Five Purdue camp storylines

As camp kicks off, Purdue has several key storylines to follow.

Thus far, Darrell Hazell has done everything right. He has built promise in the Purdue program, become an established recruiter, and his Boilermakers put together a productive offseason. Now, it's time for what really matters.

Hazell's first season in West Lafayette begins on Saturday morning as the Boilermakers take to the practice field for the first time. Purdue is a team facing plenty of questions as its new coach conducts his first preseason camp.

As the Boilermakers kick off practices in the summer heat, here are the five biggest storylines they face:

1.) The arms race

Who will take the season's first snap in Cincinnati? That question remains to be answered. The battle is tight between fifth-year senior Rob Henry and true freshman Danny Etling. Behind them, redshirt freshman Austin Appleby remains in the hunt.

With Henry, there's experience, an intangible which Etling can't boast just yet. Add the fact that Henry has that extra element of speed to his game—making him mobile in a run-heavy offensive system—and there's plenty to like.

Etling brings a lot to the table, too. His upside is very high as many project him to be the Boilermakers' future at quarterback. Etling proved he's more than capable of leading the offense, even during the spring when he was just two months into his college career. Etling is a tremendous talent who could very easily earn the starting nod.

During camp, Henry will win if he proves to be the safest, most consistent option at quarterback; Etling must show he's not just a freshman.

2.) Coach them up

Throughout the offseason, coach Darrell Hazell has given plenty of credit to the coaching staff he built—one of unique football backgrounds. The staff has worked well together, both on the field and in recruiting. But now it's time to see how their approaches translate to the players.

Adversity arises during the hot summer days of camp. It's up to the coaching staff to keep the team focused on that first Saturday, not any other distractions. Each assistant must keep a consistent approach with their players and it has to match Hazell's agenda.

The new staff must set the tone for its first season and that all starts in camp.

3.) Playing it smart

The trademark of a Darrell Hazell team is its discipline. His players are better at protecting the football and avoid silly penalties. The Boilermakers must match their coach's claim.

During camp, Hazell will run unique drills to establish on-field discipline—whether it's football-related or just a team-building activity. The players must respond the right way. If they follow through, this could be the most noticeable difference in the transition from Hope to Hazell.

4.) Catching on

All eyes will be on the quarterbacks during camp. But who will be on the other end of those passes?

Purdue has yet to establish its playmakers at receiver. That needs to happen in camp. Receivers Dolapo Macarthy, Raheem Mostert and Charles Torwudzo are the front-runners to work at wideout. Some others to watch include Aloyis Gray, B.J. Knauf and Dan Monteroso. Also, tight end Gabe Holmes needs to be a go-to target at tight end.

Some solid targets could make Henry or Etling much better quarterbacks. It's time for playmakers to emerge.

5.) Establish leadership

There are new coaches at the helm, but much of the Boilermakers' core remains in-tact from last season. The team needs locker room leaders to carry it through camp.

Whoever wins the quarterback job will be looked upon as the leader on offense—even if it's a true freshman. With an offensive line that's yet to be established, the offense is in dire need of leaders.

There are still some familiar faces on defense. Cornerback Ricardo Allen and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston are locker room favorites who must work to keep the unit focused throughout the grind of camp.

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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