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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 5

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Page 27 of 92

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED OLUME 26, ISSUE 5 28 F or a program that's won only six games in three seasons under Darrell Hazell, progress can be mea- sured in a variety of ways. So, perhaps, it's not surprising that of the three goals Hazell had for his team this spring, becoming more competitive was one of them. Hazell always has stressed competition in practices, trying to enhance a trait he hopes all of his players have by putting them in challenging and adverse situations. But this spring, Hazell took it a step further. He graded all team periods and determined a "winner," and after the next practice, the group that "lost" faced physical consequences at the end of practice, typically running. Though Hazell hadn't tallied the final results as of April 22 when he met with reporters to discuss the spring, he said he thought the defense won overall. But, more than that, he was pleased such a purposeful act created the right environment this spring. "We always (would) say, 'OK, offense won, defense won.' But when you put it up on the Elmo (projector) the next day, people see it, 'OK, offense won that.' I think it just gives more support and validity and makes them compete," Hazell said. "The coaches got involved. One day Ross (Els) said in the staff meeting, 'You beat us in stretch yesterday, so we're going to come back and beat you in stretch.' Just having fun with it. That was good." Placing added importance on competitiveness in ev- ery single drill was imperative because Hazell still is trying to cultivate a culture in which players understand that little things matter, that having fight is crucial, that beating even a teammate in a drill is important for con- fidence-building and in which losing, even in a team period in a spring practice, isn't acceptable. "I thought that was accomplished, just the competi- tive nature of things," Hazell said. Other goals this spring? For players quickly to grasp the new offensive and defensive systems; for new coach- es to evaluate talent level; and for depth to emerge on special teams and across the offense and defense. A closer look at the progress in those areas: WEST COAST APPEAL TO OFFENSE Though it may not look it in terms of formations or groupings, new offensive coordinator Terry Malone insists Purdue's offense is significantly different than the one John Shoop ran for the previous three seasons. Though Shoop came in with a mind to run a West Coast offense — and there were signs of Bill Walsh's version early on with a primary under-center look, a leaning to- ward two-tight end sets, a focus on a horizontal passing game and a post-snap progression read system for the QBs — there was less specific focus as the years wore on. Malone's "West Coast" look will have its own feel. Though there still are Walsh principles with timing routes that complement the run game and a focus on getting the ball out of the quarterback's hand quickly, a key piece of Malone's plan is to push the ball vertically. "I like to stretch the defense to make them back up and play honest football," Malone said. "I hate to see the defense on their toes coming at us without having to back up first." Though each piece is responsible for that — start- ing up front, where Malone has added a gap-blocking scheme that will be mixed in with zone blocking; and ending with the receiving corps, which may be the strength of the team, Hazell said — there's really one position that shoulders much of the load. And that's why the biggest difference — and the most-needed change — in the offense was more sim- plicity in the system for the quarterbacks. Part of that means different and non-repetitive ter- minology, part of it is fewer personnel groupings and part is how the quarterbacks are reading and respond- ing to defenses. Under Malone and new QB coach Tim Lester, the focus is on pre-snap reads and being able to actually eliminate progressions based on the defense — instead of still going through the entirety post-snap. (More on that on Pages 28-29.) Hazell and Malone have seen results in the new ap- proach, saying the offense executed at a higher level this spring and, generally, was more efficient.

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