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April 10, 2013

The trash talk begins: Purdue picks spring game teams

PDF:Spring game rosters

There was a lectern, a clock counting down, trade proposals, excited utterances and guarantees of success.

Pretty much a normal draft day atmosphere.

It may have only been for Purdue's spring game, but the mood was lively inside a team meeting room Wednesday afternoon in Mollenkopf.

"It's fun," said senior quarterback Rob Henry, assigned to the black team. "But at the same time, it's serious. We're all competitors and we all want to win. When it comes to Saturday, there won't be too much laughing."

Coach Darrell Hazell was master of the show, laying down the ground rules for the selections for the game on Saturday.

After seniors were divided to two teams, gold and black, they had to select a spokesman to make the picks. Henry held the honor for the black team, Ricardo Allen for the gold.

Each team had only one minute to make a selection or it would forfeit the pick. Once the pick was made, that'd open up the position group and the rest of the picks from that "round" had to be from that position.

The draft took on a frantic pace, and Hazell was in the middle of it all, calling out each pick and crossing names off a list that was illuminated from an overhead projector onto the main screen in the front of the room.

The black team won the first overall pick on a coin toss and selected defensive end Ryan Russell.

The other first-pick selections by position group: Center Robert Kugler (gold), quarterback Danny Etling (black), defensive tackle Ryan Watson (gold), cornerback Frankie Williams (black), tight end Justin Sinz (gold), running back Akeem Hunt (black), receiver Dolapo Macarthy (gold), linebacker Joe Gilliam (black), punter Thomas Meadows (gold), safety E.J. Johnson (black), long snapper Jesse Schmitt (gold), kicker Sam McCartney (black).

After the draft concluded, Hazell set the clock at three minutes to consider trades. Once the timer buzzed, Hazell asked representatives from each team to propose any trades.

The gold team's proposal of Meadows and Charles Torwudzo for Russell was immediately rejected, as the room erupted into laughter.

Henry then proposed Danny Etling for the gold team's Kugler and Meadows. That was greeted with a quick "no" from the gold team's coaches.

With Cody Webster, a senior, already on the gold team, the black team had no punter, which is why Meadows' name was in the mix.

When asked if he thought his team anticipates using its two punters much, Allen responded with "not too much, but they will. And they don't have one."

There was strategy involved in choosing teams.

Henry said he studied in advance and had a philosophy going into the draft. He was happy with how the black team turned out.

"We wanted to pick guys that were versatile, guys we knew knew their assignments and would be reliable," he said. "Especially with a new system and everything that's going in, it's been hard on everyone, so the people who are the most reliable were at the top of our list. That's who we went with."

Allen said the gold team went with the most important element first, protecting the quarterback. It already had Cody Davis, the backup center and sometimes No. 1 guard, on its roster, so it snagged starting center Kugler with its first chance at picking the position.

The gold team also has Jordan Roos, Joey Warburg and Justin Kitchens up front.

The surprise pick of the draft? Maybe Collin Link, whose pick as the gold team's first linebacker drew "oooohs" from the gathering.

Link, a walk-on, was selected ahead of Sean Robinson, who is nursing an injury, Armstead Williams, Andy Garcia and Jimmy Herman.

The most excited player selected? Charles Torwudzo, who immediately jumped off his seat to yell "Let's go!" and give a high five to a nearby teammate.

Torwudzo was the gold team's second pick after Macarthy and after the black team chose Shane Mikesky.

The most revealing pick of the draft, knowing full well strategy is involved? Maybe McCartney over Paul Griggs with the first kicker selection.

With Henry and Etling on the same team, that makes Austin Appleby the top QB for the gold team. Austin Parker is the only other QB on the gold team, so it'll be interesting to see if Hazell tweaks the rosters at all.

After the selections were made, Hazell had representatives from both teams stand up and talk about their teams.

And the trash talking began.

Henry started off civil, saying he felt comfortable with the picks and the talent. Then he announced it'd be "total domination" by the black team.

Teammate Kevin Pamphile followed suit, saying "If I had to lay out a prediction right now …" and took a long pause before declaring that the black team would win "42-0."

But the gold team dished back.

After reiterating the personnel, Allen simply ended with telling the black team "God bless," implying it'd need some help.

Bruce Gaston said the black team's O-line was so poor, he'd had no problem handling them and he has use of only one hand.

"Obviously, we have a lot of confidence in our team," Henry said. "We'll see what happens. At the end of the day, we all realize we're all on the same team. We're here to make each other better, and if it's 42-0, then hopefully we made the gold team better."

With that, the noise level in the room shot up again, with Henry's black team members quick to support his claim and the gold wanting a rebuttal.

"We'll see," Allen said.

Director of sports medicine Doug Boersma gave the "official medical report" before the start of the draft. Four players on offense are out: Danny Anthrop, Trevor Foy, Kurt Freytag and Josh Davis. For defense, it's Ryan Isaac, Landon Feichter, Greg Latta and Brandon Taylor.

But Boersma also reeled off the names of players who were "questionable," which he considers "50-50" for Saturday's game, and "probable," a 75 percent chance of playing.

On the offense's questionable list: receiver Gary Bush, fullback Brandon Cottom, Macarthy, Devin Smith and David Yancey. Boersma said Cottom and Yancey would go through drills on Friday to determine if they'd play. He said he thought Macarthy would play, so he's "more probable."

On defense, Allen, Robinson ("cervical sprain"), Taylor Richards were questionable. When asked directly, Allen (ankle) said he is playing.

Perhaps the most interesting chatter during the draft was between each team's coaches, who were lined up largely on opposite sides of the room.

Jon Heacock is the head coach for the black team and has defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, running backs coach Jafar Williams and tight ends coach Gerad Parker on his staff, as well as GAs Ryan Crow, Brian Mason and Kenyon Blue.

The gold team is led by Rubin Carter, who also has linebackers coach Marcus Freeman, offensive coordinator John Shoop, receivers coach Kevin Sherman and offensive line coach Jim Bridge on staff. Logan Link is the GA.

After the gold team selected Meadows, the gold team's coaches erupted in cheers. Parker, though, wasn't impressed. "We're not trading (for him)!" he announced. Freeman immediately responded, "We don't wanna."

Parker had other choice words for the opposite side of the room, good-naturedly jawing with the gold staff.

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