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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 5

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED OLUME 26, ISSUE 5 32 depth on the interior D-line: Ra'Zahn Howard wasn't with the team this spring. And he may not be back. Howard was suspended in January for an undisclosed reason and given a set of conditions he had to meet be- fore he would be reinstated to the program. On April 22, Hazell said the deadline for Howard to meet those conditions would be "the next 3-4 weeks." If Howard wants to be back with the Boilermakers, he'd need to make incredible progress in a short period of time, it'd seem. "Ra'Zahn still has some major work," Hazell said. "We'll have to see. (It's about) doing the right things. We all can say (the right things)." Howard played in 29 games in his first three seasons for Purdue and had three sacks among his 47 career tackles. He's shown flashes of a player with immense potential: Despite being 320-plus pounds, he's incredi- bly athletic and can disrupt fronts. But Howard has not had consistent production at the position, partly be- cause he hadn't developed physical endurance or been able to lock in mentally for long periods of time. Even with a player who has struggled to grasp ac- countability and follow team policy at points, it still can be hard for a coach to cut ties. Such a crucial element to coaching is developing relationships and investing in players. At what point is it time to move on? "There's a line, which is hard as a head coach, (that) you've got to figure out," Hazell said when asked about the dynamic of disciplining a player and cutting ties. "When you have a guy that's not always compliant or do- ing things you want, you try to give them chances to help himself get better for his sake. But I always think, at the end of the day, you've got to do what's best for whatever university you're at, (for) Purdue football. You've got to do what's best for the (program). Give them chances and hopefully they hear the message. It's never easy. When you know people, it's not easy." 'A TERRIBLE BLOW' Purdue went the entire spring without a major injury to any of its key pieces — until the final practice. And though D.J. Knox wasn't projected to be the team's starting running back — Markell Jones is af- ter his stellar freshman season, in which he surpassed Knox — when Knox crumpled to the grass after tear- ing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on a non-contact injury in the spring game, it was a "terrible blow" to the offense, Malone said. Knox is a starter-type player in ability, using power to break tackles and carry piles, but he also has a nice shake that serves him well in the open field. And that's just when he gets carries. He showed himself to be a reliable pass-catcher, too, last season, and he's a fierce pass protector. Purdue doesn't have another back like him on its ros- ter among the players now fighting for the No. 2 spot. Among the players in the mix for more snaps in the fall: Junior David Yancey, redshirt freshmen Richie Worship and Tario Fuller and incoming freshman Brian Lankford-Johnson. It's possible Keyante Green or Keith Byars could rise, but they'd likely need incredible pro- duction and growth over the offseason — they rarely got first-team reps this spring despite new coach DeAn- dre Smith rotating players to evaluate talent. Perhaps the most likely scenario for the fall is Purdue won't have one player fill the backup role — and instead select players based on situations, taking advantage of each player's particular strength. "You look at the depth chart beyond Markell, you look at five or six bodies there, (and) I think certain guys do things better than other guys," Hazell said. "For exam- ple, Yancey is a good catcher out of the backfield — he has very soft hands. He understands protection. Richard Worship has his niche that he's still not bad at, has to get better at. Then you look at those other guys. You've got to find a guy who can do a little bit more than just a limited package because, God forbid, if you lost (Jones) … But someone has to step up. That's for sure." And Knox shouldn't be an option at any point in 2016. After playing as a true freshman in 2014, Knox has a redshirt year available and it'd make sense for Purdue

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