March 19, 2013

Hazell says double duty prepared him for Purdue

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Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The commute gave him time to contemplate what was to come next.

The month between his hiring at Purdue and the bowl game he coached for Kent State was filled with double duty for Darrell Hazell, and the roads from east of Akron to west of Indianapolis were well-traveled.

The willingness to finish the job he took on rebuilding the MAC school and the eagerness in starting to rehab the Big Ten program are part of what makes Hazell operate.

"There was no other option for me," he said. "You go after what you want full-steam, day-by-day.

"It went fairly smooth, but there was an immediate priority placed on recruiting here. We needed to get guys who can help, and once I was (at Purdue) full-time that made it easier. We needed more guys, better guys, and just more personnel."

When Hazell was hired to take over for Danny Hope -- who went 22-27 in four seasons at Purdue -- the program had 13 commits. It lost four of those original pledges but ended with 23 signees.

The class ranked No. 56 in the country, according to Rivals.com.

The average rank for Purdue during the seven previous classes was No. 61. It topped out at No. 33 in the class of 2012, which was a rebound from No. 93 in 2011. From the class of 2002 -- when Rivals.com began tracking recruiting classes -- through the class of 2005, the program was never lower than No. 38.

The highest-ranked player in the class of 2013 was four-star quarterback Danny Etling from Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo. Etling committed to Hope but remained steadfast after meeting with the new coach in January.

"He told me not to think they didn't want me, and I told him, 'Don't feel like you just have to (take) me because you inherited me,'" Etling told Rivals.com. "I want it to be something we both want. I liked him. He seemed really down to earth, and he seemed like he really wanted me at Purdue."

The No. 167 player in the Rivals250 said he and Hazell were on the same page about returning to the Boilermakers' tradition of quality quarterback play.

The list of players whom Etling watched was part of why he chose the program.

"When I was growing up, Purdue was a big, big deal," Etling said. "There was (Kyle) Orton, (Curtis) Painter and (Drew) Brees, and they were really good. I'd want to get it back to that."

Before that trio made an impression on Etling, Purdue produced NFL quarterbacks Jim Everett, Scott Campbell, Mark Herrmann, Gary Danielson, Mike Phipps, Bob Griese, Len Dawson, Dale Samuels, Bob DeMoss, and Cecil Isbell -- who played running back at Purdue but quarterback for the Green Bay Packers -- dating to the 1930s.

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said one of the biggest advocates for Hazell was his former boss, Jim Tressel.

Burke said Tressel gave him confidence that Hazell would look to resurrect the Cradle of Quarterbacks.

"(Jim) just said this is the perfect spot for Darrell," Burke told the AP. "He gets the work ethic and went on about a couple of other things. I just thought we wouldn't get the fan base excited if we line up and play like Wisconsin, you know, and (Jim) said, 'You won't have any trouble with that. He was trying to get me to throw the ball all the time.'"

Hazell said his offensive philosophy is simple: do what it takes to win.

What exactly that is will be determined by the personnel around him.

"We will need to see what we have during spring ball," Hazell said. "We will see what we have and hope we have what it takes to win."

From there, he can also start to fill in the pieces for the future.

"The state of Purdue will be Indiana, Illinois, Detroit, Ohio, Kentucky and Western Pennsylvania," Hazell said. "We will probably go into Florida, Georgia, and Texas on occasion.

"We got in here so late that we didn't get to make the kind of push for kids from Indiana that we would have liked to, and that will be something we do more of going forward."

Of the players who committed to Hazell, four were from Ohio, two each came from Illinois, Georgia, and Florida, and one each from Indiana, Kentucky and New York.

Going forward, Hazell will lean on more of the lessons learned from his time with Tressel.

"My time at Ohio State really helps me here," Hazell said. "I know the difference between the talent that I can go after at Purdue versus Kent State, and I know I will need to be more selective and send out fewer offers."

Also, contrary to many programs, Hazell will sign off on every offer that goes out. He will not empower his assistants to make independent offers.

It is an old-school idea, but he believes in.

"The buck stops with me," he said. "It is very important that I do it that way. I know it isn't like that at every program, but I will be approving every offer that goes out."

Each prospect will be measured on a three-tiered scale, and if each level isn't found to be acceptable the process stops.

"Character is first," Hazell said. "If you are not a good guy and I find out that you mistreat people, it stops there. The other two things are important.

"The second thing I look at is academics. I believe there is a correlation between a smart kid who is willing to do his work and sound football players. You have to be disciplined enough to get up and get to class and turn in your work and listen to the teacher."

"The last thing I will personally sign off on is if they can play," Hazell said. "We need to have players who I believe will have the talent to succeed for us. But I only look at that once those first two criteria are met. In order."

For a program that has gone 1-7 in its last eight bowl games against BCS competition, the process may be just what Purdue needs.

"We will do things the right way," Hazell said. "I believe we can be successful here, and I can't wait to get started."

Michael Marot of the Associated Press contributed to this report




 

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