WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — First-year football coach Darrell Hazell wants Purdue in the top half of the Big Ten consistently. That's no secret.

But there's a lot of work to do before the regular season starts, let alone making the Boilermakers a dominant program.

PURDUE SCHEDULE
Date Opponent
Aug. 31 at Cincinnati
Sept. 7 Indiana State
Sept. 14 Notre Dame
Sept. 21 at Wisconsin
Sept. 28 Northern Illinois
Oct. 12 Nebraska
Oct. 19 at Michigan State
Nov. 2 Ohio State
Nov. 9 Iowa
Nov. 16 at Penn State
Nov. 23 Illinois
Nov. 30 at Indiana

The first step, though, is already done. And it's the most important step, too.

"The first building block is belief," Hazell said at Purdue's media day on Sunday. "That's where it first starts. And then obviously every game is important, but if we can start to really believe in each other and trust in each other, then you have a chance to be successful because there's enough talent here to have a good football team."

If anyone has experience at getting a team to share the same vision and belief, it's Hazell. He had to do it two years ago at his first head coaching job at Kent State. By 2012, Kent State won its first Mid-American Conference East Division title and the team was ranked for the first time in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Then, after accepting the Purdue job, Hazell coached the Golden Flashes one last time, in Kent State's first bowl game since 1972.

But it was at his first head coaching stop at Kent State where Hazell learned how vital the belief system really is.

"Everybody has to be all in," Hazell said. "You can't have 80 percent or 90 percent of the guys in and get some things accomplished. Everybody has to believe in what we're doing and attempting to do. And when you hit those road bumps, it becomes a little bit easier if we're all looking in the same direction."

And so far, so good. Players are on the same page and there's a sense of excitement about what's going on at Purdue as the team begins to wrap up camp and prepare for the start of the regular season when the Boilermakers play at Cincinnati on Aug. 31.

Senior quarterback Rob Henry likes Hazell's discipline with the team, his vision and "magnetic" personality.

"Everybody has bought into it," Henry said. "I'm excited to see — I wish I had more time here because I'm excited to see where the program is going to go."

Henry is battling for the starting quarterback spot with freshman Danny Etling and red shirt freshman Austin Appleby. Who will fill that role could be Hazell's biggest decision.

"It's not a situation where there's nobody there," Hazell said. "It's a situation where there's three bodies there. And that's a good situation to have."

Cornerback Ricardo Allen made the obvious statement though: Winning will get the Boilermakers back on the right path. But those little things going on behind the scenes help as well.

"Practices are shorter and not such a drag," he said. "We get out, we get our work done and we go home. We stay fresh. He makes everything a competition and he keeps his players fresh. He doesn't wear us out before the season starts."

And, sure, Hazell has high hopes for the Boilermakers in years to come. But he isn't taking his eyes off his first season.

"I'm worried about the 2013 season, that's all I care about right now," Hazell said. "We'll figure out 2014 and '15 and '16 later — 2013 is very important to this football team."