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August 15, 2014

Macarthy heavier, healthier; Day 11 notebook

Dolapo Macarthy is about 15 pounds heavier than a year ago, and he looks it.

With bigger, broader shoulders - and added muscle on his lower body, too - the 6-foot-5 senior looks more like a tight end, the position the converted wide receiver will play this season.

"It was something I really tried to focus on, getting my weight up, carrying some more muscle mass in the upper body so I would be able to get any blows or blocks or anything that I needed to do out here on the field," he said after Friday afternoon's short special teams practice. "I got up to about 235 and felt comfortable with that weight, still am able to run pretty well and move pretty well. I felt really good about that."

Macarthy had to gain the muscle this summer despite injury. In the spring, just as he was making the transition from wide receiver, Macarthy suffered a dislocated shoulder and labral tear after absorbing a hard hit from safety Robert Gregory; it didn't require surgery but did months of rehabilitation.

But it went well, and he says he's felt fine during the first two weeks of training camp.

"I thought I'd come out here and have some issues with my strength and kind of was worried about falling here or falling there in an awkward position," he said. "But I have no worries, can just let loose and go play. It's been a relief."

Macarthy's looking for a big season, after what had to be a frustrating one in 2013. Despite being one of Purdue's more experienced wide receiver options last season, he played little, making only one reception. But in an effort to put him in better matchups, Purdue moved him inside to tight end during the spring.

It could get the long, but perhaps not particularly speedy, receiver in more one-on-one battles against linebackers or safeties. But during camp, offensive coordinator John Shoop has had Macarthy lined up not only on the end of the line, but elsewhere, also.

"Back in spring, I sat down with Coach Shoop and we talked about the role that I'm going to have," Macarthy said. "He says he was going to split me out, have me in the wing position, have my hand down in a three-point (stance) as a tight end sometimes. I love it because I can be anywhere at any time. Defenses can't really key in on me. I get to just learn the ins and outs of the offense and do so many different things."

But he needs to be able to play tight end, too, meaning he'll occasionally have to block on the edge. And the added weight has helped.

"I notice a difference whenever we do an inside drill and fit runs against defensive ends and linebackers," he said. "I'm able to hold my ground a lot better than I was able to back when I was 220 pounds. I feel really good about that."

Tight ends coach Gerad Parker has liked what he's seen, especially considering the depth Macarthy has provided. He's in the position group with Justin Sinz and Gabe Holmes, but gives the Boilermakers a bit of a different look.

"He's changed his body and that was his challenge," Parker said. "We said, 'Hey, you've got to at least come in here looking like one to survive some of the stuff we do.' He's put on 12 to 14 pounds and looks good wearing it, and has really challenged himself physically to make sure he can do some of the things we do at tight end. Man, what a great attitude and a team guy who is going to help us win games." (KC)

In the rotation
Though Purdue's deepest position probably is receiver, it's likely freshman Gregory Phillips will get game snaps as a rookie.

He's made too much of an impression during the offseason and in his first training camp not to.

Teammates and coaches raved about Phillips' work ethic and conditioning in the offseason, pointing to him as one of the team's hardest workers and most willing to push other players in runs and drills. He's showed that in practices, too, working at the X receiver position behind DeAngelo Yancey but already generating chatter from Darrell Hazell and others that Phillips could make a move on one of the team's best players.

"Greg Phillips is a young receiver who has a lot of ability. He's got some freakish talent and some freakish work ethic," Austin Appleby said early in camp. "He's even gotten some of the older guys to buy into his work ethic, getting up at 5 in the morning, going to the pool to swim or running or coming in here to get extra routes."

Phillips initially was bringing classmates David Blough and Tim Cason on those early-morning workouts in the offseason but, ultimately, more teammates joined the fray. Phillips brought two specific workouts that were unique, the "frog" and the "worm," exercises done on the ground that stretch the body and work multiple muscle groups. They're workouts Phillips got from a training down in his native Georgia, and he loves them.

"I pride myself in being in great shape because you can't win football games doing the ordinary. You've got to be extraordinary," Phillips said. "Being extraordinary, you've got to things that people have never done. Therefore, that's what I do, work even harder to push the people who are here so we can bring some championships aboard."

Phillips had a couple rough days of practice in the middle of camp, dropping more balls than he had been and being lost on a couple of plays, but he's responded well the last several practices and even had Appleby tell him "perfect" after one route Friday.

"Besides a dynamic and explosive player, I want to be decisive and smart player," Phillips said. "When I say smart, I'm referring to knowing the defense and adjusting to the quarterback. He shouldn't have to tell me it's Cover 2. I should already know - run a certain route since it's Cover 2. So it's basically just learning the plays, learning the playbook and studying the defense, studying film." (SC)

What to watch for
The Boilermakers wrap camp with their jersey scrimmage at 11:15 a.m. Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium, the event that decides whether the offense or defense will wear black in practice the rest of the season.

But it'll decide quite a bit more than jersey color.

Hazell said he has a "short list" of questions he'd like answered, namely who will emerge as a No. 3 running back, where Gelen Robinson may provide the best fit (linebacker or rush end), whether Danny Etling or Austin Appleby solidifies the starting QB spot and who can step in as the No. 5 linebacker.

Perhaps more than personnel decisions, though, Hazell will evaluate some intangibles of his team.

"I want to see operation, try not to see too many mental mistakes, guys who are going to play hard and coaches making sure they stay back, all those game-type things that you can evaluate," Hazell said.

Some key pieces to the season may get limited reps Saturday.

Projected starting left tackle Cameron Cermin, who did not practice Friday, could be limited to 10-15 snaps while nursing a groin strain, Hazell said. David Hedelin will get the first-team snaps when Cermin doesn't - or if Cermin can't go.

Freshman linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, who has been splitting No. 1 reps with Joe Gilliam at weak-side linebacker, is questionable for Saturday with hamstring and shoulder/stinger injuries. But Hazell said he hopes Bentley can get at least 20 snaps in the scrimmage.

Ra'Zahn Howard, the starting nose tackle, also won't play while he continues to rehab an apparent groin/hip injury suffered on Day 3 of camp. Howard hasn't been in red the past two days in practice, but he also hasn't done anything other than limited positional drills.

Also definitely out are receivers Bilal Marshall (shoulder) and Dan Monteroso (knee) and linebacker Garrett Hudson (shoulder).

Quarterbacks Etling and Appleby will have one "live" set on Saturday but otherwise will be non-contact, while No. 3 QB David Blough will have two live series. (SC)

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