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Hazell begins changing Boilermakers’ image

– Darrell Hazell is trying to change the image of Purdue football.

He spent all offseason searching for more size, more toughness and more leadership.

On Wednesday, he finally got a chance to show off his discoveries with a 19-player recruiting class. It wasn’t by chance.

“I think any time you try to build a program, you’ve got to have guys that can fight through adversity. That’s not just physically tough, that’s mentally tough,” Hazell said, noting 18 players served as high school captains. “I think our team needs leadership. You saw that all season long last year.”

The Boilermakers needed to make changes after winning just one game last season – none against BCS foes.

This recruiting class certainly does that. Hazell got four new offensive linemen, none smaller than 280 pounds. He’s hoping it will help fix the problems Purdue had at tackle.

The Boilermakers also got another young, highly-touted quarterback from Texas, Danny Blough. At 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, Blough is likely to hear the comparisons to another ex-Purdue quarterback from Texas who headlined a class widely panned by the so-called experts. Drew Brees and his classmates prided themselves on proving those who dubbed them the Big Ten’s worst recruiting class that year – all the way to the Rose Bowl.

Hazell thinks this group can be the foundation for a similar rebuilding project.

“When a guy comes on campus and throws it the way he does and has the charisma like Coach (John) Shoop said, you can’t let him off campus,” Hazell said, referring to his offensive coordinator. “We have two pretty good quarterbacks that we feel pretty good about. But that competitive advantage that he (Blough) has, I like that about him.”

Purdue also got a handful of lighter defensive linemen, which fits perfectly with the Boilermakers’ tradition of producing undersized but effective pass rushers, and more size at linebacker and in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson described the whole group as good tacklers.

“That was one of the emphasis we had, to become Big Ten big and I think we did that, especially on the offensive line,” Hazell said. “I think we’re tougher, but I think we brought in some guys that really love the game and that’s one of the things we talked about at the end of the season – finding football player who will do all the little things to get better.”

Elsewhere in the state, Ball State added 19 players and Saint Francis signed 25.

Here is a look at those schools’ recruiting classes:

Ball State

The Cardinals had 15 players who were captains on their high school teams, and they added Bruce Heggie, a Notre Dame graduate who can play this year for Ball State under NCAA rules.

“We really like the overall athleticism of this group of student-athletes, including the linemen we signed,” coach Pete Lembo said in a release. “As always, we put a big emphasis on the intangibles. These guys are excited to be joining our program and will be attending Ball State for all the right reasons.

“The players themselves and their families were a pleasure to work with throughout the recruiting process. It was also a strong year for us in the state of Indiana, which is another positive for the program.”

Ball State signed six players from Indiana, including Concordia quarterback David Morrison and New Haven receiver Jordan Hogue.

Saint Francis

The Cougars loaded up on area high school prospects.

Saint Francis signed Snider defensive lineman Mitchell Boney, Churubusco running back Cody Conwell and Snider receiver Andreas Gomez-Espino.

They also added East Noble offensive lineman Connor Holcomb, Snider linebacker Tiberious McGhee, New Haven defensive lineman Brandon Stone and Woodlan offensive lineman Jacob Summers and defensive lineman Deandre Woods.

– Tony Krausz of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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