One of the most unique qualities of Darrell Hazell’s coaching staff is its diversity. Each coach took a different path to becoming a Purdue coach.
There’s John Shoop, the longtime NFL assistant who has struggled to stick at one spot; Rubin Carter, the nose tackle of the Denver Broncos’ legendary “Orange Crush” defense; Marcus Freeman, the former Ohio State linebacker who saw a heart condition end his pro career.
The staff ranges in age from 27 to 60, has seen championship success at the college and professional level, and has experience at all levels of the coaching industry.
What this staff now has in common is adversity—the worst most of these coaches have endured in the game of football. It also has a common plan and trust that Purdue will rise to the top.
Since day one, Hazell has expressed great belief in each of his assistants. That didn’t change as the losses kept piling up, and it hasn’t changed now. As reported on Monday, the entire Purdue staff is expected to be retained. It’s a shrewd move from the head coach who was hired one year ago Thursday.
The astute vote of confidence Hazell offered his assistants serves as a reminder of his most famous line from the introductory press conference one year ago.
"Only from the alliance of people working with and through each other are great things born.”
Hazell hasn’t wavered in confidence, even through great ordeals, because he believes in himself, his staff, and the plan.
“We’ll work the plan and we’ll be a great football team when it’s all said and done,” Hazell said after Saturday’s loss to Indiana, the Boilermakers’ 11th of the season.
When you’re stuck at rock bottom, the only place you can look is up. This is what Hazell and his assistant are doing.
Early Sunday morning, the Hazell and his staff hit the recruiting trails to begin working their program up. Purdue is looking to add early-impact players on both sides of the ball. It needs to find prospects that can step on the field as freshmen. This roster, in its current state, can’t compete in the Big Ten—probably not even the MAC.
There have been recruiting victories, and there will be many more. John Shoop scouted and secured a pledge from David Blough, a then-underrated quarterback who became an Elite 11 standout. In July, coaches Jafar Williams and Marcus Freeman, both in their first year of Big Ten coaching, beat out several rivals to earn a commitment from Gelen Robinson. Offensive line coach Jim Bridge beat out several big name schools to win over tackle Denzel Ward.
Look for more recruiting wins this weekend, too. Purdue is set to host more than 20 official visitors, and some big commitments are coming.
Even in a season with a myriad of issues, there were some bright spots for which the coaches deserve credit. Danny Etling looked like that promising quarterback in the month of November, thanks in part to the steady coaching of Shoop. The Boilermakers’ young receiving core began to develop under coach Kevin Sherman’s leadership, with Deangelo Yancey, Cameron Posey and Danny Anthrop becoming go-to targets. Coach Jon Heacock was able to get production out of a battle-tested secondary.
Rebuilding years force one to look for these small signs of progress. Down the road, this will be the program’s foundation. These coaches deserve time to build Purdue a winner.
Hazell believes Purdue’s plan to better days remains intact, and isn’t changing the leadership of his program. The head coach and his staff will continue work to bring a better product to the field.
This alliance working with and through each other can build something great.