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March 13, 2014

Gregory eager for new chance; Day 5 notes

Robert Gregory desperately wanted a chance to get on the field for Purdue.

If that meant another position switch, so be it.

So when he met with Darrell Hazell after returning from semester break, Gregory asked the coach where he saw the sophomore's "best fit."

When spring ball started, Gregory was on defense, working with the safeties. It's his third position since arriving at Purdue as a quarterback, then moving to running back but not getting any game snaps there last season.

"Many people from back home, mentors, high school coaches and people that watched me growing up, said safety would be a good look. With the size and the athletic ability, I have a chance of playing at the next level at this position, so I didn't have a problem with it," Gregory said Thursday after the fifth day of Purdue's spring ball.

After not playing any safety at any point previously - although he played a little bit of cornerback in high school - the transition has had its ups and downs this spring, Gregory said. But he likes new secondary coach Taver Johnson and has been appreciative of the coach's discipline and focus on learning, like requiring players to take notes during meetings.

During practices last season, Gregory showed an ability to be physical while having the ball in his hands. He's shown some fearlessness early this spring at the new spot.

"He's a hitter," Johnson said. "He made a couple plays (Thursday). We've got to clean his feet up. He's a little bit of fish out of water, first time playing the position. But I like him. Big guy like that that can come up and cover a lot of ground, that's the plan right now (to keep him here)."

Early in spring, Gregory has been working with the second-team defense. Landon Feichter and Taylor Richards have the top two spots locked, and sophomore Austin Logan is coming off a season with some game snaps.

Still, Gregory didn't make the move just to sit on the sidelines.

He even had an interception during Wednesday's practice - the first one during team work in the open practices. He said it didn't, though, because it was actually in the wrong place but happened to make a play. Still, it showed some play-making skills, something the secondary needs in 2014 with interceptions leader Ricardo Allen graduated.

"I don't feel as if I contributed as much as I could have last year playing the running back position," he said. "So me making the switch - and we were kind of low on bodies as far as safeties go - so I figure, I'll come help them out with my athleticism and my body type and make it bust that way, as well as still play special teams."

Talking up Coach
Johnson hasn't been on campus too long - his first chance to meet with players after being hired was last month - but he's quickly making an impression.

Gregory, Taylor Richards and Frankie Williams all said they appreciate Johnson's mixed approach, and they feel like he can help mold the secondary into a successful group.

For Richards, it's his fourth defensive backs coach in four years, which has been "overwhelming" at times, he said. But he's happy with No. 4.

"I love Coach Johnson," Richards said. "He reminds me a lot of Coach Anarumo and a lot of Coach Burns. Coach A from the discipline side where we have to be so technical with everything and Coach Burns where it's a lot more energy and he brings the have-fun kind of attitude, really get excited to play football. It's a brand new day, let's bring it every day. I love it, I really do. It takes a little bit of adjusting, but at the same time, it's really good."

Speaking out
Richards spoke with reporters for the first time since pleading guilty in late-February to a Class C misdemeanor of operating a vehicle with a BAC of at least 0.08 or more.

He was sentenced to 364 days of probation and 32 hours of community service. Hazell, though, has yet to announce any of his own disciplinary actions for the senior safety.

"Definitely what I did was wrong," Richards said Thurssday. "I apologize for everything that I did to the university, to my football team, to my parents, my family. But Coach Hazell is handling it right now, and whatever the repercussions are, we'll find out. Right now, I'm just focusing on football and grades."

Heading out
Purdue's players will scatter over the next week, heading out for spring break. Three Boilermakers will be making a significant journey - to South Africa on a mission trip headed by Purdue athletic chaplain Marty Dittmar.

Williams, Dolapo Macarthy and Sean Robinson will fly from Indianapolis to London to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then head up to the small township of Hammanskraal to help at an orphanage.

The Boilermakers will be in South Africa for about six days, returning to the States on Friday, Williams said.

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