The Boilermakers have a relatively new look on defense and a bunch of new faces in the lineup on offense. I'm not sure that will get them very far, but you've got to start somewhere, right?
It's too early to tell how the switch to a 30-front defense is working. The Boilermakers gave up 44 points to a Nebraska team missing its starting quarterback, and holding Michigan State to 14 points is really not much of a feat.
That said, I thought at least from an aesthetic point of view the Purdue defense looked a lot better in those two games than it did early in the season when getting lit up by Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.
Fundamentals, especially tackling, were severely lacking in Madison, but a lot of that seems to have been shored up in the weeks since.
Ricardo Allen, a four-year starter at cornerback, is the nickel back in the new defense, a role that seems to resemble the Star in Ohio State's defense. That is a good role for him because although he is small, he is a big hitter and aggressive player.
He's just about the only standout on defense. Bruce Gaston is a big, strong presence at one end, but it remains to be seen if that is a good role for him after playing tackle in the 4-3 defense.
They varied their looks some against Nebraska, which has an offense that resembles Ohio State's a lot more than Michigan State's, by moving "Jack" linebacker Ryan Russell (a former defensive end) around in the formation. This is similar to Ohio State's "Viper" position.
Coordinator John Shoop dialed up some early-down blitzes to try to deal with the Cornhusker running game then played a lot of coverage on passing downs, which might be a blueprint smiler to what we see against Ohio State's run-based spread offense.
Offensively, Purdue has struggled mightily to adjust to the offense brought in by Darrell Hazell, who appears to want the Boilermakers to be more of a two-back power team. That is an admirable goal, but the players to do that are not in West Lafayette at this point.
Top running back Akeem Hunt is a talented football player, but at 5-9, 184, he is not really built to run between the tackles. Nonetheless, he is a tough guy who runs with good balance and quickness. He is dangerous if he gets some room to work with. His listed backup now is another little guy – true freshman Dalyn Dawkins – but they also have Brandon Cottom, a 6-4, 258-pounder who can bring some thunder if he dots the ‘i'.
Hunt is a very good receiver out of the backfield and has breakaway speed he displayed last season at Ohio Stadium when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Etling has found the going pretty tough so far, but he has a good arm, throws a really nice ball and can use his feet to keep a play alive. That said, he's obviously a freshman who has a long way to go in terms of reading defenses.
His help is pretty limited, too. The veteran offensive line (three seniors) is not spectacular but doesn't play like a liability, while his receiving corps has been almost completely redone.
This is again where the element of surprise could come in as there isn't a lot of tape on freshmen starters Deangelo Yancey and Dan Monteroso. They are both big targets with Yancey going 6-2, 200 pounds and Monteroso (who is from St. Clairsville) checking in at 6-3, 185.
Hazell, who obviously knows a thing or two about receivers from his time coaching the position in Columbus for Jim Tressel, has already called Yancey a player with "Sunday potential" and the go-to guy on the offense.