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WEST LAFAYETTE -- Purdue didn't find perfection in its football practice debut. Coach Darrell Hazell was fine with that. He has seen the abyss (as in last season's 1-11 mess) and recognizes progress when he sees it.
During Monday's hot and muggy first session, in a public setting that contrasted sharply with most coaches' practice privacy preference, he saw plenty.
“As far as retention, we're light years ahead of where we were last year,” he said.
“After having the summer off and not being able to work with the coaches with a football, the guys did a good job. It's hot out. That's good for us. We need to play ourselves into shape.
“Our execution for Day 1 isn't bad. We'll look at the film to see exactly where we can make improvements, but guys seemed to line up and know where to go when the ball is snapped on both sides of the ball. That's good to see.”
Hazell is fine using four words when others prefer 40. He's direct, too the point, and as likely to waste interview time as he is to instruct his quarterbacks to throw interceptions.
Speaking of quarterbacks, sophomores Danny Etling and Austin Appleby, and freshman David Blough rotated snaps with the No. 1 offense. It wasn't equal opportunity -- Etling, the returning starter, got the most snaps -- but that was part of the plan to provide a week of assessment before picking a definitive starter.
“They missed some reads, and made some reads,” Hazell said. “They missed some throws, and made some throws. Their accuracy wasn't bad for a first practice. We'll look at the film, see exactly where we are and get it corrected. I thought one or two were guessing on some plays instead of going through their reads, but it's the first day and they were all excited and ready to go.”
The consensus is Etling will win the job, but you won't hear that from Hazell, who is locked into may-the-best-man-win mode.
“I thought he was relatively sharp. He forced one or two balls that he shouldn't have. But for a first practice, he's way ahead of last year.”
In a surprise, veteran cornerback Frankie Williams got plenty of work at safety along with former Bishop Dwenger standout Landon Feichter. Anthony Brown and Antoine Lewis were the cornerbacks.
“We made that move about two days ago,” Hazell said about Williams. “We talked about it as a staff. Thought it would be good to keep Anthony outside. Frankie is pretty versatile. We were going to play him inside as a nickel some, anyway, so I like him in there.”
The move from cornerback to safety isn't a major change, Hazell added.
“A lot of times, for us, that safety is like the third cornerback. He does a lot of things like the corner. It's not a big learning curve.
“He has a lot of voice back there. He has a lot of seasoning. He's been a great leader for us. Even last year when we were struggling, he was a guy speaking up. It doesn't matter where the leadership is coming from as long as it comes.”
Highly touted freshman linebackers Ja'Whan Bentley and Gelen Robinson didn't get any action with the two deep groups. That was by design and not because of lack of performance.
“Not yet,” Hazell said with a smile. “Be patient. Be patient.”
Also, Purdue landed its 13th commitment in George receiver Tyshawn Brown. The three-star prospect tweeted his decision Monday afternoon. He had offers from Indiana, Wisconsin, Memphis, Mississippi and Wake Forest.
The 5-11, 175-pound Brown is one of seven three-star recruits to commit to Purdue in the Class of 2015.