Patrick Higgins said he's had good chemistry with Purdue Robert Marve even before they started working as a coordinator-quarterback in the season's final three games.
"When you're coaching receivers, you're always talking to the quarterbacks about, 'This is how they're going to come out of their break, expect this.' When Robert got injured, he had a lot more free time at practice, so he'd always stand by me and ask me, while Gary (Nord) was coordinating, he'd ask me what was going on and you develop a relationship that way," Higgins said.
Higgins said the key to his solid relationship with Marve is honesty.
He can tell Marve, "Man, that was a bad read," but Marve can come back and tell Higgins he doesn't like a certain call that's made. There's a give-and-take that has worked well for the pair.
"Everybody has a weak part of their game and mine was taking a little bit too many risks, but at the same time, I get an opportunity now that I haven't gotten before," Marve said. "Coach Higgins does a good job of letting me feel out the whole game and then take my shots when I'm ready."
But there will be a tweak in their game-day dealings on Jan. 1.
Higgins will be on the sidelines running the show instead of up in the press box. Marve has talked about how he's liked to get on the phone after each series to talk to Higgins.
"We're going to do that on the sideline, even though I'm on the sideline," Higgins said, jokingly. "We're going to put him on the headset, and I'll walk down the other end of the field and he can say, 'Hey, coach, how are you doing?' If he likes that, I'm more than willing to do that. We'll get it figured out."
Well-deserved Higgins spoke with reporters for the first time since Kawann Short was named a second-team AP All-American earlier in the week.
"It's awesome," he said. "Those are simple thoughts. I don't have a lot of productive thoughts in my head to begin with, but when they say, 'Hey, KK gets second-team AP All-American, that's awesome. The kid worked hard, and he's a great kid. … You're just happy for someone like that."
Fellow defensive tackle Bruce Gaston said he was happy for Short but thought he should have been first team. Short had 14.5 tackles for a loss, including six sacks this season.
"I'm proud of him," Gaston said. "He's a great guy. He's much older than me, an old man. I look up to him, though. He was my recruit host. I'm going to be sad to see him leave, but we're going to try to get him this win, his last win for Purdue."
Progressing At this point in bowl practices, nearly two weeks in, Higgins likes what he's seeing for the most part.
The tempo always could be better, he said, but he thinks the Boilermakers have been playing with intensity in practices that have been shorter but crisp.
The No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense compete against each other in certain segments of practice. When asked which side is winning most of those matchups, Higgins said, "both of us."
"That means it's good," he said after Thursday's late-morning practice. "You want the defense to have some success. You want the offense to have some success. If one group is having all the success, then you've got issues on that other side. So when the offense does well, then the defense does well, then the offense, then the defense, you're getting a good competitive atmosphere and you're getting good productive work, and that's what we're getting."
The defense's production should increase as it gets more of its starters healthy.
For much of the second half of the season, a bulk of starters was only able to do walkthrough reps, not full speed ones. That can show in games, then, in missed alignments, assignments and execution.
"We're getting there. The injury report is getting less, but we're still a little limited on who can have contact and who's out and who's in, so we manipulate it as we go," he said. "We've got how many more days? 28 days? No, 18 days. Man, time flies when you're having fun."
Coming along One position Purdue is stocked, in bodies at least, is receiver for 2013.
Higgins, the team's receivers coach, said he thinks those players can get time on the field next season.
"We're doing more than you think with them" in bowl practices, Higgins said. "They get half the reps. When we go our team work and our scout work, they're in for that second half of team and for the second half of scout. So they're getting enough reps."
Knauf only recently was cleared to be in a green jersey, no contact, in practices. He's been marred by a back injury all season.
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