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Gold and Black Illustrated Vol28, Digital1

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Page 26 of 74

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 1 27 stretch the field. As camp progressed, he said he learned the offense better, which allowed him to make more plays down the field and elsewhere. He still needs to show a better ability to catch contested balls, Brohm said during camp, but he made prog- ress. Before the season starts, Zico is hoping to pass senior Greg Phillips at the "Z" position and grab the starting role. Even if he doesn't, though, he's expect- ed to make a mark in Year 1. "I'm coming in and I'm giving it all I've got every day," Zico said. "He's trying to be a starter. I'm trying to be a starter. So it's actually who wants it more. Who wants to grind more? We're both looking forward to playing this year. "I just plan on making a huge impact." Okonye hopes the same, and, exiting camp at least, he was doing it at cornerback. With projected starter Tim Cason spending most of camp with the third-team defense while apparent ac- ademic issues were being handled, Okonye was with the first-team defense on Day 1 and never let go. Though Okonye doesn't have any game experience playing cornerback — all of his snaps were at safety and nickel at Wake — he still carried himself as a veteran player in camp, impressing teammates with his steadiness and football IQ. And his physicality — as a former safety, he's a well-built 200 pounds, a nice change for Purdue corners. "I'm probably one of the biggest corners we have here. I like to play on that. I'm not afraid to get my head in, make a tackle," Okonye said. "But at the same time, I have some speed behind me. I'm not going to brag about who's the fastest, I'm go- ing to let the film show that. But I feel like I'm an all-around good (player). I just have to work on my technique. Being switched around a lot, sometimes I didn't have too much time to develop at one po- sition. So that's one of the things I'm working on right now, working on honing my techniques spe- cifically for the corner position. " An opportunity On the final day of camp, Purdue didn't have its projected starting quarterback. Blough was nursing his throwing shoulder, which was strained when he dove for a pylon in the team's first scrimmage, and backup Elijah Sindelar was maximizing the first-team offensive snaps. Though Blough targeted a return to the practice field at least a week before the season opener, Sindelar wasn't planning on relinquishing those 1 reps easily. "I am vying to win the starting job. It's never my tendency or thought process to just be a bench play- er. I want to be the starter," Sindelar said in camp. "With that being said, it's a bittersweet situation. I love David. I hope he gets back as quick as he can because you don't want to see your good friend go down. But, at the end of the day, this is a great op- portunity for me as well. I'm really excited about the opportunity, but really upset that David is hurt. I would have liked it to be a different way, if I actually won the job without him getting hurt. That would have been the best thing. But I'm still going to try to win the starting job. If not, I'll be extremely thankful that I had this opportunity and I'll be ready for the next one. That's always been my thought process. It's always been my motivation." Even after Blough's return, Sindelar still was be- ing prepared with the first-team offense. Part of that is being prepared — if Blough isn't fully healed by Week 1, Purdue won't rush him onto the field — and part of it is Sindelar earned the boost in snaps with the 1s. Jeff Brohm and quarterbacks coach Brian Brohm said Sindelar progressed throughout camp and were impressed with his poise in the pocket. Part of that is Sindelar has grown into his 6-foot-4 frame and en- tered camp at a sturdy, solid 230 pounds, making him look even more the part of a No. 1 quarterback. "He's really picked up the offense. He feels really comfortable in the pocket, doing a good job moving within the pocket. I'm really happy with his prog- ress," Brian Brohm said late in camp. "The more reps he gets, the better he is going to get and the more comfortable he's going to feel. "He can keep his eyes up the field as he shuffles through where he needs to be within the pass rush. That's probably one of his best strengths right now, and we need to continue to have that be a strength for him. It's something he's done really well." j

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