Now a sophomore, Appleby remains the backup to incumbent starting quarterback Danny Etling. He's locked into another position battle, with freshman David Blough involved, too. Even so, there are no guarantees that Appleby ever starts a game for the Boilermakers.
Nothing has kept Appleby from losing confidence. He wants to win over the starting spot.
"All I got to do is hang loose and play as hard as I can," Appleby said. "I'm an extreme competitor, I want to be the absolute best player I can be, and I want to help this team win a championship."
During the offseason, the thought of transferring never occurred to Appleby—even when playing time would be a sure thing elsewhere.
"This is where I want to be," Appleby said in a strong tone. "This is the school that I chose. This is the school I fell in love with. I want to help this team win a championship."
Competition is fueling Purdue's spring drills, but especially at quarterback. While Etling is the heavy favorite to retain his starting role, Appleby and Blough are in for a fight.
"None of those guys signed up to be a caddy," offensive coordinator John Shoop said. "But it brings out the best in you."
The three quarterbacks are close friends off the field, but fierce competitors on it. This is especially true for Appleby, who's eager to succeed in his spring reps. When it comes to working in the film room, the group gets along well with hard work and plenty of jokes.
"We understand that we all want the job, but that does not carry over into our relationship," Appleby said. "We're good buddies, and we have a good working relationship with each other. We have a good friendship with each other. It's pretty special that our quarterbacks are like that, because I'm pretty sure it's not like that at other places."
Appleby was in the same position last season, stuck behind Rob Henry and Etling on the depth chart. When Henry was demoted, it was Etling, not Appleby, getting the starting nod. There were more reps for Appleby in practice, but it wasn't the same as starting.
"Regardless of what happened last season—I got discouraged, I was down—by I never stopped working," said Appleby. "I never packed it in. if anything, it made me work harder."
The work paid off for Appleby, who appeared to be a better all-around quarterback on day one of spring practice. It was evident to his teammates and coaches.
"Everybody has kind of improved, especially [Appleby]," said Etling. "His speed of his drops, the continuance to grasp the offense—just as I have the past year--the game has slowed down a lot for him, and he's moving at a much faster pace. We've kind of grown together in that aspect, and I think he's improved a lot."
When the fall comes around, it could likely be Etling back in his starting role. But the spring offers Appleby the chance to change that. He's ready to battle.
"Everything's coming together," he said. "I'm ready to have a great month."