MnB B1G Preview: Three Key Players for Purdue football

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

In continuance of our Big Ten preview, we take a look into the three key players for Purdue football this upcoming season.

When thinking of Purdue as a football program, the Boilermakers don't exactly bring fear into its enemies eyes when it is on the schedule.

Coming off a very forgettable 1-11 season a year ago, the Darrell Hazell era did not start as originally hoped. Leaving many hoping that rock bottom is behind the Boilermakers. With a new season on the horizon, Purdue could get itself on the right track by winning a conference game.

Major strides can't be made without major players stepping up throughout the season. Here is a list -- with help from our friends at Hammer & Rails -- of three key players for Purdue football this season.

Robert Kugler - Center

The last name may sound familiar to you because it probably is. Kugler, a junior, is the older brother of Michigan redshirt offensive lineman Patrick.

Originally a tight end to start his career, Kugler switched to the center position last spring where he played in all 12 games last season and started the final seven. He was also named the teams offensive MVP at the end of the season.

Kugler is looking to anchor an offensive line who struggled mightily in 2013 which lead to a poor statistical year for the offense. The Boilermakers ended last season ranked 122nd in the nation in rushing yards, 77th in passing yards and 122nd in points for.

Below, Kugler talks about the 2013 season and his MVP honors during the football banquet.

Danny Etling - Quarterback

If bright spots can be found during a season where only one win can be mustered up, look no further than the quarterback position. In a program where there has been a revolving door of starting quarterbacks, the latter half of 2013 could be considered a relief for some. Stability could be on its way.

Sophomore Danny Etling was thrown into the fire around the halfway mark of the 2013 season. There are obvious growing pains a true freshman must go through with the development process, especially at the quarterback position.

Etling showed flashes of promise at times, but one man can only do so much. He finished with an admirable 1690 yards through the air with ten touchdowns. On the positive side, he did manage to keep his interceptions somewhat low, only throwing seven interceptions in the eight games he started.

Coming into 2014 as the clear number-one guy, Etling is poised to bounce back and give Purdue fans something to cheer about.

BTN.com's Tom Dienhart visited Purdue for their spring game and had a nice wrap-up on the event. He had this to say on Etling:

The development of quarterbacks Danny Etling and Austin Appleby is what has precipitated the change in philosophy by coordinator John Shoop. Make no mistake about it: Etling is the No. 1 signal-caller. He flashed potential when thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2013.

Ryan Russell - Defensive End

The senior leader on the defensive line, defensive end Ryan Russell is arguably the most talented and experienced player the Boilermaker defense will feature in 2014.

Coming off a down year of sorts, Russell started all 12 games and managed only 35 tackles, with 25 of them solo. He also finished last year with only two registered sacks. Compare that to 2012's numbers where he finished with 37 tackles and four sacks.

He was also part of a defense that gave up an average of 460 yards a game which was good for 103rd in the nation. Something that will obviously need to change if the Boilermakers plan on getting back on track in the 2014 season.

Also included in Dienhart's spring football wrap was a quote from Etling on Russell:

The quote: "I think Ryan has had a great spring. Going up against him every day, you kind of get tired of him always in the backfield. But he’s going to be a great player for us this season. His motor has gone twofold since last season. I mean, he’s going with such a higher motor than I’ve ever seen him go." – QB Danny Etling on DE Ryan Russell

Joshua Henschke covers University of Michigan football for Maize n Brew. You can follow him on Twitter: @JoshuaHenschke
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