Five key offseason questions

Purdue will move through its offseason with several key questions.

1.) What form will the offense take?

In a 2013 season full of gloom and doom, the lone bright spot post-Indiana State was seeing a young offense evolve from its abysmal, silent form of the early season to a powerful downfield threat. Its greatest triumph came as the defense was getting worked by rival Indiana, but there were positives to take away, even while the bucket stayed down south.

Purdue offensive coordinator John Shoop has a full offseason with many puzzle pieces in place, and plenty of film to evaluate. He must move forward with the certainties and build around it.

The most notable sure thing is quarterback Danny Etling, who showed promise toward season's end. It's his job to lose, and Shoop is mindful of this. Around Etling, there are playmakers. Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert must provide a complement in the run game, while the offensive line must offer Etling time in the pocket to find downfield threats like Deangelo Yancey, Dan Monteroso and Danny Anthrop.

Shoop should keep to the West Coast look Purdue moved to last season, and continue to build the Boilers' offense around the young core in place. There's no reason to slide away from a good thing.

2.) Could Mostert win the top tailback spot?

Go ahead, name Purdue's second-leading rusher behind Akeem Hunt from 2013. Any guesses? That would be Brandon Cottom, who averaged 12.8 yards per game—sadly, not too far off Hunt's terrible 38.7 mark. This all makes the emergence of Raheem Mostert even more important.

In Mostert, the Boilermakers have one of the fastest men in college football. He's a Big Ten track champion and a rapidly improving running back. Spring drills saw Mostert show steady hands as a ballcarrier and emerge as a threat to take the top tailback spot. The pressure is on Hunt to match the improvements and keep his job. At the very least, Mostert has earned reps as the backup. Fall camp will be interesting to follow as Mostert puts the pressure on.

3.) Can Hedelin make an impact?

This is a better question for the NCAA, which will rule on Hedelin's immediate eligibility for the upcoming season. However, once Hedelin gets on the field, he could be very dangerous. The JUCO transfer from San Francisco appears to be a steal for the Boilermakers.

According to head coach Darrell Hazell, speaking at a Purdue Coaches Caravan event, Hedelin is a "freak" who stands at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds but can run a 4.7 40-yard dash. The dangerous combination of size and speed could be an important boost off the edge of Purdue's defensive line. There's a lot to like about the early hype for Hedelin. We'll see if he can live up to it.

4.) Who takes on the tackle jobs?

Let's not sugarcoat this one bit: Purdue's offensive line was horrible last season. Fortunately, there's plenty of room for improvement, with much of that hope coming from the unit's newcomers. The middle will be manned by center Robert Kugler and guards Jordan Roos and Jason King, but who will take on the tackle roles?

Monstrous tackle Corey Clements, a JUCO transfer who Hazell says is just shy of 400 pounds, is likely to play an important role. He appears to be the frontrunner for the ‘blindside' left tackle spot. On the other end, it's likely to be a competition between J.J. Prince and incoming freshman Bearooz Yacoobi. Fortunately for the Boilermakers, there are options this year, whereas depth was a great issue last season. Perhaps Purdue's offensive line will be much better.

5.) Who replaces Ricardo?

There's no easy way to replace Ricardo Allen, Purdue's talented four-year starter at cornerback. Allen's impact was hard to measure in just stats; his leadership was of vital importance, especially during a transition year. However, the Boilermakers must move on.

Purdue is fortunate to have three starters in the secondary returning, alleviating some pressure from Allen's replacement. Leroy Clark appears to be the offseason favorite at cornerback, but incoming freshman Brandon Roberts—who has yet to arrive on campus—could be an underdog candidate for the job.

Plenty could happen in fall camp, and the answers will come to these key offseason questions.

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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