Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Rachel: firstname.lastname@example.org Six words best sum up Oliver Purnell in Pete Strickland’s mind: Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.‘Every year, better kids, better players, better program or structure,’ said Strickland, a former assistant under Purnell and now an assistant coach for North Carolina State.The step-by-step process Strickland spoke of applies to every program Purnell has run — Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson. Each new head coaching opportunity comes as another stop with heavy rebuilding. And DePaul, the program Purnell unexpectedly took over after leaving Clemson last season, is his next challenge.In his fifth head coaching job, Purnell faces the daunting task of rebuilding a DePaul program at the bottom of the Big East. But the situation is nothing new for Purnell. With his arrival at each program in the past, the team was in bad shape. And each time, Purnell went through the same formula of turning those programs around before leaving to go do the same at another school.‘You start with things that you emphasize and the things that you talk to your team about,’ Purnell said in the Big East coaches’ teleconference on Jan. 13. ‘You go out and recruit some better players as well to increase your talent level. At the same time, teaching those guys those same principles. Things that you need to do in order to win. Things from being on time to execution to playing hard to the way you conduct yourself on and off the floor.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘That’s our way of doing things, and it’s a winning way.’That winning way is something Purnell hopes to bring to DePaul. And if the past is any indication of what lies in store for the Blue Demons program, there is reason for hope.Purnell’s first head coaching job was at Radford. In his third year, Ron Bradley, his top assistant at DePaul, joined him. The team was coming off a 7-22 record in Purnell’s second year. Then Radford went 22-7 that third year — the third-largest single-season turnaround in NCAA history at the time.Purnell’s approach, Bradley said, is to build the entire program.‘Not only does he coach the team and do all those kind of things, he pays attention to what kind of music is played at the games and everything that deals with the program,’ Bradley said. ‘And that’s the kind of challenge that he enjoys.’For Purnell, the next challenges started with Old Dominion, which had a combined 28 wins in the two seasons prior. In Purnell’s final two seasons at ODU, the Monarchs had 21 wins in each. At Dayton, his next stop, the team won six games the season before Purnell was hired. Shortly after Purnell arrived, they were in the NCAAs.And Clemson, Purnell’s most recent rebuilding job, gives Bradley hope for their DePaul team.‘It’s very similar to the first year at Clemson,’ Bradley said. ‘We certainly struggled this year and that first year at Clemson.’That first 2003-04 season at Clemson, Purnell and Bradley were back together for the first time since the late 1980s and early ’90s, when the two were at Maryland and Radford. The team finished 10-18.‘He remained very positive and had a great recruiting class, and the next year we really started to turn things around,’ Bradley said. ‘We went from 10 wins, and then the second year we were in the NIT. So the proof is in the pudding, as they say.’The turnaround Purnell was able to accomplish at Clemson was especially impressive to Strickland.‘Clemson is maybe the least sought-after job for basketball in the ACC,’ Strickland said. ‘He takes it, turns it around. I think two or three straight NCAAs. I mean, this guy never got a great job and yet every time, he made it into a great job.’Former Clemson star and current Washington Wizard Trevor Booker was a part of Purnell’s transformation at Clemson. He saw firsthand Purnell’s qualities as a coach.‘He built the program up,’ Booker said. ‘He did a great job the four years I was there and a couple years before I was there.‘I expect the same thing (at DePaul). That program was kind of down, so I’m expecting him to build that program up.’To do that, Purnell has started by doing what he always does: build inch by inch. The team will have six or seven new players coming in as part of next year’s class, Bradley said. And with Chicago, Purnell and Bradley have a new recruiting tool.Paul Webb thinks Purnell can accomplish a turnaround. When Purnell was an assistant under Webb at Old Dominion in the ’70s and ’80s, he got a sense of what Purnell would become.‘I always felt, you know, after we got into it, that whatever job that he got and whatever the conditions of that program was when he took the job that he would do a good job,’ Webb said.It won’t be easy doing the same in the Big East, arguably the best conference in the country. But it’s not impossible.‘It was a very tough situation that he went into,’ Webb said. ‘It’s going to take a few years. It’s not going to happen overnight.’And Purnell knows that. It’s that inch-by-inch mantra that has worked for him at every head coaching job that gives DePaul hope. Even if the Blue Demons have just one Big East win this season.‘There are moments of frustration for me,’ Purnell said. ‘But at every stop and everywhere I’ve been, it’s been a process. … This is what I signed up for. So you have to push that frustration aside.’Bradley cites Purnell’s optimism and interest in building a complete program — not just going by wins and losses — as traits that exemplify Purnell’s abilities.And keeping his eyes off of DePaul’s record might be the best thing for him as he looks to rebuild. Strickland, the former assistant, knows if anyone can turn the program around, it’s Purnell. His record at those past schools and more than 400 total wins speaks for itself.Purnell isn’t going yard by yard. He’s going inch by inch. That, along with his poise and vision, Strickland said, has been — and will continue to be — the key to his success.‘He has had to go in with his overalls on and start to put in foundations when there was none,’ Strickland said. ‘He never got a job where the foundation was laid and had a semblance of a program already in place.‘Sometimes you get jobs where good guys go and take a better job. … But he never got one of those. He got jobs where people got fired. And God, has he turned them around each time.’email@example.com
