Five spring game storylines

As Purdue takes to Ross-Ade Stadium, some important storylines will emerge.

1.) The battling quarterbacks

Coach Darrell Hazell hasn't shied away from saying Purdue has a battle at quarterback. Although sophomore Danny Etling is the presumed starter for the 2014 season, Austin Appleby has gotten his fair shot during the spring, and has impressed with the opportunity.

The spring game is set with Etling and Appleby dueling for opposing teams, putting them against each other with different playmakers. It's a small, small sample size, but answers will be revealed to the fans in Ross-Ade Stadium.

2.) Raheem Mostert, the breakout star of spring

For most fans, the name Raheem Mostert still lacks true familiarity. The former receiver transitioned to running back late last season, then didn't do much with his few carries. Since then, he cemented his place as a Big Ten track champion and one of the nation's fastest football players. Even better, Mostert has fine-tuned his abilities as a tailback and is looking like a force in the Boilermakers' backfield.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role Mostert could play this season—either spelling Akeem Hunt, or perhaps even winning over the starting spot. The spring game will put Mostert on display, and he'll be sure to take advantage.

3.) Getting better on the d-line

Perhaps one of Purdue's most improved units will be its defensive line. While the spring game won't allow fans to see the starters lining up together, individuals will be on display. Senior Ryan Russell will continue to play a diverse role in the Boilermakers' 3-4 defense, and has made great improvements during the offseason.

The breakout star to watch for is Ra'Zahn Howard, who will be an important part of the defense at the nose tackle position. Howard's coaches have spoken highly of his elevated game, as shown during the spring. Just another player to watch for on Saturday afternoon.

4.) Solidifying the secondary

Purdue is fortunate it can welcome back familiar names like Landon Feichter, Taylor Richards and Frankie Williams to its secondary. But the loss of Ricardo Allen will be a tough one for the Boilermakers to replace. Leroy Clark is the spring frontrunner to fill the other cornerback spot, but some of the incoming freshman will have a say in this, too.

The spring has offered Purdue the chance to get some cohesiveness in its secondary, with new coach Taver Johnson establishing his coaching methods to the veteran group. During the spring game, it will be interesting to see how the defensive backs read coverages and follow assignments. This is the time to work through the wrinkles.

5.) Getting on their game

Why will this year be different—better—for Purdue? The team has familiarity with itself, from the coaches to the players. The transition of 2013 was a bit too much for the Boilermakers, who never quite caught sync with each other. There were problems in every facet of their game.

Hazell and his coaching staff have established themselves to the players, and there's a true comfort. It has allowed the Boilermakers to play freely on the field, rather than worrying about getting up to speed with a new regime. The difference will be seen in cleaner play, fewer mistakes and more rounded play.

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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