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Darrell Hazell's team hasn't done anything since he arrived three years ago from Kent State. Purdue simply can't get over the hump and had another miserable season in 2015, finishing with just two overall wins, one coming in the Big Ten. In Hazell's three years, the Boilermakers have just two conference wins. He mixed things up in the offseason with new coordinators, most notably promoting Terry Malone on the offensive side and bringing in Ross Els to lead the defense.
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The most important thing for the Boilers is to get consistent quarterback production. David Blough is set to lead the way in his sophomore season after finishing with 10 TDs and 8 INTs in 2015 when he took over for Austin Appleby. Still, Blough by no means has the QB battle won as redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar is right behind him. If they can get better quarterback play, maybe the wins will start coming, but they are not close to finding their guy yet.
Running back is at least decided with Markell Jones (875 yards, 10 TDs) returning, although backup D.J. Knox won't be around after tearing his ACL in the spring. All of the pressure will be on Jones to produce every game for this offense and that won't be easy. Purdue doesn't have the best offensive line and loses its two tackles from last season. They still return three guys up front, but this wasn't a good line to begin with. DeAngelo Yancey (48 receptions, 700 yards, 5 TDs) will be the new No. 1 wide receiver, with the other spot a toss up as Danny Anthrop is gone to the NFL.
But even if the offense produces more, Purdue still needs to improve vastly on the defensive end where they were atrocious a year ago. Even in their lone, surprising Big Ten win against Nebraska, the Boilers gave up 45 points.
How will they get better, though? The defensive line is still an issue after being the worst in the conference a year ago. Tackle Jake Replogle needs more help around him for this unit to be effective. Ends Evan Panfil and Gelen Robinson need to take the next step in becoming valuable assets in getting to opposing quarterbacks. To stop offenses from gashing them, there needs to be something that changes on this side.
Linebacker is in decent shape, as long as Ja'Whaun Bentley is healthy enough to play after tearing his ACL late last year. He's joined by experienced guys in Danny Ezechukwu and Jimmy Herman and those guys have to take charge on this defense. The secondary has some pieces to work with in Leroy Clark, and corner Da'Wan Hunte looks set to become a starter opposite of Tim Cason.
The non-conference slate is manageable for the Boilermakers and that starts with a game against Eastern Kentucky. However, from there, there's no telling what will happen, as Cincinnati and Nevada aren't easy opponents. Their conference slate doesn't provide many openings for wins though as Purdue's easiest home game will likely be against Northwestern. To get more than one Big Ten win, they'll have to win on the road, either at Illinois or Minnesota.
Nothing points to Purdue being much better this year, especially looking at its schedule. This could be the end of the road for Hazell, unless he figures something out with his team quickly.
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2016 Purdue Boilermakers Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Eastern Kentucky
Sept 10 vs. Cincinnati
Sept. 24 vs. Nevada
Oct. 1 at Maryland
Oct. 8 at Illinois
Oct. 15 vs. Iowa
Oct. 22 at Nebraska
Oct. 29 vs. Penn State
Nov. 5 at Minnesota
Nov. 12 vs. Northwestern
Nov. 19 vs. Wisconsin
Nov. 26 at Indiana
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