Etling finds himself locked in a battle for the Boilermakers' starting quarterback job, fighting with fifth-year senior Rob Henry and redshirt freshman Austin Appleby. Through three practices in the hot summer sun, the quarterbacks are making their case to be at the top of the depth chart.
"They're getting better," Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said of the quarterbacks. "They're getting better every day. They're learning. The game is coming fast and there's a lot of language."
Etling is just a true freshman but he is well prepared for fight for the starting job. He enrolled at the university in January, starting with the Boilermakers in February for their spring drills.
Now that camp has arrived, with the season just 27 days away, nothing surprises Etling anymore. Looking back, he's pleased with the decision to arrive on campus early.
"It would have been hectic," Etling said. "It would have been a crazy-fast pace."
Etling's football version of freshman orientation came in those 15 spring workouts, where he got that first feel for the speed of the next level. He was able to work with new offensive coordinator John Shoop and get a grasp for the complex offense.
With Etling now having comfort for the offense, the rest comes naturally. There will be good days and bad days for each quarterback, but that's just how the game goes.
"As a quarterback group, we keep getting one brick higher," Etling said, citing Hazell's slogan for the program. "It's really a body of work like Coach Shoop says. It's all the quarterbacks together; it's not like what I'm doing, but what we're doing as a team. I think we keep getting better and better."
Etling admits that he's still learning his reads and recognizing the defenses, but that will come in time. He's so focused getting better, the heated quarterback battle isn't even on his mind.
"It gets hard to think about, because you've got a lot of things to think about," Etling said. "You've got to think about what your motion is, where to line up, who's doing what—guys are always asking. There's a lot going through your mind."
The Boilermakers' starting quarterback will be named midway through their camp, and Etling has put himself in good position to win the job. Still, the freshman must keep improving each practice and prove he's worthy of taking that first snap against Cincinnati.
"He's getting better," Hazell said. "There's so much that's being thrown at him right now. But he's handling it pretty well. I expect him to keep growing as we keep going on."