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Purdue University

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Freshmen swell Boilers’ options for linebackers

– The buzz throughout the opening week of football practice at Purdue has been the play of freshmen linebackers Gelen Robinson and Ja’Whan Bentley, who almost certainly will get significant playing time when the Boilermakers open the 2014 season Aug. 30 against Western Michigan in Ross-Ade Stadium.

Robinson, who played at Lake Central High School, is the son of former Purdue All-American basketball standout Glenn Robinson who spent 11 seasons in the NBA. Gelen’s older brother is Glenn Robinson III, a two-year basketball starter at Michigan who in June was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Bentley, a native of Glenarden, Maryland, picked Purdue in a recruiting derby with Iowa and Maryland. During Sunday’s media day, Robinson and Bentley were popular subjects of conversation and discussion.

“Me and Ja’Whan are more focused on the unit as a whole and helping ourselves get better,” Robinson said of the early accolades. “I’m learning to play inside linebacker, which is great for me and will give me a new feel for the game.

“The biggest adjustment is getting used to a new position. In high school, I played a hybrid outside linebacker and rushed the quarterback a lot. Now, I really am learning the linebacker position.”

For Bentley, there is no secret what makes the DeMatha Catholic High School product a threat to be an opening-day starter.

“I pride myself in having a physical style,” said Bentley, who is 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds. “I am a downhill-type player. Also, I can pass cover. I like to hang myself on being a very tough, hard-nosed guy. I build my game off that.”

Second-year head coach Darrell Hazell is excited about the potential Robinson and Bentley have to help a defense that surrendered 42 points or more in seven of its 12 games in 2013. Purdue finished 1-11 in Hazell’s first season.

“It is our job to get them ready,” Hazell said of Robinson and Bentley. “They have three weeks to get ready, and if they are the best players, they are going to play. They have done a really nice job for the first week of practice. They are going to continue to get better.

“We are going to find out if they are guys that can be on the field for us when we kick it off on Aug. 30.”

Linebacker coach Marcus Freeman can’t wait to get Robinson and Bentley on the field.

“I am very eager to coach them,” Freeman said. “They are good young men that are hungry. They want to be coached, and they want to be coached hard. As a coach, that is all you can ask for.

“They are physical bodies, and they have a physical presence on the football field. That is a cornerstone if you are going to be a linebacker at Purdue. Those two are physical football players. They are going to have a chance to be successful. They are similar in that they are physical football players, although different because Gelen was more of a rush end in high school where Ja’Whan played middle linebacker in high school.”

QB decision on hold

Hazell said Sunday that he likely will wait until after Saturday’s scrimmage to select a starting quarterback from returning sophomore starter Danny Etling, sophomore Austin Appleby and freshman David Blough.

Etling has been pushed during the first week of practice by Appleby and Blough.

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