Notes: Down to defense

Purdue's defense was the spotlight of day two in spring practice. BSR's Jeff Washburn files notes and quotes from the sidelines of Mollenkopf.

WEST LAFAYETTE - It is difficult to defend a college football team defense that allows 38 points a game and almost 460 yards of offense on average.

That was the case in 2013 for a Purdue football team that lost 11 of its 12 starts, giving up at least 41 points in seven of those defeats.

After Friday's second day of spring practice for the Boilermakers, defensive line coach Rubin Carter was eager to talk about the players he mentors, knowing that if Purdue is to begin to fix what plagued it in 2013, the defensive front must improve

"I am really pleased with the progress (defensive end) Jake Replogle has made along with Ra'Zahn Howard," Carter said. "The one thing I like about them is their intensity level. They have a very high intensity level, and they are very aggressive.

"Ra'Zahn is in much better shape now than when he came in in the fall. His endurance level is getting a lot better. He now is very strong and very explosive coming off the football. That is where you have to dominate ... the defender that is closest to the football."

-- Howard, who had four tackles in limited duty last season, is excited about the opportunity he likely will have in 2014.

"We all are challenging each other," Howard said. "Everyone is getting better. We are young, but we have seen a lot of people in front of us with a high energy level like Bruce Gaston. I watch a lot of film and pay a lot of attention to other defensive linemen throughout the country. I study the game."

-- Redshirt freshman defensive end Antoine Miles, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound product of Canton McKinley High School in Ohio, is another who will have a chance to gain playing time.

"Whatever coach throws at me, I think I will be able to handle," Miles said. "This will be the first time I have played as a standup end, but I feel very comfortable. I have the mental things down. Once I get used to it, I feel like I will be fine.

"I have tried to get a little quicker so that I can drop into coverage. My balance and agility have improved."

-- Fifth-year senior defender Ryan Russell, who made 35 tackles last season including 5.5 for losses, saw action at linebacker last season but now will be back at end, where he has played most of his career.

"I am willing to play wherever I am needed or wherever I can help the team the most," Russell said. "We are young but very talented at defensive end right now. So, coach feels like my strengths can best be used at end, rushing the passer along with getting in the line a little more and being in on the run a little bit more.

"I have been through a couple of coaching staffs, so I have had to learn different techniques and adapt to different styles. That is a challenge, but it's beneficial in the long run. it's a business, and if you plan to play at the next level, you will experience more coaches and different schemes. I came here as a defensive end, and I watched a lot of great ends play here, so I am glad to be back doing what I do."

- Purdue spent part of Friday's session working on punt returns with local product Danny Anthrop from Central Catholic High School getting lots of reps in fielding those kicks.

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