March 28, 2007

'Free-styling' no more

In 2006, Cliff Avril was just getting by - surviving, really - on instinct and talent alone.

Fortunately for the then-junior linebacker-turned-defensive end, he possessed enough of both to make him an effective player from Day 1 as a defensive lineman.

"I was just out there free-styling it," Avril said, "which is why I feel that once I get a little technique down, I should be able to do a lot more this year."

Now a senior, Avril was always a promising outside linebacker for the Boilermakers, but Purdue's coaches always thought he'd be an even better defensive end.

It started off as a situational thing, just a third-down snap here and there. On his first snap at end, against Ball State, he blew past his blocker for an easy sack.

But as a dire need for a playmaker opposite Anthony Spencer intensified, Avril was moved full-time, making for the rare starter-to-starter in-season position switch.

Avril started the first four games of the year at strong-side linebacker, then the final 10 - beginning at Notre Dame, of all places - with his "hand in the dirt."

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