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Purdue University
Sophomore Danny Etling will likely remain the starting quarterback for Purdue but will be pushed by Austin Appleby and David Blough.

QB play to determine path taken by Boilers

– From Len Dawson on through Bob Griese, Drew Brees and Kyle Orton, when Purdue football has been very good, it has been terrific at quarterback.

When the Boilermakers practiced for the first time Monday afternoon in preparation for their Aug. 30 opener against Western Michigan in Ross-Ade Stadium, most eyes were on quarterbacks Danny Etling, Austin Appleby and David Blough.

Those three, led by sophomore returning starter Etling, know that if Purdue is to make significant strides from a 1-11 record in coach Darrell Hazell’s rookie season with the Boilermakers, excellent play under center is a must.

It is how the Boilermakers have won in the past, and it probably is how they will win again at the Big Ten university known as “The Cradle of Quarterbacks.”

“We are light-years ahead of where we were,” sophomore Appleby said after Monday’s two-hour practice. “This team has worked so hard. you wouldn’t even believe it. We are done with the mediocrity. It is as simple as that. This locker room is fed up with that. This team is going to go as the quarterbacks go.

“We are a long way from where we need to be to win a championship, but we are doing the work necessary to reach that. Right or wrong, it has to start at the quarterback position. The quarterback and the head coach get all the glory, or they get all the blame. Whether that is right or wrong, it is what it is. Our quarterback group is very special. We have good guys who love to work and can count on.”

Hazell kept his eyes focused on the three quarterbacks throughout most of Monday’s workout.

“In terms of execution for Day One, it’s not bad,” Hazell said. “Guys seemed to know where to go when the ball was snapped. The retention from the spring has been amazing. The quarterbacks missed some reads, made some reads … made some throws, missed some throws.

“I thought one or two of them were guessing at some points in time instead of going through their reads, but it is the first day, and they are excited. Etling threw a couple of balls that maybe he should not have thrown, but he is way ahead of where he was last year.”

Etling likely will be the starter against Western Michigan, but he knows Appleby and freshman Blough will push him every step of the way.

“We had a few mistakes, but that is to be expected the first day,” Etling said. “We have hit a big stride year of really working hard this offseason and making this so it is not like it is our first practice. We feel like we are in mid-camp form on the first day.

“I feel way ahead of last year and am really comfortable with the offense. I feel pretty relaxed with where I am. We want to try new things and really push ourselves.”

Blough agrees with his fellow quarterbacks that the time for being mediocre must end now if Purdue is to move in the right direction.

“The quarterback expectations are high, and we have goals,” Blough said. “We definitely have set the bar high. We know that if we are to achieve what we want, it comes from the preparation in the spring, summer and now. We had 95 percent participation in optional workouts. That tells me that we can achieve those goals.”

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