WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – It happens every day. Coach Darrell Hazell meets the cameras and microphones after each practice and the question is inevitable. Who’s going to be the quarterback?
Hazell has been warm and receptive to the media. Purdue’s new coach is everything he appears—welcoming and genuine. When the quarterback question arises, Hazell offers an honest answer. He breaks down the intricate details of each practice and what each quarterback needs to work on.
What Hazell is saying now is that it’s a wide-open race. The three quarterbacks each have a shot.
Camp Darrell opened with Rob Henry and Danny Etling neck and neck. Austin Appleby was lagging behind but had plenty of time to make up ground.
This thing was set for Danny Etling to take. He’s the promising freshman with upside through the roof. By starting Etling this year, you’re building for the future. Even if it’s a rough year for the Boilermakers, the program is making strides with its quarterback in place. This is Etling’s job to win and he’s losing.
There’s no disputing Etling’s talent, but he has been wildly inconsistent. He’s struggling with John Shoop’s complex system and it’s taking down his game. The freshman has looked like a freshman. There have been far too many interceptions and missed reads. Etling is struggling to do the thing he does best, launching bombs.
The door is wide open for Austin Appleby, the redshirt freshman. He has a strong arm and great knowledge of the offense. Above all, Appleby brings consistency.
And then there’s Henry, the fifth-year senior. He boasts experience, something the other two can’t claim. But can you call it a rebuilding year with a one-and-done leading the team?
It’s still early in camp, but this race is approaching its final stretch. Hazell stands by his pre-set plan of August 17th being decision day. A battle that started in the spring, pushed through summer workouts, and reopened last week, is nearly complete. Yet, there’s no clear-cut leader.
The starting nod can still go to Etling. In fact, I believe it will. But between now and Saturday, he must correct his mistakes. It starts by cutting down turnovers and showing comfort in the system. Etling must make his coaches believe in him.
Etling has the best arm of the bunch, but Appleby and Henry bring poise. Until Etling can produce without error, he’ll be stuck with the third-team while the other two battle for the top spot.
There are still 20 days remaining until kickoff in the Queen City. There’s no need to panic about the quarterback position just yet.
In the final stretch of this race, one of these horses has to sprint to the finish. Who’s going to be the quarterback?