2012 Record: 6-7, 3-5 Big Ten. 4th in Leaders Division.
Head Coach: Darrell Hazell, first year. 16-10 in three seasons overall.
Offensive Starters Returning: 5
Defensive Starters Returning: 8
After spending four seasons as head coach at Eastern Kentucky leading the Colonels to an overall mark of 35-22, Danny Hope returned to West Lafayette in 2008 where he spent that season as associate head coach, working with the offensive line, managing recruiting and monitoring academics as part of a succession plan to replace longtime head coach Joe Tiller.
An assistant under Tiller at Purdue for five seasons from 1997 to 2001, Hope became the 34th head football coach in the school’s history on Jan. 1, 2009, following the retirement of Tiller after 12 years at the helm.
In 2009, Hope completed his first season as the program’s head coach with a 5-7 overall record and 4-4 Big Ten Conference mark. Sitting with a 1-5 record in mid-October, the Boilermakers began a second-half ascent with a thrilling 26-18 win over seventh-ranked and eventual Rose Bowl champion Ohio State at Ross-Ade Stadium. The victory snapped a 19-game losing skid to ranked opponents.
Three weeks later, the Boilermakers again were riding high, defeating Michigan 38-36 for their first road victory since 2007 and their first win in Ann Arbor in 43 years. Moreover, Purdue beat Ohio State and Michigan in the same season for only the third time in school history (also 1984 and 2000) and Hope became the only person in Big Ten history to defeat the two in his first season as the head coach. The Boilermakers capped the season with a 38-21 win at Indiana to keep possession of the Old Oaken Bucket.
In 2010, the Boilermakers endured injuries rarely seen by any collegiate football program. Starting four different signal-callers in the same season for the first time at the school dubbed the “Cradle of Quarterbacks,” Purdue went the entire year largely without the services of its leading returning rusher and receiver, as well as their second- and third-string backups. Despite the numerous injuries, Hope’s team jumped out to a 4-2 start, but lost its last six to finish 4-8.
The 2011 Boilermakers went 7-6 overall and recorded a number of signature wins, including a victory over previously undefeated Illinois, beating Ohio State in overtime, downing Indiana in Bloomington and winning the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl with a victory over Western Michigan in Detroit. Purdue finished third in the Leaders Division in the Big Ten standings at 4-4 and the win over the Buckeyes marked the first time the Boilermakers have beaten Ohio State in back-to-back home games in program history.
Hope’s 2012 edition of the Purdue football team had high hopes entering the season as both Ohio State and Penn State from the Leaders Division were ineligible for the Big Ten championship game. Those high hopes were also due to having 15 starters back from the 2011 team, with eight on offense and seven on defense. After going 3-1 during the non-conference portion of the schedule while nearing knocking off Notre Dame in South Bend, the Boilermakers lost five-straight to start Big Ten play. The only close game during that stretch was a 29-22 heartbreaking defeat in overtime to Ohio State in Columbus. The other four, though, were not close at all, losing by a combined score of 160-64. Purdue went on to win the next three games to close out the regular season, but it wasn’t enough to save Hope’s job as he was fired less than 24 hours after the win over Indiana. Under interim head coach Patrick Higgins, Purdue was blown out by Oklahoma State, 58-14, in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Some of the names mentioned early on to replace Hope were Cincinnati’s Butch Jones, Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, Illinois State’s Brock Spack and Ball State’s Pete Lembo. But on Dec. 5, 2012, Darrell Hazell from Kent State was named head coach.
Hazell spent two seasons as head coach of the Golden Flashes, going 16-10 overall. In his final year at Kent, he guided squad to an 11-3 mark and nearly got Kent State to a BCS bowl before losing to Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference championship game.
Prior to Kent State, Hazell was the wide receivers coach at Ohio State in 2004. From 2005-2010, Hazell had the additional title of associate head coach added during his time under former OSU head coach Jim Tressel.
Hazell has five starters returning on offense, and eight on defense.
Senior quarterback Rob Henry will be under center to being the season. In 2011, Henry was atop the depth chart at QB, but missed the entire year after injuring his knee a week before the opener against Middle Tennessee. In 2012, Henry was the third-string quarterback behind Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve, but played in 11 of the 13 games at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Henry completed 21 of 38 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns, rushed 38 times for 74 yards and touchdown, and caught six passes for 65 yards.
The top returning rusher is junior Akeem Hunt, who netted 335 yards on 42 carries and two touchdowns.
Senior O.J. Ross would of been Purdue’s top leading receiver after catching 56 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns, but he was suspended by Hazell for violating a team rule and decided to leave the program. That leaves senior Gary Bush as the top returning wideout. He had 41 receptions for 360 yards and seven TDs in 2012.
Three of the five starting offensive linemen return with senior RG Justin Kitchens, senior RT Trevor Foy, and sophomore C Robert Kugler.
With eight starters back on defense, this unit is expected to be much better in 2012. Leading the way is junior SS Landon Fletcher, who topped the roster with 80 total tackles and four interceptions last season.
Will Lucas, a senior weakside linebacker, was second on the team in tackles (66) and led the Boilers with 6.5 tackles for loss in 2012.
Junior defensive end Ryan Russell is the top returning pass rusher after recording 4.0 sacks last season.
Conclusion and Prediction:
Even though Purdue fired its head football coach, the Boilers still went 6-6 in the regular season and made it to a bowl game.
But athletic director Morgan Burke doesn’t want .500 seasons. He doesn’t want his football program to be mediocre. He wants to get to the Rose Bowl. Thus, Burke fired Hope and brought in Hazell, who was hired to bring championships.
One thing Hazell has implemented is his 533-page, “A Player’s Manual,” that addresses accountability, discipline, unselfishness. This was started by Tressel when he was at Youngstown State in the 90s.
While championships might not be in the forecast this season, or even the next, if ever, one thing is for sure, Purdue has to improve in all facets of the game.
Last season, the Boilers were fifth in the Big Ten in total offense (402.7 ypg.), but fell to eighth in scoring offense (28.7 ppg.). From the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Boilers were 11th in total defense (416.2 ypg.), and 10th in scoring defense (31.2 ppg.).
Purdue takes on Cincinnati, Indiana State, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois out of conference, and gets Nebraska, Michigan State and Iowa from the Legends Division, so there are hardly any gimmes. It’s possible that the Boilers can get eight wins, but a more realistic number might be six.