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August 2, 2013

Countdown to Camp: Keep an eye on ...

On Saturday, Purdue begins its first training camp under Coach Darrell Hazell.

All the practices will be open to the public.

Here are some things to keep an eye on:

Changing positions
There weren't any major moves in the spring, largely because Hazell and his staff were getting their first look at Purdue's personnel.

But it'd be a surprise if that was the case in camp. Already, Hazell has announced that Bilal Marshall has moved from quarterback to receiver. There was precedent there, even if on a different staff, with former QBs Robert Gregory and Aloyis Gray being moved last season. Gray, at least, is similar in body type to Marshall, both tall, lanky athletes. Hazell was most impressed by Marshall's speed. We'll see what kind of hands he has and how quickly he'll learn routes, etc. Offensive coordinator John Shoop has talked a lot about how intelligent Marshall is, so maybe that's an indication he'll get a chance sooner than later. Though, considering his weight, that doesn't seem too likely.

But what about moves once camp starts?

There's still clamoring - at least in this office - for Raheem Mostert to make the permanent move to running back. Considering the number of receivers already on the roster and the lack of running back depth, could Mostert finally make the move this fall? He'd be an instant upgrade in the backfield with his combination of speed and especially his strength to break tackles.

Purdue is going to need to find some depth at defensive end with only Ryan Russell, Greg Latta (coming off an injury) and Jalani Phillips having any real game experience. Ryan Isaac could play some there, especially after slipping to the edge some last season, but he's expected to play mostly inside in 2013. Especially now that Brandon Taylor is out. Watch for potential movement to build numbers up front, though, maybe inside, too. That's what Eric McDaniel did late last season and Hazell is already talking about him being an option for snaps inside.

Redshirt freshmen O-linemen
Danny Hope stocked up on offensive linemen his 2012 recruiting class, and it could pay dividends for Hazell in his first year.

Jason King, Jordan Roos and J.J. Prince will be pushing for snaps this season as redshirt freshmen, and all could find their way into the starting lineup by the end of the season. King and Roos could be there even sooner - there's a chance they surpass Cody Davis and Devin Smith at the guard spots to start the opener.

Prince likely will be the No. 3 tackle entering camp, considering Trevor Foy missed all of spring with an injury and coaches haven't seen him play. Prince did enough to impress, though. Hazell said Prince could play some inside, too, which would seem to increase his value. It's possible classmate Joey Warburg can work his way into the two-deep at tackle, too.

Cameron Cermin may be the longest shot to get on the field this season, but he has potential, too.

Hazell doesn't mind using two kickers, one for short attempts and one for long kicks. That's the approach that Hope employed last year with first-year players Paul Griggs and Sam McCartney.

But Hazell would like to see at least one of them emerge as a consistently solid kicker.

Griggs and McCartney had their moments last season - Griggs' game-winner against Iowa, McCartney's clutch field goal at Notre Dame. But they also had their struggles - Ohio State for both.

In the spring, that inconsistency still was there. Will it continue in camp?

The crowds
Hazell had practices open in the spring, too, but they weren't flooded by fans eager to see the new staff and players. Rarely were there more than 30 or so fans in attendance. That's probably good, considering there's not too much room to roam inside Mollenkopf.

There's a bit more room on the outdoor fields, but the heat and sun also will be a factor.

Hazell would like to generate fan support and publicity for the program. We'll see if the numbers are up in camp.

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