Ward connects with Purdue

Three-star offensive tackle Denzel Ward visited Purdue on Friday, his first in-person interaction with the Boilermakers' new coaching staff. After building close relationships with former coach Danny Hope, the talented tackle hoped he could do the same with Purdue's new staff. Boiler Sports Report offers a recap of the visit.

More than one year ago, Purdue became the first school to offer then-sophomore tackle Denzel Ward. Much has changed in West Lafayette. The coach he built a bond with, Danny Hope, is no longer part of the program. There have been plenty of changes since then.

Ward visited Purdue's campus on Friday, meeting with new head man Darrell Hazell and his coaching staff. The three-star prospect watched the Boilermakers' special-teams scrimmage while spending time with players and coaches. His reaction to the changes is telling.

"It was eye-opening," Ward said. "I got to see the new staff and saw they really have a good change and a different feel at the program with younger coaches."

Ward, a 6-foot-9, 280-pound tackle, had become very close with Danny Hope, who gave his first scholarship offer. What's missing in his relationship with Hope has been replaced with the new coaching staff.

"It's really a flip around," said Ward. "Coach Hazell has hired a much better, elite group of assistant coaches."

Since the new coaching staff took over, Ward's lead recruiter has been offensive coordinator John Shoop.

"He's the man," Ward said of Shoop. "He has been in the [NFL] for numerous years. He has the experience. He can make a tackle great and everybody on the field look good. He's a really a great guy."

Before visiting the Boilermakers' practice—held outdoors for the first time this spring—Ward walked around Purdue's campus.

"It's a classic Big Ten campus," said Ward. "Most of them look alike, but Purdue is Purdue. It's all just work there. It's just a nice college campus. Everybody supports the football team."

A former Michigan verbal commitment, Ward now lists Florida as his leader. His list of offers includes Purdue, Arizona State, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas Teach and Wisconsin, among others.

Ward recently moved to Bradenton, Fla., and he now attends the IMG Academy. He'll return home to Chicago this summer and plans to visit each of his Midwestern suitors; that includes his first offer.

"Purdue is in a very different place than everybody else," he said. "That was my first offer, so I want to be as loyal as I can. I'm going to be back in the Midwest in two months for summer break. I want to get back and get a good feel, probably three days or so, and spend time with the team.

"I really want to give them a chance ‘til the end."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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