Week three of the spring position previews shifts focus from Jim Leonhard’s defense to the offensive side of the football, a unit also welcoming many new faces to the mix.I don’t need to be the one to say that last year’s Badgers disappointed for many reasons. This lack of success can partially be credited to the team’s offense only scoring 29.7 points per game, good for 61st in the nation, after scoring 33.8 points per game during the team’s outstanding 2017 season.The underlying stats, however, paint a different picture.Football: To fuel 2019 season, Badger secondary looking for consistencyAfter last week’s dive into the units of defensive backs and linebackers, this week the focus is on Coach Paul Read…An important statistic in evaluating offensive production is yards per play. This stat takes the total yards gained by an offense and divides it by the number of plays the unit ran during the course of a season.The 2017 Badgers, a team that went 13-1 and fell a drive short of the College Football Playoff, averaged 6.1 yards per play.The 2018 Badgers, a team that went 8-5, averaged 6.4 yards per play.The drop in offensive production on the scoreboard was not due to a lack of production by the team as a whole, but rather due to untimely turnovers and a lack of efficiency in the red zone and on special teams — Rafael Gaglianone, the team’s kicker, made an atrocious 58 percent of his field goals.So, now that Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach Joe Rudolph has lost much of his 2018 and 2017 talent to graduation and the NFL, it’s time for him to rebuild his unit in order to bring the Badgers back into national relevance.The first positional units of the offense previewed are the offensive line and backfield.Offensive LineBadger fans know the offensive line has been a pivotal cog in Head Coach Paul Chryst’s and Rudolph’s offensive system, one premised on dominating the line of scrimmage and running the football.Last year the line boasted NFL talent across the board in Jon Dietzen, Michael Deiter, Tyler Biadasz, Beau Benzschawel and David Edwards.Football Outsiders’ end-of-year rankings had the unit as the best in the nation, outperforming the great offensive lines of Alabama, Oklahoma and other top programs.Looking forward to 2019, however, only Biadasz returns to the team, and a new-look line must be ushered in around him.The good news for Wisconsin fans is that Chryst hasn’t had any trouble in the past bringing top-level talent at the position to the school, as he has seemingly rebooted the line to a perennial top-ten unit in the nation every year.Current linemen on the roster who will battle for open starting jobs alongside Biadasz include redshirt sophomore Kayden Lyles, redshirt senior Jason Erdmann, redshirt sophomore Tyler Beach, redshirt senior David Moorman, redshirt sophomore Logan Bruss and redshirt sophomore Josh Seltzner.With Biadasz on the sideline for the spring session and several spring practices in the books, the shape of the line around him is starting to form with Moorman at left tackle, Seltzner at left guard, Bruss at right guard and Beach at right tackle.This lineup is not finalized, however, as Chryst and the staff will welcome in five-star recruit Logan Brown to the team in the fall and have Erdmann and Cole Van Lanen, players who both played in 13 games a year ago, battling for the positions.Despite all these new names up front, Biadasz is encouraged with the progress that they’ve made as a unit since the spring began.“They’re doing a hell of a job this spring so far,” Biadasz said. “It’s only week two and they’re doing a really good job of just catching along and building themselves each practice.”Chryst and Rudolph hope that the development at the position continues as the spring and summer progress and that the line can come close to their 2017 and 2018 form.Football: Fresh defensive line, linebacking corps seek to return Wisconsin defense to dominanceThe date was December 27, but the Badgers’ 34–3 Pinstripe Bowl victory against the University of Miami feels like it Read…Running Back and FullbackThe answer in the backfield is clear. Jonathan Taylor is back in Madison for his junior season and will be ready to defend the Doak Walker Award he received last fall.Taylor is coming off a sophomore season that not only lived up to the hype that followed his freshman campaign but exceeded it with 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns. To put Taylor’s historic first two seasons in perspective, he’s on pace to become the greatest running back in Wisconsin history.What isn’t clear about the backfield, however, is who will play Robin to Taylor’s Batman and keep him fresh throughout the season.Last year, Taiwan Deal, Garrett Groshek and Chris James split the role of the team’s backup running back and filled it well, averaging 6.6, 6.5 and 4.7 yards per carry respectively. Groshek is back in Madison this season but Deal and James both graduated last spring, leaving a big hole in the rotation.Chryst addressed the running back rotation when speaking after the Badgers’ 7th spring practice.“There are spots or roles to be earned,” Chryst said. “That’s where spring is a good time to get reps, the consistency probably won’t come until fall camp.”The likely heir to Deal and James’ role as one of Taylor’s backups is Bradrick Shaw. Shaw was injured for all of the 2018 season but showed promise during his freshman year in 2016, rushing for over 450 yards on an average of 5.2 yards per carry.Shaw and Groshek should do an effective job aiding Taylor this season — Shaw as more of the bruising, powerful back and Groshek as a third-down passing option.The story of departed talent continues at the fullback position with Alec Ingold graduating and pursuing an NFL career. The likely replacement for Ingold is redshirt junior Mason Stokke. Stokke played in nine games a year ago, only carrying the ball four times.Other fullbacks on the roster are sophomore Leo Chenal and redshirt sophomore Coy Wanner.Both of these units — the offensive line and backfield — will work to take pressure off one of the most talked about positions coming into spring and summer football — quarterback.Will Graham Mertz, the No. 5 overall quarterback in this year’s class, take the helm as a true freshman? Will Jack Coan build off his productive-at-times 2018 season?Next week the quarterback position will be previewed along with the wide receiver group, two positions with plenty still up in the air with the 2019 campaign around the corner.Note: The print version of this article incorrectly identified Logan Brown as Trent Brown. The Badger Herald regrets this error. Brown’s correct name is listed in this story.