Sorry if you had odds on sophomore Austin Appleby beating out Danny Etling for the starting quarterback job at Purdue, it was a fool’s bet anyway. On Monday, head coach Darrell Hazell announced what we all expected this fall — sophomore Danny Etling would be the starting quarterback when the Boilermakers take on Western Michigan to star the season.
Etling started the final seven games of last season after it became clear this team wasn’t going anywhere offensively and Rob Henry was switched to safety. In those seven games Etling went winless but showed glimpses of being a quality quarterback for the future.
In the final three games against Penn State, Illinois and Indiana the freshman showed all of that promise by completing over 60 percent of his passes in all three games. He also had six touchdowns and just two interceptions during those three games.
Nothing was bigger than a 33-of-49 for 485 yards and four-touchdown performance against rival Indiana to close the season.
In year two it appears to be all about consistency more than talent for Etling, and that has to be music to the ears of Boilermaker fans everywhere. Yet, is constancy enough to transform this offense in to one that can compete weekly in the Big Ten?
The answer may be that Etling doesn’t have to do it all himself. Instead, the response of those around him is very telling as to what to expect in 2014.
“He never gets too high, never gets too low,” receiver B.J. Knauf said about Etling, via the Indianapolis Star. “Last year, he took some major shots and he never got down on himself or down on anybody. Very level headed and stays consistent with his passes. That’s what I like about him – he’s never off the charts.”
While it’s nice to hear coaches speak like that, its even more important that you’re hearing those encouraging words from fellow players on offense like Knauf.
It’s even more telling when it’s one of the key targets Etling is hoping to link up with every Saturday. In fact, while it may be nice to hear about the consistency of Etling’s play, it may be even more important that he’s likely to get some help from the skill position players around him.
A quarterback can’t do it all, especially not when you are attempting to build a brand new style of offense from the ground up.
Purdue has two potentially dynamic running backs in Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert, and the Boilermakers are deeper and more experience at wide receiver as well.
We saw Etling form a nice partnership with DeAngelo Yancey, as the pair of freshmen found each other’s games comfortable last season. Yancey is a physical specimen, standing at 6’2″ and 218 pounds, and it showed last season when he pulled down 32 receptions for 546 yards and two touchdowns.
Add in the likes of Knauf, Danny Anthrop and Dan Monteroso and suddenly the Boilermakers have the look of a team with enough weapons to help a young quarterback in his journey to getting better.
So, while the attention may be on Etling and how “transformative” of a season this could be for him, it may have less to do with Etling and much more to do with the talent Purdue has surrounded him with.
If Etling is to lead this group back towards bowl game eligibility, he won’t be doing it all alone anymore.