WEST LAFAYETTE – Fellow sophomore Austin Appleby closed the gap during the first two weeks of preseason camp, but returning starting quarterback Danny Etling was selected by coach Darrell Hazell to start Purdue's regular-season opener Aug. 30 against Western Michigan.
Etling, who passed for 1,690 yards and 10 touchdowns as the Boilermakers' starter for the final seven games of the 2013 season, and Appleby, who completed 5 of 6 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in limited action last season, were told of the decision Monday morning.
Hazell shared the decision with the media after Monday's two-hour practice.
“They both played extremely well during the first two weeks of practice, but I think the biggest thing coming out of the spring was that Danny was a little bit ahead,” Hazell said. “Austin did a great job of closing the gap, and I feel 100 percent confident putting Austin in the game.
“But I felt like after the spring season, Danny had the edge, and someone had to take it from him. That is the only reason. I told Austin this morning that I have never been more proud of a guy and would be comfortable putting him in if we need to. I feel really good about both of them.”
Hazell also said Monday that as of now, his intention is to redshirt freshman David Blough, who competed with Etling and Appleby in the spring after graduating from high school last December and enrolling at Purdue in January.
“Obviously, I was excited,” Etling said. “I now, hopefully, will have another season to continue growing and improving with my team. All three of us competed hard, and we have three very capable quarterbacks in that quarterback room.
“We will continue to push each other. We're all pretty young, so we will continue to keep moving along. From a year ago, I just diagnose things so much quicker. You realize where the safeties are, and you take your pre-snap look. I feel like I am so much further ahead than I was at this time last year.”
So does Appleby, who will continue to push Etling and was glad to hear what Hazell had to say about him.
“That is a great compliment to have from the head coach,” Appleby said. “I have worked very, very hard, and we have a very good and close-working relationship. It is great to hear when the head coach has 100 percent trust in you to lead this team.
“It is equally good when your locker room feels the same way. That speaks to the preparation I have put in, and ultimately the production I have had out here during camp. I still have a great deal of confidence going into the season.”
Veteran running back/wide receiver Akeem Hunt is confident either Etling or Appleby will do a good job when called upon as Purdue hopes to improve on a 1-11 record in 2013.
“The quarterbacks have impressed me when it comes to mindset and their willingness to fight back when they have done something wrong,” Hunt said. “They come back to the huddle and focus on the next play. Their mental toughness has impressed me a lot.
“Danny knows the offense and has been making checks really well. He has been a playmaker.”