September 27, 2005

Linebacker shakeup began Tuesday

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After the coaching staff promised a shake-up amongst its linebackers, the wheels are in motion.

During Tuesday's practice, Purdue's first-team linebacker trio consisted of junior George Hall in the middle, freshman Kyle Williams on the weak side and sophomore Cliff Avril on the strong side.

Injuries have affected what might be done, of course, as Avril's promotion was at least in part due to the fact that senior Bobby Iwuchukwu is sidelined with a sprained knee.

Additionally, sophomore middle linebacker Dan Bick has a shoulder injury and did not practice Tuesday, thus nixing the chance of the coaching staff trading out all three starters, as has been suggested to be a possibility.

Coach Joe Tiller said Tuesday that his three returning starters - Hall, Iwuchukwu and sophomore Stanford Keglar - have hit a "plateau." On Sunday, the coach said there would "absolutely" be "movement" in the two-deeps at linebacker.

Tuesday, the team's official depth chart listed all three positions with the word "or" between the first- and second-team players.

Despite the initial shuffling, defensive coordinator Brock Spack said nothing's set in stone yet for Saturday.

"We'll play the guys who have the hot hand," said Spack, also Purdue's linebackers coach. "That's what we did Saturday."

That's why Williams - a true freshman - played so much in Minneapolis. He had the proverbial "hot hand," making 10 tackles.

Though not even a starter, the ultra-aggressive, ultra-active Williams is the team's fourth-leading tackler, with 17 stops, and that's with him having played just a handful of snaps at Arizona.

Williams is excited to have the opportunity to potentially start.

"I've been given a (chance) and I just have to be sharp in practice," Williams said. "It's not like they told me I can start and that I can come out here and act like I don't know what's going on. I thought my practice went well today. There are couple technique things I need to tighten up, but I should be all right."

As for Bick, he's "hot" also, having returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Minnesota game.

But, he's hurt.

Tiller said he expected Bick to practice Tuesday; instead, the sophomore was inactive, with a purple jersey and shoulder sling.

"It's sore right now," Bick said Tuesday evening of his shoulder, "but I'm working on my range of motion right now and it's getting better day-by-day."




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