Quarterbacks in practice

Purdue's six quarterbacks, including Rob Henry (15) work out at the Boilermakers' first spring practice last week in West Lafayette.

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Henry after practice

Purdue senior quarterback Rob Henry talks after last weeks' practice.

Fresh start: Boiler QB out to reclaim role

– Much has changed recently with the Purdue football family.

There is a new head coach in Darrell Hazell. There are new offensive and defensive coordinators. Players have graduated, replaced by a fresh crop of rooks whose abilities have been tested only at the high school level.

Even the practices, previously conducted under a cloak of secrecy, have been opened to the public.

And yet despite all these changes, senior Rob Henry is fighting the same old, same old.

Bottom line is this: He wants to play quarterback.

No, no. Check that.

He wants to start at quarterback. And he has wanted that for quite some time.

Penciled in to be the starter before the 2011 season, Henry, a 6-foot-2 wiz kid out of Ocala, Fla., had his ACL blow up on him 10 days before the season opener against Middle Tennessee.

In came University of Miami transfer Robert Marve, but he, too, went down with an injury. In stepped Caleb TerBush, No. 19 in your program, No. 3 on the depth chart, and now the No. 1 quarterback option under then-coach Danny Hope.

All the while, as Henry was rehabilitating his knee, the other quarterbacks who were in his shadow were now gaining experience. A job that once appeared to be his was suddenly a three-lane highway, with no one securing the right of way.

But that’s history, like Lincoln. Marve and TerBush are gone. And Henry, who threw 38 passes last season in addition to playing receiver and running back, remains the only quarterback in spring camp who has barked “hut-hut” while taking a game day snap.

Easy choice for Hazell, right?

Not exactly.

Six gold jerseys – the color that signifies the quarterback position – took turns throwing the football to various receivers during the first team practice inside the Mollenkopf Athletic Center last week. There was Henry and five others. And to hear Hazell talk, to Henry’s dismay, the starting quarterback this season could be just about any one of them.

It may be season No. 5, but it’s back to square one for the senior.

“I feel like maybe my injury was a setback for me, and I feel like I never got a chance to really, really compete and earn my spot back,” Henry told the Lafayette Journal & Courier before the first spring practice. “That’s my personal opinion.”

Even though old teammates Marve and TerBush have moved on, new challengers have stepped forth: redshirt freshmen Austin Appleby and Bilal Marshall, and true freshman Danny Etling.

Eenie, Meenie, Miney and Mo.

After the opening practice last week, when there were two fumbles, Hazell could go with the quarterback who protects the football.

“The big thing is, obviously, you’ve got to get the snap first,” Hazell said.

“You can’t do anything without the snap. We put a few balls on the ground. You have to get us in and out of the right play, be accurate with the football and you can’t turn it over.”

Yes, the position can’t turn it over, but there’s plenty of turnover at the position.

These days, it’s everyone getting to know each other.

“It’s just having a new system – new terminology, new plays, new schemes,” Henry said after last week’s practice. “It’s something that’ll take a while for us to adjust to. Once we get everything down and pin our ears back and play fast, we’ll be OK.”

stwarden@jg.net

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