Yeah, we know. There's a lot of work ahead.
Stating a goal and achieving it are two different things given Purdue is just 13-13 over the last two years and 26-36 over the past five years. Darrell Hazell was hired in December, at $2 million a year not including bonuses, to make it happen. He gets another $2.1 million for assistant coaches, and he needs the best he can get, which is why he's taking his time.
Nobody figures a Rose Bowl for next year (have you SEEN the schedule?), but consistency, execution and toughness can't start soon enough.
Is Hazell the right guy for the job? He gave a strong first impression, but that's true of almost every coach at his introductory press conference. We'll know more once the season starts. Still, for now, there is reason for optimism amidst the gloom.
For starters, Burke is a smart guy and he got the input of some other smart guys — Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, Texas GM Rick Smith, former Colts vice chairman Bill Polian and former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel — in picking Hazell.
Hazell's six years of championship experience as an Ohio State assistant coach was a big plus. So was his performance in leading Kent State to an 11-2 record and its first bowl in 40 years, as well as a strong recruiting background (Hazell has connections in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida) and laser focus on recruiting the state of Indiana.
Hazell will go after more in-state players than did Hope (whose emphasis on southeastern states improved team speed but not results), in part because the state continues to produce more quality players, in part because in-state players will help generate more in-state interest that can help boost attendance.
When your average paid attendance drops from 57,000 to 37,000 in recent years, a boost can't come soon enough.
Hazell's first recruiting visit was to Terre Haute quarterback Danny Etling, a four-star prospect. His second visit was to Lake Central running back David Yancey, a three-star prospect. Hazell seems to have locked up 12 recruits who had previously committed under Hope. Also in the picture is Bishop Luers defensive back TyVel Jemison.
Etling and Yancy are expected to enroll at Purdue for the second semester, as are Georgia defensive tackle Ra'Zan Howard and Illinois defensive end/linebacker John Strauser.
Purdue has returning talent, but it has to play to its potential, something that didn't happen consistently under Hope.
Top returning players include safety Landon Feichter, the former Bishop Dwenger standout who shared the Big Ten lead in interceptions (four) and who led the team in tackles, with 80.
Also back are All-Big Ten cornerback Ricardo Allen, defensive line standouts Ryan Russell and Bruce Gaston, and receivers Gary Bush and O.J. Ross.
In all Purdue returns five offensive starters and eight defensive starters, plus all its kickers and punters, plus all its return specialists.
One of the biggest questions will be at quarterback. Former starter Rob Henry returns, but the junior has always been a better runner than a passer. Plus, his versatility and speed might make him more valuable at another position. This season he completed 55 percent of his passes for 216 yards, three touchdowns and one interception after coming back from knee surgery. He rushed for 74 yards and a TD. He caught six passes for 65 yards.
Also in the quarterback picture will be freshmen Austin Appleby and Bilal Marshall, who redshirted this season.
In other words, Etling will get a shot right away to prove he's Big Ten ready.
Hazell won't become the Boilers' full-time coach until Monday, the day after Kent State plays Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Hazell got lots of evaluation insight from Purdue's disastrous Heart of Dallas Bowl loss to Oklahoma State, but splitting time between his new and old jobs means he won't really start acting on it until next week. His immediate priorities have been hiring a new staff and recruiting.
Purdue will have a grueling schedule next season. It opens at Cincinnati. It hosts Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. It plays at Wisconsin, at Penn State and at Michigan State.
No matter. A tough schedule is no excuse. It's about winning and winning big. Yes, that will always be a challenge at Purdue, especially with Ohio State under coach Urban Meyer likely to be a big-time obstacle for a decade to come, but that's part of the Big Ten experience.
The Rose Bowl goal ain't going away.