WEST LAFAYETTE -- Lined up in a shotgun, freshman quarterback Danny Etling awaited the snap. To his right was freshman tailback Dalyn Dawkins. Flanked on each side were freshmen receivers Cameron Posey, Deangelo Yancey and Dan Monteroso.
The youth movement is well underway in West Lafayette.
“You forgot the freshmen linemen, too,” joked head coach Darrell Hazell, asked about the freshmen on Wednesday.
Coming out of the bye week, the Boilermakers have a new look. There’s a different quarterback, an altered playbook and a rejuvenated group. There was an energy in practice these past two weeks that had been lacking since the preseason. It’s renewed hope around the program. Alas, we see what Purdue’s football future holds.
It all starts with Etling. The highly-touted recruit always dreamed of playing for Purdue. He’ll get his first start on Saturday. The über-talented quarterback has a rocket arm, and play-caller John Shoop is sure to have some fun with it.
Etling to Yancey. Etling to Monteroso. Etling to Posey. The deep-voiced P.A. announcer at Ross-Ade Stadium will be calling these names many times over the next four seasons. It all starts on Saturday against Nebraska.
Rebuilding is the theme of this season—the first five games surely suggested that. But, let’s face it, that wasn’t going to happen with a fifth-year senior at quarterback. The struggles of Rob Henry were holding the young offense from its growth.
This shouldn’t have been too difficult of a decision for to make. See, every choice has to bring the Boilermakers closer to competing for championships; that’s how a rebuilding program must work. If Hazell’s plan comes to fruition, Etling will be the guy.
It will be far from perfect against the Cornhuskers, and each game the rest of the way. In fact, the only reason Etling wasn’t starting the opener at Cincinnati is because he wasn’t close to being ready. But now, it’s time to see what the freshman can do.
The first touchdown pass from Etling went to the freshman Posey. There could be more of those to come. The same goes for Yancey, someone who Hazell said could play on Sundays. That’s high praise for a newbie. And Monteroso has a bright future, too. After battling back from a broken collarbone, he’ll be inserted in as a starter.
But it’s not just those few freshmen, as Hazell alluded on Wednesday. There’s Dawkins working as the backup running back, Jordan Roos being bumped to a starting role at right guard, Jimmy Herman seeing time at ‘Mike’ linebacker, and safety Austin Logan working in with the first-string defense.
In total, this Purdue team has 52 freshmen on the roster—23 who were redshirted last season, readying for their chance to take the field.
Now is the time for Purdue to build for its future. Let’s see what the freshmen can do.