Purdue primed for spring game

The Boilermakers are more than ready for their Saturday spring game.

WEST LAFAYETTE - In Raheem Mostert, Akeem Hunt and Danny Anthrop, the 2014 Purdue football team appears to have at least a trio of big-play makers.

And in sophomores Danny Etling and Austin Appleby, there is good competition for the starting quarterback position.

However, as the Boilermakers prepare for Saturday's 1 p.m. Gold and Black spring game in Ross-Ade Stadium, many keen eyes will be watching the offensive line, which has to be improved if Purdue hopes to erase the sour memories of a 1-11 record in coach Darrell Hazell's first season after replacing Danny Hope.

Junior center Robert Kugler believes fans will notice much better line play this season, which should help the playmakers run to daylight.

"Last year around this time, we were still learning plays and flying by the seat of our pants," Kugler said after Friday's practice. "Now, we have had a full year to be in the offense. It is night and day right now in terms of where we are now as opposed to where we were last year.

"In this game, some guys may be out of position, so it's not as realistic, but it is a good time to see who is going to compete. You may be out of position or with a guy next to you who has not played a lot, but it does show who is going to compete. Sometimes you see a guy who hasn't been getting reps, but you throw him out there, and he is competing. This game is a way for those guys to kind of step up."

Hazell likes what he has seen from his offensive linemen through 14 spring practices. Saturday's scrimmage will consist of four 12-minute quarters with no blitzing on first down until the fourth quarter and no huddles until the final three minutes of each half.

Each offense must throw what Hazell described as four "deep" balls during the 48-minute session, which is free of charge to the public. Through it all, Hazell will be watching his offensive line closely as it tries to protect Black team quarterback Appleby and Gold team starter Etling.

"There are some guys that have surprised us," Hazell said. "(Tackle) J.J. Prince has really done a nice job. I think he has been solid. (Guard) Jason King has gotten a whole lot better. He and Kugler are working extremely well together. Obviously, there are some other things we have to get shored up, and that is why you recruit."

Kugler is impressed with how a young group of tackles, led by Prince, has performed this spring.

"They have come a long way," Kugler said. "They have their hands full, but they have been doing really well. Every day, we have been working on things and getting better. They have been looking pretty good."

As for the overall big picture of Saturday's spring game, Hazell has several elements on his wish list.

"The biggest thing is that you want to see them play with energy," Hazell said. "We want them to play as hard as they can and run to the ball defensively. Offensively, we want them to make some plays when they have an opportunity."

Junior receiver Anthrop said this Purdue team is light years ahead of where it was last spring.

"What I like the most is how competitive we are this spring," Anthrop said. "Last spring, everybody was nervous, just trying to get lined up. Now, I haven't even listened for the alignments and stuff. It's second nature, and I think that is true for the whole offense.

"Being able to go out and make plays, we will be a lot more consistent than we were last year. In this game, I am eager to see people step up. That is going to have to happen in a lot of areas. Some people are going to be playing out of position a little bit because of depth at different positions, but it is going to be fun to see how the starters fare against the other starters."

Purdue will open the 2014 regular season on Aug. 30 against Western Michigan in Ross-Ade Stadium.

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