Coach: Darrell Hazell (4-20, entering third season, 20-30 overall)
2014 record: 3-9, 1-7 in Big Ten, seventh in West
Look back: After winning one game in his first season (2013), Darrell Hazell hoped to see vast improvement in 2014. Purdue opened the season by winning two of its first four games. A win over Illinois on Oct. 4 was the program’s first Big Ten victory since 2012. But Purdue didn’t win again, losing its last six games to finish the season with a 3-9 overall record.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Offensive starters lost: 4
Defensive starters returning: 8
Defensive starters lost: 6
Key losses: RB Akeem Hunt, RB Raheem Mostert, TE Justin Sinz, TE Gabe Holmes, S Landon Feichter, CB Antoine Lewis, DE Jalani Phillips, S Taylor Richards, LB Sean Robinson, DE Ryan Russell
Top returnees: QB Austin Appleby, WR Danny Anthrop, WR DeAngelo Yancey, C Robert Kugler, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, S Frankie Williams, LB Jimmy Herman, CB Anthony Brown
Strengths: Purdue returns its entire offensive line, led by center Robert Kugler and guards Jason King and Jordan Roos. The group only allowed 24 sacks all of last season while helping the Boilermakers rush for 150 yards per game. Their return is key considering the issues at quarterback and running back heading into the fall.
Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (76 tackles) anchors the middle of the Purdue defense along with Jimmy Herman (56 tackles) and Danny Ezechukwu (1.5 sacks). The secondary features veteran CBs Anthony Brown (54 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss) and Leroy Clark (25 tackles) and S Frankie Williams (74 tackles, 3 INTs).
Weaknesses: The starting quarterback job is one of the biggest questions hanging over the team heading into preseason camp. A program known as the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” has been anything but during the past few seasons. Juniors Danny Etling and Austin Appleby shared time under center, but both struggled to create any sort of consistency at the position. The pair combined for 16 passing touchdowns but also threw 16 interceptions. Redshirt freshman David Blough made an impression this spring, but Hazell isn’t ready to name his starter until mid-August.
The departures of running backs Akeem Hunt (949 yards, 6 TDs) and Raheem Mostert (529 yards, 3 TDs) leaves the Boilermakers looking to replace close to 80 percent of their production on the ground. Sophomore Keyante Green (27 carries, 199 yards) leads a group of inexperienced rushers looking to establish themselves in 2015.
Purdue ranked next to last in the Big Ten last season with just 20 sacks, thanks to inconsistent play on the defensive front.
Outlook: Purdue returns 15 starters from last season, providing the Boilermakers with a wealth of experience at some positions. However, uncertainty at quarterback leaves the offense at a disadvantage heading into the fall.
Sept. 6 at Marshall
Sept. 12 Indiana State
Sept. 19 Virginia Tech
Sept. 26 Bowling Green
Oct. 3 at Michigan State
Oct. 10 Minnesota
Oct. 17 at Wisconsin
Oct. 31 Nebraska
Nov. 7 Illinois
Nov. 14 at Northwestern
Nov. 21 at Iowa
Nov. 28 Indiana
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