This morning, Purdue football coach Ryan Walters was a guest on the Kevin & Query show on 107.5 The Fan in Indianapolis. Here’s what he said as Purdue enters its final week of spring ball, which ends on Saturday.
Kevin & Query: No official spring game inside of the stadium?
Walters: I’m looking out my window right now. There’s no way we can get in the stadium with the construction that has been going on. And, to be honest, where we are with our roster, who’s available and kind of the work we need, I felt like it would be more beneficial to just have another practice in terms of getting us better for fall.
Kevin & Query: Would you say that where you’re at with your roster health, scholarship-wise, is that contributing to some of it?
Walters: Yeah, just health, some of the depth at certain positions. It would be hard to play a game.
Kevin & Query: Do you feel it’s a greater priority to make sure that the roster knows what you’re about? Or making sure that you know your roster and know who your players are and what drives them?
Walters: I think it’s a little bit of both. The players got a chance to know me and what I’m about throughout winter workouts leading up to spring ball. Everybody can look good in shorts and T-shirts running around cones. So, for us as a staff, finding out who our roster is in terms of what they can and can’t do and what areas that we need to attack in the transfer portal window to help us better have success in the fall was pivotal for us this spring.
Kevin & Query: Give me the area of your football team that has pleasantly surprised you.
Walters: There are multiple places. I think that wideouts, obviously, Charlie Jones had so much production last year. But to see a group of guys sort of take the reins of that room and they’ve been productive. Obviously, went out and got Hudson Card in the first transfer window. He’s been awesome. Our outside ‘backers, they can get after the quarterback. That’s been awesome to see. I think we got pivotal and key pieces to have success in the fall. We just got to add some depth and shore up some spots at a lot of positions.
Kevin & Query: What particularly have you observed from Hudson on and off the field that you feel good handing him those starting reins?
Walters: Off the field, he just came in and put his head down and went to work. He’s super athletic, more athletic than probably people give him credit. Just the way he’s embraced the offense, really embraced the locker room. And his arm talent is special.
Kevin & Query: Something that surprised you about Purdue’s brand?
Walters: I’ve really fallen in love with this place. I didn’t know a whole lot about it. We played here when I was at Illinois and ’21. It was an 11 a.m. kickoff. We were both pretty average at that point in time. But the place was sold out. And so that stuck out to me. But I had no idea about the facilities. I had no idea about campus. My perception of Purdue was it was a good academic school and Drew Brees played here … So, to get here and to see the facilities, see the community support, I really see the area and realize how close it is to some major markets. I’ve fallen in love with this place and I feel like in order to reach some of my goals and achievements in my career, I don’t have to go anywhere. So, I’m excited about this place. I think this place can be special. And I think I got the staff to go do that.
Kevin & Query: Are we in an era where (building through the portal) is going to be the norm and almost like free agency year in and year out?
Walters: I think this is the norm, for sure. Is it difficult? It’s different than it has been in the past. We’ve got a team that is actively monitoring the transfer portal and evaluating what our needs are. So, I don’t know if it’s difficult. Definitely different, though.
Kevin & Query: If there was something that you could legislate from an NFL and or transfer portal standpoint, what would it be?
Walters: You look at the NFL model, right? If you say NIL is basically like your salary cap, well, in the NFL, everybody’s playing by the same rules. And right now in college athletics, nobody’s playing by the same rules in NIL. There is no salary cap. So, I think definitely it has got to come to a head at some point. I don’t know how you regulate that, or how you govern that. But I think that’s an area that’s got to be addressed.
Kevin & Query: What keeps you awake at night?
Walters: There’s so many things. When you are responsible for the amount of people not only in the locker room, but in the building and their families, the reality of everybody having a good day every day is not real. And so there are always issues that have nothing to do with football that you’re sort of trying to find solutions to and trying to help out. But it probably comes with the territory. That is one of the satisfying things about this job, as well, is just to find solutions, find answers to problems and help people get in the right direction.
Kevin & Query: When NFL teams do call you about guys that you’ve coached, what typically is the tone of those conversations?
Walters: They’re always excited. They’re appreciative of the way they play the game. And the knowledge that they have. Our guys historically that I’ve coached on the back end are high football IQ guys because we teach them the game. And so they always do well in the meeting rooms and on the board. So, I think that’s also why it translates to them having success once they get to the NFL.
Kevin & Query: What would you say the percentage of those calls are? Tell me more about your scheme or the style of this player versus tell me more about him off the field and his work ethic?
Walters: It’s actually more about the off-the-field work ethic. You can watch the tape. You see his game, you see the style of play without me being there. But to hear about how they tick and what kind of work ethic they have, how they take care of their bodies, all those things. Those are things that you can’t find out on tape. So, those are usually the answers that I’m providing.
Kevin & Query: Can you tell if a guy will stay motivated once he’s signed an NFL contract?
Walters: That’s tough. I think that is one of the things that’s hard to identify and evaluate. But, absolutely, it exists. The way that we combat that, usually guys that love football for football won’t have problems after they ink their signature, right? The guys that play the game for the game and not for Twitter followers or Instagram likes, the guys that genuinely love to play the game for the game, usually they continue to work, they continue to strive for greatness.
Kevin & Query: How much do you and your staff seek out multi-sport high school kids?
Walters: It’s definitely an added bonus if guys do play multiple sports. I just think there’s so much carryover with ball skills and hand-eye coordination and working as a team, those lessons they can’t be taught in a weight room. So, we definitely try to identify guys that do that. And guys that have played multiple sports usually have success once they get in our building.
Kevin & Query: Give me the Big Ten campus, not named Purdue or Indiana, that you think would be kind of a cool place to go to.
Walters: I mean, I can’t recruit for other Big Ten schools. … I think our place knocks it out of the water.
Kevin & Query: I would imagine that Purdue’s facilities now are at the point you could put up them against about anybody in the Big Ten, correct?
Walters: I would agree with that. So, to be honest with you, I had no idea that was the case before I got here. Coming down Cherry Lane and seeing … we have two 100-yard practice fields, one grass, one turf. We got a full 100-yard-plus indoor facility that’s got the actual field dimensions so you can have a scrimmage in there. I’ve never been anywhere that was the case. They’re building this tunnel that goes from our facility to the stadium and it’s got stadium renovations (south end zone, dining/nutrition center). So, I’ll always tease alumni, I’m like, listen, we don’t need facilities anymore. You just got to give to the alliance (Boilermaker Alliance) so we can go get guys. The facilities here are top notch and I couldn’t be more happy.
Kevin & Query: What is next in terms where you are right now with your roster and kind of in your mind how you see the next phase of getting your team and yourself ready before you really get into your schedule?
Walters: We gotta finish this last week of spring ball and then those guys in the locker room will head out to finals and get a little break to go home. While they’re doing that, we’ll be out on the road recruiting for the spring session and evaluation session. We’ll probably add anywhere from seven to nine transfer guys before the summer starts. Then we’ll get eight weeks to work with (strength) Coach Ro (Kiero Small) in the summertime. And then into fall camp and then you’re on cracking for the season.