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August 8, 2014

Cermin with 1s at left tackle; Day 5 camp notebook

One day after being moved back out to tackle from inside, Cameron Cermin was lined up exclusively with Purdue's first-team offense on the left side Friday.

The Boilermakers used senior Jack DeBoef with the No. 1 group through most of the first four practices, although Cermin got some snaps there late on Day 4. But by Day 5, it was the sophomore's job full-time.

And it could be that way for the season opener, if Cermin holds up.

Purdue has been searching for a left tackle since the spring when DeBoef was given a chance and got most of the snaps with the first team. But he didn't impress enough, especially in pass protection, to win the job. Since, the coaching staff has been looking for someone to step in and step up - and though Coach Darrell Hazell has said he likes Cermin better inside, Cermin does have experience on the edge.

"We'll see where it goes," Hazell said of the move. "We'll still work Jack out there at left tackle, (and) he's got to work some guard spot. But we've got to bring some of those young guys along so we have some depth up front and figure out who our best seven or eight offensive linemen are in three weeks. That's the goal.

"(We) just thought we needed some additional pass (protection). But Jack is doing a decent job in the run game. He's got to get better in the pass game. We all have to get better, that's the key."

David Hedelin, who is suspended the first three games, got most of the snaps with the No. 2 offense. Freshman Bearooz Yacoobi was with the 3s.

Still looking
Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt have established themselves as Purdue's top two running backs, but no one has emerged to snatch the No. 3 and 4 spots through camp's first five days, Hazell said.

Senior Brandon Cottom, redshirt freshmen David Yancey and Keith Byars and freshman D.J. Knox are vying for playing time.

"That's a big question for us right now," Hazell said. "We have to determine who that third and fourth guy is. This is a Big Ten league that's very physical, and you have to have four guys. So we have to find out who is No. 3 and No. 4 guy, and we don't know yet."

Hazell and his staff will keep a close eye on who can help in pass protection, which is sometimes a tough adjustment for young backs. But it's something the team tries to work on daily, Hazell said. It hasn't happened too much in practice in one-on-one work yet, though.

"That's the key thing for young guys and young backs is you've got to be able to step up and stone those guys and protect for the quarterbacks," Hazell said. "We have some good quarterbacks, and obviously good skill people, but we've got to be able to protect for them."

Ready to make plays
Hunt isn't jealous of Mostert's surge to the top of the depth chart, saying his good friend won the top spot.

And Hunt also knows there still will be plenty of touches for him in Purdue's offense in 2014.

He gave coaches a reminder of what he brings to the group in Friday's practice when he took a screen pass from Austin Appleby and raced about 60 yards for a touchdown. Hunt had a couple blockers in front of him, including tight end Gabe Holmes and center Kirk Barron, used a nifty move to juke cornerback Leroy Clark near the 30-yard line and then a block from the backside receiver to secure the touchdown.

It's the type of play Hunt has shown in bursts over his first three seasons but less when he carried the starting running back load last year. Perhaps with Mostert on the field with him, he'll thrive again.

"I have a new role, to get in space and just make plays where opportunity comes. When they get me the ball, I just have to make the best out of it and strike when the offense needs me," Hunt said.

Most of those big plays could come from the slot, of which Hunt said he's playing more this camp than actual tailback.

But it's a way for him still to get the ball in his hands quickly, rely on teammates to open some holes downfield and then for him to showcase his talents.

"I showed that I could catch the ball and they can rely on me to be a pass-catcher," he said. "I had to prove to them every day, don't talk about it, just stay consistent and catch every ball. They always say, 'Catch every ball' and then my God-given talent will take over from there."

Injury update
B.J. Knauf could return to full-go as soon as Saturday, Hazell said.

Knauf hasn't been able to practice yet this camp after a head injury suffered during 7-on-7 work in the offseason. Knauf had shoulder pads on Friday, though, and participated in most of the non-contact drills. He tried to slip into a blocking drill with the receivers at one point in practice, but Coach Kevin Sherman caught him just before the snap and made Knauf step out.

"He feels good. He says he feels close to 100 percent," Hazell said. "Because of the rules, we had to keep him in shoulder pads, couldn't put full pads on him. He should be able to go (Saturday), if not, definitely Monday."

Another receiver, Dan Monteroso, is making some progress, too, Hazell said. Monteroso, who bruised his left knee early on Day 2, could return to the practice field by the end of next week, Hazell said.

Nose tackle Ra'Zahn Howard was at practice without a wrap on his left knee Friday, but he's still at least several days from returning. Hazell said the training staff would like to get Howard walking in the whirlpool Saturday.

"His knee feels better, he said. His hip is still sore," Hazell said. "He had a smile on his face, walking a little bit better (Friday) than he was (Thursday night)."

Saturday marks Purdue's first two-a-day of camp with practices at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Both are open to the public. One of those practices will be in full pads.

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