Appleby falls behind, but still battling

For a while, it appeared Austin Appleby was the frontrunner to win Purdue's starting quarterback job. Now, he's playing from behind in a heated battle. Appleby hopes he can make the most of his opportunities in practice.

Austin Appleby once appeared to be the frontrunner in Purdue's quarterback competition. The redshirt freshman received the majority of first-team reps early in the spring.

In the jersey scrimmage on Saturday, it was evident Appleby had fallen behind. Fifth-year senior Rob Henry and true freshman Danny Etling split the majority of reps with the top unit while Appleby saw just two series of action. Even so, he isn't dwelling on his standing.

"I can control what I can control—my effort, my work ethic, and my preparations," said Appleby after Tuesday's practice. "When my number is called, I'm going to do what I do, which is lead this team."

That's exactly what Appleby did in the jersey scrimmage. He finished out the competition in limited reps with the second-team offense, but was part of the winning touchdown drive for the offense. Appleby connected with tight end Gabe Holmes from eight yards out on fourth down.

Spring drills haven't gone exactly as Appleby would have hoped—given the drop on the depth chart—but he is pleased with the progress made.

"I'm just continuing to grow, mature, and prove to my team that I'm the guy that can lead them to a championship," Appleby said.

The competition will wage into the summer, regardless of how the spring's final days shake out. Henry and Etling have the edge, but Appleby is very much in the mix.

"I still think we have a battle there," head coach Darrell Hazell said on Saturday. "[Henry and Etling] have done a good job, and Austin is battling to get into that fight."

Added Appleby of the competition at quarterback: "It's a constant battle for us to continue to keep getting better, keep picking each other up as a team, keep staying tight as a team, because we're all we have."

Appleby may have an important opportunity ahead on Saturday. Purdue held a players' draft for its annual spring game, and Henry, the captain for the black team, selected Etling as a quarterback for the team. As a result, he will be the gold team's starting quarterback.

The battle is far from won, but it's beginning to take form. Appleby hopes to make the most of his opportunity, even as it has been minimized.

"I have no say in what reps are given to me, but I can make the most of my reps," Appleby said. "Don't make the reps, make the reps count."

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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