Spring games and spring football mean very different things to teams across the country. Some are trying to find starters or replace a bunch of talent that is off the NFL, others are hoping to just stay healthy and get work done.
However, with a new coaching staff, the Purdue Boilermakers’ 2017 spring camp has been all about finding out who this team is.
On Saturday afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium, the Boilermakers presented themselves to the general public for the first time in the Jeff Brohm era. It is all about tempo, big plays and getting back to the basics of attacking through a pass-happy offense.
But, was that what was on display in the 2017 Purdue spring game? Let’s find out what we learned from the spring game and camp.
There’s Reason For Hope
You know a program is down in the dumps when fans stop showing up to games in droves. All hope seems lost.
Well, if the spring game is any indication, Purdue fans should be ready to have a bit more optimism heading in to the 2017 season. Things were far from perfect during Saturday’s spring game, but both sides of the ball provided big moments that should provide hope to the fans going forward.
Brohm’s offense is predicated on hitting big plays and creating mismatches with tempo. We bore witness to some of the big-play ability that could be there this season in the first half of the spring game. Jackson Anthrop and Gregory Phillips seems to have found an ability to make big plays happen in the pass-catching department and that was good to see.
Defensively, the aggressiveness that was talked about all spring camp long also was on display. There were big plays, big hits and plenty of individual talent on display. There were also 11 “sacks” on the day (as quarterbacks weren’t actually live). It all added up to the defense winning 45-30 over the offense.
Names like safety T.J. Jallow, LEO linebacker Rob Simmons and fellow linebacker Kai Higgins were huge for the defense. Simmons was a stud and couldn’t be a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses based on his size and athleticism. Higgins recorded three sacks on the day and Jallow, a JUCO transfer from East Mississippi Community College, showed he was more than a hitting machine on the field.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a long way to go for this team. The defense blew some big assignments and it cost them early on in the game. The offense was brutal as well, scoring just three touchdowns on 23 possessions in the spring game.
But, this was at least a positive start to the Brohm era and a showcase that a solid foundation for future success is being laid.
David Blough Better Stay Healthy
One thing was abundantly clear from the spring game, and that is this offense without David Blough is in trouble. Many believed Elijah Sindelar would be the easy call as the backup, but reports out of camp said he was struggling at times and that was on full display on Saturday.
Sindelar took plenty of snaps before bowing out in the second half of the game, but couldn’t lead the Boilermakers offense in to the end zone at all. He finished the day 14 of 25 passes for 177 yards and no touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the athletic Jordan Sparks showed he still has plenty to work on as a passer — going just 9 of 18 for 106 yards and an interception.
Those aren’t exactly confidence-inducing numbers in an offense that is predicated on good quarterback play. Purdue’s quarterbacks need to step up to the plate in case the worst happens to Blough, because what we saw from them as a whole on Saturday was not good to say the least.
Wide Receiver Needs An Upgrade
Jackson Anthrop is a name to watch after the spring game. He at least stepped up when the big plays were needed. The younger brother to former Purdue wide receiver Danny Anthrop got free for a 69-yard reception on a simple go route early on in the game and then scored a 19-yard touchdown when the defense failed to cover him on the same route later in the first half.
But, outside of that kind of play it was a bad day for the Boilermakers wide receivers group. Even Gregory Phillips, the most experienced returning option, had a bad day overall. He followed up a big play early on by dropping easy passes and being largely irrelevant most of the day.
There will be an influx of names coming this summer, including former Notre Dame player Corey Holmes. One would expect the three newcomers will have ample opportunity to make the most of their arrival.
After all, this group has done next to nothing to show they are consistent enough to move this offense and this team to a different level than before.