WEST LAFAYETTE — Just what the doctor ordered.
That’s how Purdue head coach Danny Hope described the Boilermakers first day of spring football practice Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of great energy out here,” he said. “There’s a lot of great speed on our football team. We’re more experienced than we were this time last year so our guys did a good job of lining up in the right spots and are a lot more comfortable and familiar with their positions. We had a very good day.”
The Boilermakers began what will be a somewhat different spring schedule that in years past. The team will practice just five times before taking a week off for spring break. They will then come back for three more weeks of workouts before the spring game April 9.
“I’m really glad we chose to go in this direction,” Hope said. “We’re out here working on it right now and the timing is right.”
Spring practice marks a return to action for running back Ralph Bolden and quarterback Robert Marve from ACL injuries. Bolden missed the entire 2010 season and Marve was injured in a September loss to Toledo. Both were limited in drills Wednesday.
“They get some work and then they’ll get better,” Hope said. “Ralph didn’t do a whole lot. I saw Robert throw some and he still has it. You can’t tell a whole lot as far as how they’d do in a game, but it was good to see Ralph running around some.”
With Marve limited, a lot of the first team reps will still go to Rob Henry. Hope said both Henry and Caleb TerBush looked good in practice.
“There will be a lot of competition at that spot,” Hope said. “That’s a good thing.”
With all the injuries the Boilermakers suffered in 2010, a lot of younger players had to step in and play. Now those athletes are still young, but they have a year of college football under their belts.
“We have a lot of young, but experienced players,” Hope said. “It’s great to have this youthful energy and these fresh bodies, but to have already played some. It showed in the secondary. It showed on the offensive line. It showed at quarterback.”
Despite having not taken the field since the Bucket game in November, the coaching staff didn’t see a lot of rust from the players in their first practice back.
“I was excited with where we were,” Hope said. “I thought we were much further along today than I thought we would be.”
Hope is very excited about the defensive secondary. A young group entering last season, they are now an experienced bunch, led by Ricardo Allen. The sophomore cornerback was a bright spot on defense as a true freshman in the fall with three interceptions and now enters his second year with high expectations.
“He broke up a lot of passes again today,” Hope said. “He covered them like a glove. He looked as good as he ever did at any time last year and he’s going to be a great player again. He hasn’t lost any edge.”
There have been no final decisions made yet on players moving to new positions, but the team will experiment with a few things during the spring and see who looks good where. Mostly, they were just happy to be out playing football again.
“We need to be out here practicing football,” Hope said. “It seems like it’s been years since we’ve been out here.”