#B1GCoachRank: No. 14 Darrell Hazell
Anybody can do power rankings. Anyone and everyone will have some sort of ranking of college football coaches. Simply ranking coaches without much explanation is easy and far too common.
Instead of doing that, we went into detail about the tenures of every B1G coach. We looked at their biggest win, their most embarrassing loss, their top recruiting class and most importantly, why they were ranked where they where. We’ll go in depth with each coach until we get down to No. 1.
With that in mind, let the #B1GCoachRank debate begin:
Coach: No. 14 Darrell Hazell (Purdue)
Record — 6-30 overall in three seasons (2-22 in B1G)
Record vs. top 25 — 0-10
Where team was when he was hired — It’s easy to forget that Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke had hopes that Hazell would be the guy to get the Boilermakers back to the Rose Bowl. But they were already on the decline when Hazell was hired in 2012. Attendance dropped from 54,000 to 37,000 and Danny Hope was fired after back-to-back bowl seasons.
Hazell, of course, has six TOTAL wins in his three seasons in West Lafayette. Ironically enough, he could get an extension if he gets Purdue back to the six-win total that Hope was fired for.
Biggest win — Oct. 22, 2015 vs. Nebraska
You could argue that Hazell’s first and only B1G road win was his biggest win. But Hazell’s win at Illinois in 2014 was the second B1G game of his second season. Compare that to when Purdue beat Nebraska in 2015. It was Hazell’s first B1G win at Ross-Ade Stadium, and even better, the Boilermakers won using his pass-happy style to score 55 points. Who cares if Nebraska was decimated by injury?
Three weeks later, Burke went on Big Ten Network and said that he wasn’t firing Hazell. Does that happen if Purdue has another winless season in the B1G? I don’t think so.
Most embarrassing loss — Sept. 6, 2014 vs. Central Michigan
Unfortunately, there were a lot of choices here, most of which involved losing to MAC schools. There was the the three-touchdown loss to Northern Illinois in 2013, but the Huskies were coming off an Orange Bowl appearance. I could’ve went with Purdue’s home loss to Bowling Green in 2015, which was infamously followed by the university’s book store making shirts that said “we own the B1G.” Still, that was Purdue’s first game with a redshirt freshman quarterback and the Boilers were one score away from winning.
But getting beat by three touchdowns to a middling MAC school — the conference Hazell coached in at Kent State — takes the cake. Central Michigan won seven games in 2014. Sure, the Chippewas had future Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls, but that was a humbling blowout loss. In Hazell’s second year, the Boilers were coming off a nice season-opening win against Western Michigan. The CMU game was the “here-we-go-again” loss that Purdue fans dreaded.
Best recruiting class — 2014
This is tricky because even as he enters his fourth year, it’s still tough to evaluate Hazell’s recruiting classes. The 2013 group was mostly Hope’s and most of the 2015 class hasn’t played a down yet. With that said, 2014 is the winner. Hazell did land his quarterback, three-star recruit David Blough, from Texas. He also got the indispensable Ja’Whaun Bentley from legendary DeMatha Catholic (MD) and talented JUCO lineman David Hedelin, who just signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
What’s the problem for Hazell? His only four-star recruit, Danny Etling, transferred to LSU. And Etling was recruited by Hope. Outside of Etling, Hazell landed one of Indiana’s top 10 recruits from 2013-17. Western Michigan has three.
Even worse, Purdue has only one commitment in its 2017 class. Limited spots aside, that alone should put Hazell firmly on the hot seat.
What could get him fired — It’s been 20 years since Purdue missed out on a bowl four straight years. It’s been 74 since the Boilermakers had a worse three-year stretch than the one they capped in 2015. Elmer Burnham followed that up with an unbeaten season and a B1G title in 1943.
Hazell doesn’t have to do that, but he’s in bowl-or-bust mode at this point. He obviously cannot afford a home loss to Eastern Kentucky in the opener. A 2-1 start — with three non-conference games at home — is an absolute must. Purdue was blessed with crossover matchups at Maryland, vs. Penn State and at Indiana. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Purdue’s B1G home slate — the Boilers will likely have to win at least two — is against teams with a combined conference record of 24-8 in 2015.
If Hazell is going to return in 2017, he’ll have to pull off a few upsets and then some.
Why he’s at No. 14 — Even though Hazell actually has three B1G seasons under his belt, he doesn’t have the offseason optimism that the B1G’s new coaches have. The recruiting numbers are scary and Hazell didn’t bring in some crop of impressive transfers. Winning eight percent of your conference games without any major infractions is never good, either.
The bottom line is that Hazell’s teams have shown promise — the three-point loss to No. 2 Michigan State at East Lansing was one of the better defensive efforts we saw from any B1G team in 2015 — but those moments have been far too fleeting. Purdue continues to look like a mid-major playing in a Power Five conference. If that happens in Year 4 of the Hazell era, there simply won’t be a Year 5.