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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 1

Gold and Black is a multi-platform media company that covers Purdue athletics like no one else.

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 1 30 evaluate which player could rise as the No. 2 back be- hind starter Markell Jones. Lankford-Johnson admittedly was overwhelmed at points in camp with the scope of the playbook, understanding his assignments and learning to pass protect, something he never did in high school. But he saw incremental progress, and he thinks that will continue. "Once I adapt to the college-level speed, I think my speed will separate myself from all the other guys," he said in the middle of camp. "But since there's so much other stuff I have to worry about, it's keeping me right there in the I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing category. "I have a chance, but we have a lot of talented guys in there. Right now, I'm just trying to focus on the offense because if I do win out that spot, what's having that spot if I don't know the offense? So I'm really just trying to figure out everything step by step, day by day and hope- fully at the end of camp. I did enough; I showed Coach (DeAndre) Smith and Coach Hazell enough to give me that spot." There's less of a learning curve as a kickoff returner, and Lankford-Johnson was working with the first-team- ers at the end of camp. He said that's really where he hopes to excel in his first season. "Special teams, that's where I'm going to make my money this year," said Lankford-Johnson, who was on ev- ery special teams unit except punt return in camp. Other newcomers who could see action are junior col- lege transfers C.J. Parker and Jalen Neal, expected to be in the two-deep at safety and offensive tackle, respective- ly, as well as late-arrival Malik Kimbrough. Hazell says Kimbrough can be game-changer in the return game. Kimbrough arrived on campus on Aug. 7 in time for the team photo, and by the next day, he was working as the top punt returner. He also worked next to Lankford-Johnson on the top kick return unit. "I was almost in tears, it was a blessing," Kimbrough said of getting the call from Hazell. "I was losing all hope because everybody was getting scholarships and signing and I was just there, like, 'I guess I'm going to go DII.' Then Coach Hazell called, said that once I finished this class, they have a scholarship for me. "I'm pretty happy that I'm here, to be able to play, fulfill my dreams." EARNING THE TITLE When DeAngelo Yancey first came to Purdue, he didn't feel like he had to earn much. That attitude and approach caught up with him by his sophomore year, when he got benched for production, among other things. But Yancey isn't that kid anymore. And his teammates noticed. The reward for his trans- formation: Being selected captain, along with repeat pick Ja'Whaun Bentley and seniors Jake Replogle and Jordan Roos. "It's a little bit of shock," Yancey said. "It was a huge transformation, coming from my freshman year to now. It just shows the growth and how mature I've become. It's crazy, looking back where I've come from to now." After that disappointing sophomore season that in- cluded only 12 catches, Yancey had a heart-to-heart with then-new receivers coach Gerad Parker, latched on to roommate and workout warrior Gregory Phillips in the offseason and buried his ego. Yancey worked when he thought no one was watching. He worked when everyone was watching. And he worked quietly and efficiently. It all produced a junior season of 700 yards, five touch- downs and a time in which Yancey clearly established himself as the team's go-to receiver on the field. And a reliable teammate off it. "Yancey is working harder than he's ever worked," Blough said. "He set the tone in that room where being average is unacceptable. Since he came in here as a freshman to where he's at now, it's a complete 180." j

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