Another year, more change for the Purdue Boilermakers offense. Let’s just say some things never change.
However, this time around the change is more at the top than at the actual positions on the depth chart. Hazell made another change at offensive coordinator, promoting tight ends coach Terry Malone to OC as well as his TE coaching duties. Also joining the mix is Tim Lester, the former offensive coordinator at Syracuse, as quarterbacks coach.
With Hazell’s future clearly hanging by a thread, the changes have to work. But, what are Malone and Co. working with to change the fortunes of the moribund program?
Let’s take a look at the Purdue Boilermakers offense for 2016.
Instability has been the name of the game at quarterback since Darrell Hazell took over the Purdue program. That won’t be the case in 2016 for once, as David Blough played well enough last season and throughout the spring to have a stranglehold on the job.
However, he still has a long way to go as a quarterback after throwing for 1,574 yards and 10 touchdowns to eight interceptions in 10 games of action last season. The good news is that the foundation for future success appears to be there, and a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach didn’t see Blough regress this spring.
The question for him is if he has the tools around him to become a better quarterback on paper. His improvement in 2016 may come more from better decision making than busting the stat sheet.
Should something happen to Blough, it appears there’s a good option in redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar. He competed well with Blough this spring and may actually give the offense a bit more explosiveness with his legs. This team may be more confident than ever at quarterback under Hazell and that has to be a ray of hope for the Boilermakers faithful.
If there is a star that the Boilermakers can lean on on the offensive side of the ball, that man is sophomore running back Markell Jones. He finished as one of just three underclassmen in the top 10 of rushing yards in the Big Ten, producing 875 yards on 168 carries. Add in 10 touchdowns on the ground and 34 receptions and you have a really dangerous running back to work with.
Behind him was supposed to be junior D.J. Knox, who had a respectable 409 yards rushing last season himself. However, a torn ACL this spring is going to keep him out this season and that means…shocker…more issues with depth.
One name to keep an eye on in fall camp is early enrollee Jack Wegher, who comes in as a 5-11, 200-pound back with a whole spring of experience and the tutelage of IMG Academy to speak of. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t redshirt and becomes the third back.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Purdue has one of the most experienced, but most frustrating wide receivers in the Big Ten in senior DeAngelo Yancey. He comes in to 2016 with 92 career receptions for 1,393 yards and 10 touchdowns, but has managed to complete just one full season for numerous reasons.
If Purdue is going to put together a season that saves Hazell’s job, getting Yancey going all season long is big. The biggest thing though? That will be finding a second wide receiver to help take off double teams and the pressure on Yancey.
Fellow seniors Domonique Young and Cameron Posey were third and fourth on the receiving yards list last season, combining for 531 yards. Not a bad total for an offense that ranked fifth in passing in the Big Ten. But, with Danny Anthrop gone, those two need to step up.
Overall, this a group that is old on paper, but not as productive as needed in the results category. Someone needs to change that perception quickly or it could be a long season in West Lafayette.
Tight end could also be a spot that can help the passing game, and a lot of the responsibility for that will fall on the shoulders of sophomore Cole Herdman. Last season, he led all tight ends with 18 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. Those numbers should increase with the experience gained and that’s music to David Blough’s ears, especially with an offensive coordinator who knows how to utilize the tight end position well.
There are two guarantees in Big Ten country — if you can’t run the football you’re in deep trouble and if you can’t stop the run you’re in deep trouble. After finishing 13th in rushing offense in the Big Ten last season, it was safe to say there were issues up front.
Now throw in the loss of your two best offensive linemen and you’ve got some major issues on hand. A lot will be expected of the guard combo of Jason King (LG) and Jordan Roos (RG), as they are the most experienced of a less-than-stellar bunch. Roos could be in for a breakout season, but overall this group needs to get healthy and needs to get mean once again.
Replacing Robert Kugler at center is also key, and it could be two youngsters battling it out this fall in sophomore Kirk Barron and freshman Bearooz Yacoobi. Getting it right up the middle would certainly be a help and that will be where new offensive line coach Darrell Funk must focus his attention on this fall.
Questions Still Needing Answers
What will the Offensive Line Really Look Like?
Spring ball is supposed to be all about chemistry up front, but that wasn’t the case for the Boilers this year as injuries forced this group to be a makeshift one. Sure, experience was gained by players who badly need it, but this group has a whole lot of questions about positions and depth chart to figure out up front heading in to the fall. If those questions aren’t answered heading in to the season, look out for another horrific offensive season for Purdue.
Who Are the Pass-Catching Weapons?
We talked about this one a bit in our wide receives preview, but the reality is there is no other star currently on the Purdue roster outside of DeAngelo Yancey and even he is a borderline star at best. Is there an option in the younger group that could unseat some of the vets on the roster?
A name like incoming freshman Terrance Landers, who is 6-4, certainly could be a game changer. However, wide receiver seems to be the toughest position for a freshman to really make a breakthrough at. Watching to see how this group performs in fall camp is going to be another key signal as to how this season could go.
Our Projected Starters
WR: DeAngelo Yancey, Sr.
WR: Cameron Posey, Sr.
WR: Domonique Young, Sr.
LT: Matt McCann, RS Fr.
LG: Jason King, RS Sr.
C: Kirk Barron, RS So.
RG: Jordan Roos, Jr.
RT: Cameron Cermin, Sr.
TE: Cole Herdman, So.
RB: Markell Jones, So.
QB: David Blough, So.