- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - When Purdue began preseason training camp in August, its offensive line was the coaching staff’s primary area of concern coming off a 1-11 record in coach Darrell Hazell’s first season with the Boilermakers.

Thanks in large part to sophomore right guard Jordan Roos, Purdue is 3-3 through six games, including a 38-27 victory last Saturday at Illinois that saw the Boilermakers pile up 349 yards rushing and 551 overall.

Halfway through the season, Purdue, which hosts No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday, has rushed for 1,020 yards. The 2013 team rushed for 869 yards in 12 games.

Tackles David Hedelin and J.J. Prince, guards Roos and Jason King and center Robert Kugler are playing beyond expectations, which is why Purdue is averaging 38.7 points in its three victories.

“That group probably has been the best surprise as a position group through six games,” Hazell said. “They really are starting to come together.”

Purdue’s new and improved offensive line, which includes three sophomores and two juniors, will face a Michigan State defense that ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing defense (72 yards a game) and third in total defense (297 yards).

“They play their typical man to man coverage on the outside and put nine guys in the box,” Hazell said. “They have great eye discipline. Typically, you see guys that are peeking, but these guys don’t. And their safeties are like linebackers. When they get you in third and long, watch out, because here comes something.”

Roos said Purdue’s offensive line was overmatched by the Michigan State defense a year ago in the Spartans’ 14-0 victory. The time, the Boilermakers’ offensive line is eager to gauge its collective improvement against Michigan State’s aggressive defense.

“They are a very well-rounded defense,” Roos said. “They like to come up and hit you, and they probably are going to be the most physical linebackers we have faced this year. I am looking forward to getting after them. They are going to come after us, and we know what they are going to do. Basically we are saying, “Hey, block us.’”

Roos said the experienced gained in 2013 is a key factor in why the line has surprised even the Purdue coaching staff.

“We’re close now, and we spend more time together,” Roos said. “It also has a lot to do with communication. Communication is key. You also have to trust in the guy next to you. He can trust that I am going to do my job, and I can trust that he is going to do his job. You don’t have to worry about each other. You can just go out and play football.”

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