Much is expected of Purdue's tight ends in its new offense, one that has a lot of shifting and motion in a pro style look with physical intentions.
Gerad Parker's group needs to not only be able to block to help open up that running game but be able to play multiple spots, from lining up in the backfield to H-back to detached in the slot to spread wide.
Though he says the group has a long way to go, he thinks they've shown an ability to perform all of the tasks the offense asks.
"One of the first things (the tight ends) spoke about when I got a chance to meet them and have meetings with them was they were anxious and had heard whispers of how involved they were going to be. They've seen that on the field with spring practice," Parker said on Monday after Purdue's ninth spring practice. "So it's a chance for them to be excited. I think they're refreshed. They like the fresh start. They all want a sense of being. For the tight ends in this offense, there's just as many tight ends on the field as wideouts at times. They all want to get on the field, no doubt about it, so I think it provides them some motivation and offensive morale to where all those guys feel like they can go play at times.
Gabe Holmes and Justin Sinz, both players with experience, are getting the bulk of the reps with the No. 1 offense.
Parker said Holmes can become an all-conference player and likes that Sinz can be "tough guy" and play multiple positions. Carvajal and Morris are "learning how" to play, and Bade is better-suited for blocking than in the passing game. Carter has missed chunks of spring ball because of class conflicts, but Parker said Carter has shown some "promise" in the practices he's been able to attend.
"We're just trying to learn those guys, continue to improve what we need to improve upon and get them to the level they need to play at," Parker said. "We've talked a lot about how everybody has a ceiling as far as their capabilities, we've got to get the most out of them and obviously continue to grow.
"I think we have enough ability in our room to block three-man surface runs but also be able to stand up and stretch the field vertically and horizontally in the passing game. In our offense, that's what we've got to do, those two things, be involved in the passing game both ways and also be involved in the running game."
Looking for answersAfter Purdue had one of the worst seasons in its history on punt returns in 2012, Parker has plenty of work to do on that unit.
He's narrowed it down to three returners, Frankie Williams, Ricardo Allen and Akeem Hunt, all of whom struggled at points during Friday's kick scrimmage and Monday's punt return work hanging onto the ball.
"We have to make them better, little better understanding of where to get the ball vertical," Parker said. "We've got to do a better job of holding up for them and blocking. That's our job as well."
Parker said he worked with special teams at his previous gig at Marshall, but this is the first time he's had control of an entire unit.
"It's an adjustment," Parker said of his punt unit, called Turbo. "It's good, being challenged, but I like it. I enjoy doing something different. With every step of your coaching career, it seems like every head coach has found a way to put you in an uncomfortable position that ends up being better for you. But during it, you're like, 'Well, this is new.' But it's been fun. It's something to prepare for and learn more ball."
A good sellParker is the team's recruiting coordinator. He was asked how Purdue is being perceived with the new staff.
"I don't have anything to compare it to, but I know for us there's a lot of excitement with any kid who has shown up on campus with what Coach (Darrell) Hazell is to this program, what he is to our staff, the buzz he creates," Parker said. "I think we have a great, great product to sell right now. We've got to capitalize on that, and I think we are. We've got a bunch of great recruiters on staff. Everybody is working hard to get out to their areas.
"We'll make a good pitch, but it's going to be because of who we can get these kids in front of when they come to campus with our head coach."
'Top secret'Practices on Wednesday and Friday this week are the only ones closed to media and fans for the entire spring, Parker joked there will be "top secret" happenings.
Then he said, actually, Wednesday will be similar to what the team has been doing the first two weeks and Friday will be lighter and have an emphasis on the kicking game in preparation for Saturday's scrimmage.
The scrimmage - or at least the warm ups - will start at 9:30 a.m. in Ross-Ade Stadium. It's open to fans.
Parker said he's eager to see how players respond on Saturday.
"We just want to get a chance to get away from the guys and not being able to (give them) the short little whispers as an assistant coach where you're saying, 'You've got this and this.' Let Coach (John) Shoop call the game, let these guys let loose and play like kids and see what we've got," Parker said. "It's all been controlled. Saturday will be a good day to see these guys run around and go make plays."
Injury updateStarting cornerback Allen missed practice after spraining an ankle during the kick scrimmage on Friday.
Safety Landon Feichter wasn't at practice after having surgery to repair a broken right hand, according to his Twitter account. Feichter even posted pictures of himself after the procedure and with his hand heavily bandaged.
Feichter suffered the injury on March 25, though he didn't immediately leave practice. He did interviews afterward and mentioned his hand was hurting, saying then he thought he jammed something. He wore a plastic brace in practice the rest of the week.
Bruce Gaston has his thumb/hand heavily wrapped - maybe casted - after postseason surgery, but he worked some in light contact situations on Monday.
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