Over the past several weeks, we've caught up with the coaches preparing for their first season in a new location and/or role. From recruiting to staff moves and personnel decisions, we've looked at how the first months have gone and previewed the upcoming 2013 season. Today, we end the series with a look at new Purdue coach Darrell Hazell.
Coaching experience: The 49-year old Hazell has only two years of head coaching experience, but he has found himself on a sideline coaching every season since 1986. Hazell's career began as a running backs coach at Oberlin College immediately after his playing career ended. From there, he moved on as a position coach at Eastern Illinois, Penn, Western Michigan, Army and West Virginia. After being hired as a wide receivers coach at Rutgers in 2001, Hazell became the assistant head coach in 2003 before moving on to Ohio State in 2004. Hazell spent seven seasons with the Buckeyes under Jim Tressel, six of those as an assistant head coach. From there, he became head coach at Kent State in 2011, where he went 16-10 (11-3 in 2012) before being hired by Purdue.
Reason for the change: Though the Boilermakers won their final three games of the regular season to become bowl eligible, it wasn't enough to save Danny Hope's job. Hope's 22-27 record in four years in West Lafayette just wasn't enough to warrant a fifth season, back-to-back bowl appearances or not.
The First Months
2013 Recruiting Class Ranking (according to 247Sports composite rankings): No. 62 nationally, No. 11 in the Big Ten
Notable Prospects: Purdue's 2013 class didn't really have the kind of player that you could consider a difference maker the moment that he stepped foot on campus, but there are plenty of players who could have a big impact for Hazell down the road. Among them is four-star quarterback Danny Etling, who enrolled early and has been on campus working with the team since January. While he's not likely to start this season, with the departures of both Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve, Etling is getting a chance to compete for that spot right away against senior Rob Henry.
Off-field: For the most part, things have been pretty quiet in West Lafayette since Hazell took over. It seems the coach is focused on getting his team ready for the season and hitting the recruiting trail. At the moment, Purdue has four commits in the 2014 class, but there are a few more targets out there warming up to the idea of playing for Hazell and the Boilermakers.
Fan reaction: The majority of the Purdue fan base seemed resigned to the fact that things just weren't going to work under Hope, so the change to Hazell was a welcome one. And since the change, fans have been supportive of their new head coach.
“The first six months have been amazing,” Hazell said in May about Purdue fans. “They've been very welcoming.”
Advantages: As a coach who has spent his career focusing on the offensive side of the football, Hazell is lucky to have nine returning starters on defense, even if one of those two missing parts is defensive tackle Kawann Short. Still, with plenty of experience on defense, Hazell will have more time to focus on an offense that returns only five starters. Also to Hazell's benefit is that, in 2014, Purdue will be moved to the West Division, where it will not have to face teams like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State every season. Making things even better, Purdue is guaranteed that one of its cross-divisional games every season will be against Indiana. That means the Boilermakers should be in a position to succeed on a regular basis.
Toughest challenge: While moving from the MAC to the Big Ten is certainly a step up for Hazell, he is at a program that has a very hard time finding consistent success. Purdue has won eight Big Ten titles (only one outright, however) but of those eight, only one has come since 1968 -- and that was in 2000. So if Hazell's goal is to get Purdue to the Rose Bowl on a regular basis, history shows that it will not be an easy task.
2013 Outlook: A third straight trip to the postseason won't be easy for Purdue in Hazell's first season. Aside from the turnover on offense, Purdue's schedule is not going to be easy to maneuver through. The non-conference schedule features Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois -- teams that managed to go a combined 34-6 last season. Big Ten play begins with a trip to Wisconsin, and the Boilermakers will also travel to Michigan State and Penn State. Even the home schedule is difficult; Ohio State and Nebraska will make the trip to West Lafayette. In other words, it's hard finding six wins for a program undergoing a transition.