Spring Football: The Newcomers

The Purdue football program announced the addition of three newcomers to their football roster. Quarterback David Blough, center Kirk Barron and defensive end Langston Newton are officially Boilermakers and attending classes. With spring practice right around the corner, we take a look at these three and what they are up against in their pursuit of playing time.

David Blough is in for spring practice to compete with returning starter Danny Etling and Austin Appleby.

Blough Joins the Cradle of Quarterbacks

Last year at this time, Danny Etling was the new gun in West Lafayette. The Elite 11 competitor joined senior Rob Henry and redshirt freshman Austin Appleby, also an Elite 11 alumnus, in a three-way race to become the first Boilermaker starting quarterback under head coach Darrell Hazell. Henry won the job entering the season opener, but the experience from the fifteen practices laid the framework to Etling being the backup and earning his first collegiate playing time against Northern Illinois. Etling went on to start the remainder of the season.

Fast forward to the present day and Purdue has another Elite 11 quarterback enrolling in time for spring practice. Enter David Blough from Carrollton, Texas. His recruitment will be etched in the minds of Boilermakers fans as he was offered a few days after being invited to the Elite 11 finals by former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees. The similarities of being from Texas, lightly recruited and perhaps undersized brought a sense of excitement for the future of the three-star in the Purdue program.

Come March 6th and Purdue’s first spring practice, Blough will have an opportunity to compete for the job that Brees once held. However, Blough will be up against two young quarterbacks who have an edge in experience in the system, and in Etling’s case, an edge in starting experience. The depth chart will have Etling and Appleby at the top, with Blough in the running for reps in the third position against walk-ons Austin Parker, Erich Berzinskas and Ti Domhoff.

Blough is an intelligent player with the intangibles needed to become a starting quarterback for Purdue. How quickly he understands the system put in place by offensive coordinator John Shoop will determine whether Blough exits the spring as a player in the running for playing time or someone who enters the fall as a likely redshirt candidate.

Physically, Blough could benefit from a redshirt year as he is on the slighter side when it comes to frame. Add in the Boilermaker offensive line, a work in progress that will likely concede a number of quarterback hits, and a year to adjust to the collegiate game makes sense. Purdue was 117th in the nation in sacks, allowing 39 last season.

Offensive Line Adds Barron

Purdue needs assistance on the offensive line as could be told from the sack numbers given up last year. The Boilermakers also ranked second to last in the nation at rushing with only 67.1 yards per game on the ground at an average of 2.5 yards per carry. The offensive line was much maligned and will be a focal point for the rebuilding process, and a barometer for overall team improvement this spring.

Barron has a clear path into the two-deep at the center position.

Kirk Barron will come into Purdue as a center to assist in replenishing the ranks. That is the one spot where the Boilermakers have a sure-fire starter in Robert Kugler. The redshirt junior started the final seven games of the 2012 season before starting all twelve in 2013. Kugler is one of the top players on the roster and is likely to be the rock for the Boilermaker offensive line the next two seasons.

There is a glaring need for a backup to Kugler however. Cody Davis spent time as the backup to Kugler, but he is moving on from the program after playing for five seasons. Henry Lorenzen was also a fifth-year senior who is departing from the program. That leaves Barron as a candidate to be in the two-deep come August. As much as Purdue would like to be able to redshirt all offensive linemen, the numbers situation leads to that not being an option in Barron’s case.

Aside from the differences on the high school level to the college game in terms of size, speed and physicality, there is also an additional mental aspect as the center is usually in charge of calls at the line. Barron has experience playing the position in high school, but college defenses will bring more to the plate when it comes to formations and blitz packages. Barron will have the benefit of playing behind one of the better centers in the conference and should acquire a wealth of knowledge this spring. Unless there are injury issues to Kugler, Barron will have time to translate that knowledge to game time situations.

Kentucky Transfer Now in West Lafayette

The surprise of the group is Langston Newton, a transfer from the University of Kentucky. The defensive end is originally from Carmel, Indiana, and was rated a three-star by 247Sports. After redshirting his first season at Kentucky, Newton found himself down on the depth chart at defensive end for the Wildcats. He did not play a snap for Kentucky during his two years.

Based on a decision to move closer to his family, Newton transferred to Purdue and is currently enrolled and attending classes. Due to transfer rules, his eligibility for the coming season is in question. The family-related circumstances around his transfer could make for a successful appeal, and make Newton eligible immediately with three years to play. A failed appeal would see Newton sit out for a season then have two remaining years starting in 2015.

Regardless of the appeal’s outcome, Newton will be available for spring practice this coming March. In defensive coordinator Greg Hudson’s defense, he would be slotted as a defensive end in the three-man front while possessing the size (up to 270-plus pounds by some accounts) to potentially play inside in a four-man front if the need exists. He does not project to be lined up at the Jack (a stand-up defensive end) or nose guard in the base defense Purdue used towards the end of the 2013 season.

Bruce Gaston manned both tackle and end positions during the 2013 season, but he has moved on to a likely NFL Draft selection. Greg Latta will be another starter lost at the defensive end position. Sophomore Evan Panfil earned a start against Illinois and is a front-runner to take over one of the open starting spots. A move of Ryan Russell from the Jack to defensive end is not out of the question if it would put the best Boilermaker defenders on the field at the same time, in example starting senior Jalani Phillips at the Jack.

The most likely scenario sees Newton competing with Panfil, John Strauser, Jake Replogle, Antoine Miles and Chuck Ayres for a higher place in the defensive end rotation. Will Colmery and Keiwan Jones will become additional challengers come August. All those players have at least three years of eligibility remaining.

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