Purdue Boilermakers spring wrap

2012 record: 6-7

2012 conference record: 3-5 (fourth in Leaders division)

Returning starters: Offense: 5; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

DT Bruce Gaston Jr., DE Ryan Russell, S Landon Feichter, CB Ricardo Allen, RB Akeem Hunt, C Robert Kugler, TE Gabe Holmes

Key losses

DT Kawann Short, CB Josh Johnson, QB Robert Marve, RB Akeem Shavers, WR Antavian Edison, C Rick Schmeig

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Akeem Shavers (871 yards)

Passing: Robert Marve (1,734 yards)

Receiving: Antavian Edison (652 yards)

Tackles: Landon Feichter* (80)

Sacks: Kawann Short (7)

Interceptions: Landon Feichter* (4)

Spring answers

1. On the Hunt: The quarterback competition is far from over, but Purdue settled one piece of its offensive backfield this spring. Senior Akeem Hunt capitalized on his opportunity to be the starting running back with a very strong spring session. Hunt took the majority of reps with the first-team offense and rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. He added some weight and worked hard on his pass-blocking ability in an effort to show the coaches he can be an every-down back. "I think he's going to be pretty special if he keeps working at it," first-year coach Darrell Hazell said.

2. Pillars up front: Defensive tackle Kawann Short is a big loss for Purdue, but the Boilers should be able to lean on linemen Bruce Gaston Jr. and Ryan Russell this season. Gaston missed a chunk of the spring while recovering from thumb surgery but made an impact when he returned to the field. "There's weight classes in boxing for a reason," defensive coordinator Greg Hudson said. "When big guys move around, things happen." Russell is finally healthy and hopes to bulk up to supplement his speed-rushing ability. "He's got a good power-to-speed ratio," Hudson said.

3. The kid can play: Early enrollee Danny Etling put himself right in the thick of Purdue's quarterback competition with a strong spring. Etling entered spring ball at No. 3 or No. 4 on the depth chart but finished at No. 2, bypassing Austin Appleby. Hazell is calling it a three-man race entering the summer -- Etling, Appleby and senior Rob Henry -- but Etling certainly is one to watch, if not for this season than for the near future.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback clarity: Hazell wants to settle on a starter about two weeks before the season opener against Cincinnati. Henry provides veteran leadership and can win over the locker room, but do his skills truly fit the pro-style system coordinator John Shoop wants to run? Etling clearly has tremendous upside, but he's a true freshman, which always brings added risk. Appleby seemed to slip behind Etling late in the spring, but Hazell includes him in the race and he'll have an opportunity to impress this summer.

2. Linebackers in limbo: Purdue returns some experience with Will Lucas, Joe Gilliam and Sean Robinson, but the coaches are looking for some definitive answers at linebacker when camp begins. Hazell said Robinson, a converted quarterback, has stepped up as a leader, and Hudson sees potential with Gilliam in the middle. "We have a lot of participants," Hudson said, "but not answers yet as far as a 1-2 deep. We need more guys who can lead by example."

3. Perimeter playmakers: The Boilers aren't where they need to be size-wise, but they could be good at the perimeter positions this season. The secondary has a chance to be very good as veteran cornerback Ricardo Allen returns along with safety Landon Feichter, the team's leader in tackles and interceptions, who missed a chunk of the spring after suffering a broken hand. Frankie Williams stood out this spring after a solid freshman season and earned the Hammer award as the team's hardest hitter. There are more questions at wide receiver, but Purdue has two potentially dynamic options on the outside with Dolapo Macarthy and Charles Torwudzo. It's a big summer for both.