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October 10, 2006
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When discussing the potential of a move to defensive end in recent months, former linebacker Cliff Avril had always hinted that he'd rather be standing up when the ball is snapped rather than having his hand in the dirt.
Now, though, the move has been made and there doesn't appear to be any turning back, and the junior says he's just happy to be contributing.
"Wherever I can play, I'll play," Avril said. "If it helps the team out, I'm all for it. They can play me at safety for all I care."
That is unlikely, but the coaching staff felt moving Avril to the defensive line gave it its best opportunity to have its best players on the field.
"We're trying to get our best 11 on the field and we feel like that's the (right) combination right now," defensive coordinator Brock Spack said. "He's probably our best (strong-side) linebacker, but if he's playing linebacker, is that end (out there) better than George Hall (at middle linebacker)?"
Though the linebackers certainly did not play well at Iowa, it's a position where Purdue has more options than at other spots.
Defensive end Anthony Spencer is having as fine a season as Purdue's seen from a D-end, but opposite him, juniors Eugene Bright and Mike McDonald have been quiet, making a combined 13 tackles, with only one sack as the midway point of the season approaches.
"We just need somebody opposite Anthony Spencer who can get some pressure," Spack said.
Hence, Avril has started the past two games at defensive end after only seeing situational work there earlier in the season. At Iowa, he didn't play linebacker at all.
Avril vacating the linebacker spot has moved Stanford Keglar from the weak side to the strong side, Dan Bick from the middle to the weak side and inserted Hall - who missed the first couple games of the season after having surgery in August - into the starting lineup.
On the season, Avril has made 41 tackles, with seven for loss, and three sacks alternating between the two positions. Saturday, in his first game exclusively as an end, he made two stops and forced a fumble.
"There were a couple mistakes I made, but I guess that comes with not really knowing what I'm doing all that well yet," Avril said. "Overall, though, I think I did a decent job. It can always get better.
"I have to pick up some techniques, but mentally, it's a little easier than linebacker, because there's less stuff to read. You pretty much just go."
Coach Joe Tiller said the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder's new position will take some getting used to.
"It's a different ball game for him and a different looking game," Tiller said. "As a result, it'll take him a little while to get used to it, but he'll be fine."
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