IOWA CITY — Been there. Done that.
Kirk Ferentz can relate to the challenges first-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell is experiencing this season, having traveled the same path during his first year on the Iowa sidelines.
In 1999, Ferentz took over a program which finished 3-8 in Hayden Fry’s last season, built a staff he was comfortable with, made changes and took his lumps.
The Hawkeyes lost all eight Big Ten games they played that season by an average margin of 20.9 points, finishing 1-10 overall.
Hazell moved to Purdue after guiding Kent State to a 16-10 record over two seasons, earning Mid-American Conference coach of the year honors in 2012 after leading Kent State to 11 wins and its first bowl appearance in four decades.
“I think any time you try and make a transition to a new program, chances are there are going to be challenges,’’ Ferentz said. “Not always, but chances are. You take it a week at a time, and just worry about moving forward and give yourself the best chance possible each week.’’
Ferentz sees similarities in the way Hazell went about building his staff to the way he assembled his Hawkeye staff in 1999.
“A lot of their guys came from different areas. Some of them were with coach Hazell at Kent State, but not all of them,’’ Ferentz said. “There is a real feeling-out process in terms of your roster and what it is you are trying to do and what you can do versus what your players can do. There’s a lot of give and take, and I’m sure they’re going through that.’’
Things haven’t come easily for the Boilermakers as they prepare for Saturday’s 11 a.m. home game with Iowa.
Purdue’s offense has been abysmal. The Boilermakers have scored an average of 4.2 points and rushed for an average of 42.5 yards while losing their first four Big Ten games.
True freshman Danny Etling moved in the starting quarterback’s role three games ago and he has been sacked 19 times.
Defensively, a lack of depth on the line led Hazell to switch from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 three games ago and since that time, the Boilermakers have been outscored 114-7.
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“It’s always hard when you go through a stretch like this, trying to find solutions,’’ Hazell said. “That’s the key, to make sure each guy in the program is trying to find where we can get better. That’s the process that we’re involved with right now.’’
Hazell met with his team’s seniors earlier this week and came away encouraged about their attitude. He said the Boilermakers will continue to try to salvage something from a season which is off to a 1-7 start.
But Purdue definitely has one eye on the future.
Etling was among three true freshmen who started on offense last week when Ohio State blew out the Boilermakers 56-0. He was among 18 freshmen who played for Purdue against the Buckeyes, and two of Purdue’s top three rushers and four of the team’s top seven receivers this season are freshmen.
“A lot of young guys are getting a chance right now,’’ Hazell said. “They’ll help us in the future, but that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to try and win right now. It’s still that way. We’re trying to win right now.’’