College football is just around the corner and that means conferences have gotten together for preseason meetings. The Big Ten hosted coaches and players in Chicago this week, and Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell spoke about the upcoming season.
The team’s first practice is August 4th and most of the fall camp will be open to the public. The season kicks off August 30th against Western Michigan.
Hazell said everything you would expect from a second year coach.
“Let me first start off by saying I’m extremely proud of our football team,” Hazell said. “There’s a tremendous environment right now around our facilities that’s very conducive for learning and success. And our guys have done everything we’ve asked since January, above and beyond what we’ve asked.”
He said that this team heads into camp a tremendous amount of talent and even hit the cliche of not looking back at the disaster that was the 2013 season.
“Obviously we hadn’t — we didn’t finish as well as we’d like to last year,” Hazell said. “There’s a lot of things for improvement. But I think this is the time where you rip off the rearview mirror and you take a look at what’s in front of you and all the things that we need to do to be successful in this 2014 season.”
Purdue, the school, has a long history of being perceived as cheap with athletics. It nearly prompted basketball coach Matt Painter to leave for another school until the school upped the salaries and benefits of his assistant coaches.
Hazell was asked about support from the school and felt like it was improving.
“Oh, absolutely. I have had many meetings with Morgan Burke, and it’s very important to him for Purdue to have success on the football field,” Hazell said. “And we’ve talked extensively about the things that we need to do to get to that level we need to get to, and we’re working in that direction, absolutely.”
There are very few athletic programs in the country that don’t rely heavily on funding from the university. Of those programs that are able to solely rely on its own income, all have a well supported football program at the BCS level. Purdue needs to bring in the fans to build their budget and adequately back its teams.
The Boilers are returning 19 starters, but given the quality of play last season it is likely there are a lot of positions up for grabs. Hazell said this was the case and that the coaching staff has very little time to finalize the depth chart.
“We’ve got to find out fast who our guys are,” Hazell said. “I don’t want to have good players standing on the sideline because the scheme is holding them up or they haven’t caught up fast enough. But there’s going to be four or five guys that we brought in this year that will see the field because they’re good players.
“And being able to analyze and watch them this summer has really helped us to say, OK, this guy can run, this guy moves well enough to help us.”
Hazell was realistic about goals this season and would prefer that the team be competitive in every game this season. He didn’t specify a number of games, but it would make sense that they’d like to at least win three-plus games.
For a full transcript of Hazell’s press conference, head over to Purdue Athletics.