INDIANAPOLIS - One of Darrell Hazell's first recruiting-related tasks as Purdue's head coach will be to make the Midwest, specifically Indiana, the program's focal point.
Monday in Indianapolis, at the annual Best of the Midwest combine, many of the players Purdue may look at were in attendance, one of them being Lawrence Central linebacker Brandon Lee, who will have many options but said he's looking forward to hearing from Hazell.
"He coached at Ohio State with (Jim) Tressel and at Kent State, and he did pretty well at Kent State. He beat my brother (Kevin) at Ball State," joked Lee, who holds offers from Louisville, NC State, Kentucky, Ball State, Iowa, Purdue and Indiana already. "He's a good coach and from what people have told me, he's a good guy, also.
"Coach Hazell stopped by my school to speak with my coach and I've talked to the recruiting coordinator there, Coach (Kevin) Maurice. He gave me the number for the coach I need to talk to and I need to get to know him. I'm planning on going up there for a visit once I talk to the coach."
It'll be an emphasis for Hazell and his new staff to mend fences, for lack of a better term, in its home region after former coach Danny Hope put heavy emphasis on the Southeast. Purdue's former staff recruited Indiana and surrounding states aggressively, but not with the commitment Hazell has promised to.
"It'll be a new system, but hopefully they'll be on the way up," said Indianapolis Cathedral wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who hasn't yet heard from Purdue, but will see his recruiting attention pick up after running back-to-back 4.4-type times the past few days. "They'll bring in some new guys. I know the last coach brought in a lot of players from the South, but I'm hoping he maybe stays a little more local, because we have some good players around here."
Purdue will start getting Midwestern recruits on campus beginning this weekend, when it hosts its first junior day under Hazell on Saturday afternoon.
One recruit who'll be there, and probably wouldn't even need to get in a car to get there, is West Lafayette High School running back Maurice Woodard.
Purdue has been keeping close watch on Woodard for some time.
"Coach Hazell seems like a pretty exciting guy, so hopefully they're still interested," said Woodard, who's also heard from Indiana and Ball State. "Before (under the old staff), they told me that they wanted to offer me, but they wanted me to come to their camp first, so I think I'll do that and hopefully it turns out well."
Purdue would have a natural advantage in recruiting Woodard, due to proximity and familiarity.
The same can be said for East Chicago athlete Martayveus Carter, who said Purdue is his favorite in recruiting, largely because of the weight former Boilermaker star Kawann Short carries at his school.
"I don't know much about (Hazell) yet," Carter said, "but I'm looking forward to getting to know him. I hope to hear more from them."
Purdue will emphasize Indiana, but a coaching staff loaded with Ohio ties will also hit the Buckeye State hard.
Chris Frey - named the Best of the Midwest's top linebacker Monday - is one such player who'll be hearing from the Boilermakers.
The Columbus area safety/linebacker unofficially visited Purdue during the season, under its old staff.
Frey, who has offers from Syracuse and numerous Mid-American Conference programs already, said he's looking forward to learning more about Hazell and re-connecting with linebackers coach Marcus Freeman, who he knows from Freeman's time at Kent State with Hazell.
"We're pretty close, so I have to catch up with him," Frey said of Freeman. "As of right now, I still have a lot of interest in (Purdue)."
GoldandBlack.com will have much more to come in the next few days on some of the top players at the Best of the Midwest.
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