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Purdue University

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Boilermakers want competitive game

– The next step in Darrell Hazell’s attempt to bring Purdue football back into a competitive position will conclude at 1 p.m. today with the annual Gold and Black spring game in Ross-Ade Stadium.

The second-year Boilers coach, whose first Boilermakers team struggled in every facet while finishing 1-11, will have a mixture of starters and second-line players in a game that will include four 12-minute quarters.

Returning starting quarterback Danny Etling will lead the Gold, while fellow sophomore Austin Appleby will quarterback the Black squad.

Hazell had his upperclassmen draft the rosters earlier in the week. He likes this format because he wants the game to be relatively competitive as opposed to the traditional staters-vs.-second-line players.

Special rules for the game, which is free to the public, will include no blitzing on first down until the fourth quarter, no huddles until the final three minutes of each half and a minimum of four “deep-ball passes” by each team.

“Obviously, we will have mixed and matched lines and all kinds of different personnel on both sides of the ball, but the big thing is having some fun and getting out of it healthy,” Hazell said Friday. “Then, we will be getting ready to have a great summer.

“The biggest thing we want to see is them playing with energy and passion. We want them to run to the ball defensively, and then make some plays offensively when they have an opportunity.”

While seniors Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt have emerged as big-play threats during the spring, whether lined up in the backfield or at receiver, any improvement Purdue makes offensively in 2014 likely will center on the offensive line’s continued development.

Junior center Robert Kugler says that group should be much better than it was in 2013, when the Boilermakers barely rushed for 800 yards total in 12 games.

“We have done pretty well, especially from the first day until now,” Kugler said. “One of the biggest things is that we have come together as a unit. We all really get along. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which is good for us. We are playing better with each other.”

Hazell has been pleasantly surprised with the progress the offensive line has made through 14 spring practices.

“Some guys have surprised us in a good way,” Hazell said. “(Tackle) J.J. Prince has really done a nice job. He has been very solid. (Guard) Jason King has gotten a whole lot better. There are some things we have to get shored up, but that is why you recruit.”

Junior receiver Danny Anthrop likes the way this spring has unfolded in terms of familiarity with what Hazell and his staff want. That was not the case 12 months ago when Hazell directed his first spring practice after replacing Danny Hope.

“What I like the most is how competitive we are this spring,” Anthrop said. “Last spring, everybody was nervous. We were just trying to get lined up where we needed to be. Now, I don’t even have to listen for the alignments. It is second nature. That is true for the whole offense.

“In terms of our ability to make plays, we will be a lot more consistent than we were last year.”