Purdue coach attempting what Kill has succeeded at

Darrell Hazell is turning around a program that has struggled.

Grant Donald

Four years ago, Jerry Kill left Northern Illinois, a Mid-American Conference school, to take over a struggling Gophers program with the idea of bringing the school back into the national spotlight.

Fast-forward four years, and the Big Ten has another coach from a MAC school attempting to turn around a struggling program.

Darrell Hazell is in his second year at the helm of Purdue’s football team after serving as the head coach of Kent State.

“You draw inspiration from [Kill], and you know that the process works and you have to stay with the process,” Hazell said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference this week. “As long as you don’t waver as a coach, [players] will go full speed ahead and do what you ask of them.”

Hazell has been a solid figure in Purdue football over the last year and a half, preaching that better times are coming for a program that went 1-11 in his first year as head coach.

Those better times seem to be arriving, as Hazell is finally seeing results on the field and in the win column.

Purdue is 3-4 this season. Hazell’s marquee victory came two weeks ago when Purdue went on the road and defeated Illinois 38-27, giving Hazell his first-career Big Ten victory.

“You see a [Purdue] team that has picked up some momentum and some steam in the last couple years and even the last couple weeks,” Gophers redshirt senior Cameron Botticelli said. “They’re going to come in with a high energy level, and it’s important that we meet that.”

Like Kill, Hazell has had to make important quarterback decisions to try to turn around his program.

Throughout the summer, Kill reiterated that redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner will be the starter moving forward.

Hazell’s quarterback decision came in the middle of this year when starting quarterback Danny Etling wasn’t performing well. The Purdue coach decided to roll the dice and start sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby against Illinois.

The gamble paid off, as Appleby has impressed in his two career starts.

“They’ve changed quarterbacks, and their quarterback is a dual threat where he can run the ball as well as throw it,” Kill said, “so that’s given them a couple more options.”

Kill has brought a new, tougher philosophy to the program since he arrived in Minneapolis. This is something that Hazell has tried to do in West Lafayette, Ind.

“[Purdue executes] very well,” Kill said. “They have kind of a tough demeanor to them.”

Despite that, Purdue likely isn’t ready to become a contender in the Big Ten this year.

The Gophers, on the other hand, are in a position to contend for the Big Ten West title and possibly reach the conference championship game.

In order to reach that goal, the Gophers must take care of rebuilding teams like Purdue and not start thinking about playing other Big Ten contenders.

“I think everyone can always get ahead of themselves and think, ‘Oh jeez, if we keep rolling, we can really have a shot to do something special,’” redshirt senior Isaac Fruechte said. “[But] one thing that Coach Kill really instills in you is you have to come to work every single week because in college football, you can be [defeated] every single week by anybody.”