Special to the Tribune-Star
WEST LAFAYETTE —
Danny Etling was made available to the media on four occasions during Purdue’s two-week fall camp.
Each interview session included various questions surrounding one topic: Purdue’s quarterback competition between Etling, senior Rob Henry and redshirt freshman Austin Appleby.
The answer will soon emerge, as Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said he will announce the Week 1 starter either today or Monday, after evaluating film of the team’s jersey scrimmage on Saturday.
“If it’s not me then I probably won’t see you guys [in the media] for another year, so I may not complain about that too much,” Etling said laughing. “It will be nice to see who it’s going to be and the team and other quarterbacks can start rallying around him.”
Henry took the most snaps with the first team during fall camp, though Etling also had some repetitions with the starting unit.
“I think everything that can be done is done,” said Etling after Saturday’s scrimmage, where he completed 6 of 14 passes for 31 yards.
If Etling isn’t chosen as Purdue’s opening game starter, it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
“Danny is a workhorse,” said Dolapo Macarthy, a converted wide receiver who was a quarterback at Merrillville. “He really cares a lot and really does everything in his power to get better and help everybody else get better.”
Etling graduated from Terre Haute South one semester early so he could participate in the spring season at Purdue. If not for that decision, Etling would not be competing for a starting position.
“Absolutely not,” Hazell said. “There is no way in the world that he could come in and put himself in that position with the way the language is.”
Etling committed to Purdue when Danny Hope was still the coach. Hope was fired in November and was replaced with Hazel two weeks later.
Once Hazell was hired, the former Kent State coach made a point to visit Purdue’s recruits in person to start forming a relationship and solidify their commitments.
Etling was the first recruit Hazell visited.
“Once I met coach Hazell I knew I couldn’t wait to get up here and start playing for him,” Etling said. “It would have been very difficult to (compete for the starting spot) without being here in the spring, because it’s a steep learning curve. If you’re not there to get your feet on solid ground, you’re not going to get a running start in (fall) camp.”
As with most freshmen, Etling has struggled with consistency.
“I’ve learned a ton more [in fall] and I thought I learned a lot in spring,” Etling said, “but I’m learning 20 times more in camp. I think I need to improve on being quicker with making decisions and quicker with my reads, but I think that’s really going to come the more and more I get comfortable with this offense. Sooner or later, I think I’m going to get there.”
Purdue offensive coordinator John Shoop says Etling is his own “harshest critic.”
“The more comfortable he becomes working with his teammates, and the more comfortable he is working in the pocket, and keeping his eyes downfield, the better he’s going to get,” said Shoop. “He doesn’t have many unforced errors. He gets in and out of the huddle, he gets checks right. He does a lot of things that are important to playing the position.”
With all eyes being on the quarterback competition during the preseason, it would be easy to understand if Etling notices one teammate getting more reps with the first team than him.
“It’s not too hard to ignore that stuff once you get into the practice, because our practices are fast-paced and you don’t have a lot of time to think about that kind of stuff,” Etling said. “It’s really a team thing and it’s all about the team. That’s one thing they’ve really strived to nail into us. It’s not about you, or how much you’re playing, but it’s about the team. There’s really no room for selfishness here.”
If not named a starter for Purdue’s season-opener, it appears it will only be a matter of time before Etling fills that role.
“He’s such a worker and kind of sets the tone on how to work as a quarterback,” Hazell said. “He’s in here studying film and he’s really starting to get the game. It’s a new system for him so it’s going to take a little longer to learn the language of the system, but he’s a phenomenal player and he’ll be a phenomenal player here for us.”
Henry said he noticed Etling’s “magnetic personality” immediately.
“Then you notice his demeanor and how hard he works at everything,” Henry said. “He has a unique, natural rhythm to his drops and to his throws that I haven’t seen in very many quarterbacks. That’s why I say he’s going to be one of the great ones and I truly believe that.”