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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 6 56 the player take a couple steps upfield before throwing back across it to the top kickoff return guy, who plugged about 40 yards before, essentially, tackling himself. Levine wants opponents to think they've got his person- ality pegged. Maybe as one that only runs right returns on kickoffs? A belief he fostered by doing only that Week 1 and Week 2. Just so he could alter the approach Week 3 to huge results. Maybe as one who wouldn't dare bring pressure to block a punt? A belief he fostered by staying back for Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4 and Week 5. Just so he could alter the approach Week 6 to huge results. "I enjoy thinking outside of the box. I enjoy doing things that no one has done before," Levine said. "But I don't want to be scared of failing either. My history would tell that I don't just (say), 'Well, let's try this!' just to try some- thing. I put a lot of thought and study into what we're going to do. "It's an unwritten thing before games, the opposing special teams coaches meet out there early and shake hands (and say), 'You do a great job.' 'No, you do a great job.' Just talk for a couple minutes, say, 'Good luck.' I actu- ally enjoy in November going to talk to a guy in pregame and he says, 'Coach, I've got to tell you, we've charted 32 different kickoffs you've already run this year.' I say, 'Yeah, well, it's going to be 34 after tonight's game.' I just enjoy the scheming of it and trying to put our guys in position to have success. I think the players look at it not only as being fun but as being aggressive. I enjoy that aspect of it a lot." Now, Levine just needs to find the right pieces to help Purdue's special teams units produce such success. He spent the spring evaluating personnel but didn't come out with a firm grasp. He typically identifies 8-10 players whom he considers the "core" group of special- ists, who play on most of the teams. But, maybe other than one or two players he'd like to utilize, he doesn't enter training camp this season with that group already established. So newcomers clearly could be a factor to fill those teams — maybe even true freshmen, though those selections likely would need to be on the two-deep at their respective position to burn a redshirt — but re- turning players will need to find their niche, too. The only thing Levine really was sure of in mid-June was that he installed enough with punt, kickoff coverage and field goals/PATs — the most important areas, he said — that Purdue could do each of those facets that minute. But kickoff return? Punt return? Punt block? Who's going to kick off? Those are less clear. Pressed to pick a return pair on kickoffs heading into camp — positions Levine, ideally, would like fast and "fear- less" players — Levine said he felt relatively comfortable with running backs D.J. Knox and Tario Fuller. But those aren't set in stone. Redshirt freshman Jackson Anthrop was sure-handed and a good enough decision-maker on the limited punt return work in the spring that he's No. 1 there heading into fall camp, which tentatively has players scheduled to report Aug. 2. "It will still kind of be a work in progress," Levine said of camp, "and I think it gives an opportunity for some of these incoming new players to have a chance to be on some of these units from the very beginning." Levine can be a bit comfortable in the kicking game, at least, where both of the team's top players return. Junior Joe Schopper averaged 40.7 yards and stuck 24 of his 56 punts inside the 20 in his second full season handling punting duties, improvements in both areas. Though Levine mostly saw Schopper drill the roof of Mol- lenkopf this spring with nearly all of the practices indoors, he left the 15 practices liking what he saw. "I think Joe did well," Levine said. "I think his oper- ation time is excellent. I think he's got great hands in terms of catching the snap." J.D. Dellinger started slowly in his first season — not surprising for a true freshman in unusual top-kicker circumstances — but had a game-winning field goal in overtime at Illinois that changed the trajectory of his sea- son. He finished hot, making eight of his last nine field goals (and 10-of-14 kicks on the year), and that surge has him entering the season confident. And Levine is, too. "When I got here and really figured out what their op- eration was last year in terms of just how they got the ball snapped, I think we changed some things there that can help him," Levine said. "Without question, I thought he had an excellent spring and will get even stronger. I think he's gained 10 pounds already this offseason, so I think he's going to get stronger and more confident." j

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