positions, either flipping from left to right end or playing nose tackle or a shade off center in the middle.

So far, he likes the group's collective effort and improvement in all areas.

"They're becoming students of the game, and that's what I really wanted them to learn is how to learn football, how to learn offensive sets and line splits and formations to help you to be able to anticipate things a little bit better, then you're one step ahead," he said. "They're becoming better students."

Finding the leader
Russell would seem to be the likely choice up front for a breakout season in 2013, and Carter has liked what he's seen so far from the junior.

"I am very pleased with Ryan's progress and what he's doing," Carter said. "He is getting much better and becoming much more explosive. His power angle on pass rush is getting a lot better. He's getting up the field vertically. He's starting to turn the edge with a little more authority coming around the corner.

"I think he's going to be a good player for us to put some pressure on quarterbacks but also be effective on the edge to be able to secure that against tackles when they're trying to run outside. He's a great learner and he really pays attention to detail, and those are the type of things you have to do at defensive line because it is a skill position. It's about fundamentals and technique."

Injury update
None of the injured players returned to the field on Tuesday, though there was a Brandon Cottom (knee) sighting. He had his right knee in a brace after hurting it on Saturday.

Landon Feichter announced he had the stitches removed from his surgerically repaired broken left hand earlier in the day, and he tweeted an X-ray of his hand with three screws near the thumb.

It's unclear whether Ricardo Allen (ankle), Kurt Freytag (hamstring), Danny Anthrop (foot), Sean Robinson (neck) and Taylor Richards (shoulder) will be ready for Saturday's spring game.

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