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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 1

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Page 27 of 78

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 1 28 in a couple years, so our offense, we look at it as if we win a day against a defense and then we lose a day, we're a .500 team," Blough said. "There was a stretch down the end (of camp) where we won a day, we won a day, we won a day, and that's what these guys need. So when we play Eastern Kentucky, we can be ready for the game after accomplishing that." FILLING HOLES The top position battles heading into camp were at right tackle and one cornerback spot, and neither de- livered firm answers by its end. Redshirt freshman Matt McCann appeared to get the most reps with the first-team offense at right tackle throughout camp after finishing the spring as the No. 1. But first-team reps also went to newcomer Jalen Neal and Cameron Cermin, who'd missed the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery after starting 10 games at right tackle in 2015. McCann started camp slowly after coming in 10 pounds overweight. Early on, he struggled to slow edge rushers in pass protection. His foot- work needs to improve, as does his technique, but that's probably not surprising: In high school, only two years ago, McCann played in a pri- marily rush-based offense. It's been a learning curve in this offense. "He's a young player who we're trying to push beyond his years," O-line coach Darrell Funk said in the last week of camp. "He's only in his second year. A lot of those guys are still on the scout team or just develop- ing, and he's in a position to possibly start the opener. We'll see. He's got to battle. But he's worked hard. He's a smart kid, and he's learning. But he's taken lumps every now and then, and he just has to learn from them. But, overall, I'm pleased with his effort." Junior college transfer Neal is only in his third season playing offensive line and seemed unable at times to make first contact and deliver strikes in pass blocking. He needs develop- ment as a run blocker, too, especially in fitting on double teams and being more physical at the point of attack. Cermin had his issues, too. He admitted to being hesitant to punch early in camp, coming off that shoul- der surgery, and he also had to han- dle swapping between multiple posi- tions, both tackle spots and center. He played both right and left tackle during the end-of-camp jersey scrim- mage, but he felt like he made a statement at one particular spot: The one Purdue needs a starter. "They've been begging everybody who has played right tackle for some- one to take control of the job," Cer- min said after the scrimmage. "Beg- ging. Absolutely begging someone to step up. And I think someone did." Myles Norwood may be able to make the same claim on the open cornerback spot. The junior appeared to make a late push opposite Da'Wan Hunte, us- ing his savvy to oftentimes be in the right place and in position to make plays. He only moved to cornerback in mid-September last year, but his recent experience at receiver could give him an edge. His length — he's listed at 6-foot — and long arms help him combat taller receivers, too. "When I made the switch, I just put my head down and worked," Norwood said during camp. "It's something that you just have to adjust to. I played DB in high school, so it's not that big of a difference. But once you believe in Coach (Taver) Johnson, you be- lieve in your guys, those guys in the room, they encourage me. They know I'm very raw. … You just take point- ers, take criticism and go from there. "It's hard to believe I'm here (with a chance to start), but once you put your head down and work, it's not hard to think that I'm here." Tim Cason and Kamal Hardy also were in the first-team rotation for the spot in camp. In the jersey scrim- mage, Cason got beat twice over the top in one-on-one coverage down the field — a no-no in any defense, but especially Els' scheme — a common theme for him in camp. Johnson said he'd rather not pla- toon players at the spot. A NO-BRAINER Blough knows how it's worked late- ly at Purdue: A quarterback trots out for a Week 1 start only to find himself on the bench, whether by injury or coach's decision, by the last week of the season. Hazell has yet to have a quarter- back go start-to-finish in his three seasons as head coach. Blough was the beneficiary of the switch last sea- son when he was inserted for Austin Appleby to start the fourth game. But even before Hazell's arrival, Purdue had a revolving door at the position, bouncing from Rob Henry to Caleb TerBush to Robert Marve and back again, based on injury and perfor- mance. TerBush is the last quarter- back to start the first game and fin- ish the season, and that was in 2011. Purdue hasn't had the same starter at

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