Position that needs improvement: Purdue

Our Big Ten-wide examination of positions that need improvement continues with a look at the Purdue Boilermakers.

Problem position: Quarterback

Why quarterback is a problem: There are plenty of places to look within a program that's won one Big Ten game over the past two years. Sometimes, though, the most obvious answer is the correct one. Purdue has coined itself as the cradle of quarterbacks, producing stars at the position such as Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Gary Danielson, Jim Everett and Drew Brees. When the Boilermakers find a gunslinger, all other problems fade into the background. It's struggling under Darrell Hazell to identify a reliable option. Austin Appleby was the latest to try, starting the final seven games as a sophomore with varied success.

How it can be fixed: Appleby had his moments in 2014, playing well against Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota before the Boilermakers put too much on his shoulders in November. As his pass attempts rose, efficiency dropped. Purdue can help its quarterbacks by improving in the run game. Another offseason of work under Hazell and offensive coordinator John Shoop should help Appleby if he remains atop the depth chart, by no means a certainty.

Early 2015 outlook: Look for Appleby to face stiff competition in the spring from Danny Etling, another rising junior who started as a freshman in 2013 and for the first five games of 2014. He threw for 800 yards but committed seven turnovers. David Blough, a redshirt freshman, also enters the mix. Each came to Purdue as a solid prospect and recognized on the national level in recruiting circles. For Purdue to take the desired big step as a program, one of its quarterbacks must emerge as elite.