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.
Jeff Brohm says no to Louisville, will Purdue be his long-term future?
There was much rejoicing in West Lafayette, Ind. on Wednesday night. Head coach Jeff Brohm announced he was staying at Purdue and not leaving for the Lousiville job.
After watching a dormant Purdue football program make a steady and fun rise back to relevancy in just two years under Jeff Brohm, there was real fear that Brohm would be gone.
Brohm’s ties to the Lousiville program are well known, and there’s no doubt he loves the program. But, just a few weeks ago we talked about how the situations of the two programs made the “inevitable” move not so inevitable after all.
It appears that the heartstrings of the team he is building and the things Purdue have promised were enough to keep him from his “dream job.”
“This is by far No. 1. The hardest ever. Not even close,” Brohm said about the decision to stay with the Boilermakers and bypass an opportunity to return home, via the Lafayette Journal and Courier.
Now that that is settled, what does the future really look like for Brohm and the Boilermakers? In the short-term it appears that once again the Board of Trustees is set to increase Brohm’s salary and likely the pool of money for his assistant coaches.
Purdue also has gone all-in on getting better facilities for the football program and those investments are starting to pay off in the form of better recruiting.
Brohm has recruited the No. 25 ranked class in the country. Some of it is no doubt who he is and how his staff is built, but it’s also an equal part what the Boilermakers can sell to recruits once they are on campus.
Top-notch facilities, a fun and honest coach and one of the most prolific offensive schemes in the country make this Purdue team exciting to young and old alike.
All of it adds up to the formula for where Brohm can have long-term success right there in West Lafayette.
Stepping stone to another job? More like here for the long haul. At least that was the signal I got from what this decision meant.
Brohm said as much when speaking to the Journal and Courier on Thursday in that one-on-one interview.
“Purdue’s been great and that’s no shot at Louisville. Louisville was great to me,” Brohm said. “I like it where I’m at and I think we have all the resources we need to continue to get better and improve and try to become a contender and a competitor in a great conference to play at a high level.
“Really, the last place I was at (Western Kentucky) I probably would’ve stayed there forever other than this is a step up in football and I need to do it right here.”
If Brohm wasn’t leaving Purdue for the Lousiville job or for the Tennessee job after last season, what would it really take to pry him away from the Boilermakers program?
The good news for Purdue fans is that what Brohm signaled to the college football world is that it is going to take something really special to pry him away.
We’re talking about Nick Saban retiring, Clemson idiotically running Dabo Sweeney off to the NFL or even the NFL itself calling on Brohm for him to leave.
But the picture of Brohm becoming more like an institution at Purdue than a one-night stand is becoming clear. This could be the moment of clarity where Brohm sets aside any other jobs and focuses on what he has in front of him.
Purdue stepped up to the plate and now Brohm has rewarded their efforts. It’s a marriage that both seem dedicated to for the long haul now.
Is Jeff Brohm to Louisville inevitable?
The last name Brohm and Louisville are about as synonymous as any could be with a single program. After all, Jeff Brohm’s father is the man who laid the foundation for the modern era at Louisville.
So, with Bobby Petrino out as the head coach of the Cardinals it was only natural that speculation would run rampant about the hottest Power 5 head coach in the country — Jeff Brohm.
Brohm has proven what a good leader and a good turnaround artist can look like in college football. But, would he really leave after just two seasons at the helm of the Purdue program?
ESPN personality and Indianapolis radio host Dan Dakich seems to be under that impression. He tweeted out the following on Thursday:
Just earlier this week, Brohm addressed the obvious connections and the speculation that would come with the Louisville opening.
“I’ve heard the noise just like everyone else,” Brohm said during his regular weekly press conference on Monday morning. “I think unfortunately it’s important for me to not comment on any speculation right now. I have a job, and we’ve got work to do, and a lot of it. We’re going to put forth the effort to do that. We’ve got a tough opponent this week, and then we’ve got to go to IU, and we’re going to have to play well, and we’re going to have to play much better than we did last week, so I’m going to stay focused on that, and very appreciative of the job I have right now.”
While that is all well and good, Brohm didn’t exactly smack down the rumors for after this season. He didn’t make a definitive statement that he would be back in 2019 and end the speculation. He chose to say he would focus on the here and now and leave the other stuff open to interpretation.
So, it’s hard to ignore when sources inside the state of Indiana are attempting to break a story about the Louisville-Brohm situation.
It’s also hard to ignore the fact that Brohm is also one of the most private coaches in all of college football. He doesn’t even have an agent to help handle contract negotiations for example.
Given that, is it prudent to believe reports from one source of information as the gospel of what will happen?
After all, we’ve seen this song and dance with plenty of coaching searches in the past. Names were “hired per sources” or the “target of the search” per sources plenty of times in the last three years, only to find out none of it was even true.
Perhaps these sources are angling for some piece of the pie should Brohm move or to stir the pot and force Louisville in a different direction? For those who have never sourced information before, the trick is figuring out the meaning behind the information you are given.
We can also lean on the past to inform us if a rumor or report is true.
In the case of Brohm all we have to do is look to last year to know that he is at least open to the idea of coaching elsewhere. There was serious flirtation between Brohm and Tennessee before Brohm chose to take his name out of the running.
It isn’t as if he has the ties that bind him to Purdue in any meaningful way, and that’s what the Tennessee job flirtation told me.
Additionally, are there multiple reports of this happening?
The good news is that it’s Dan Dakich and Dan Dakich alone making this claim. In the hour since his claim there is not another single credible report of the same information.
Breathe for a moment Purdue fan, it may not be as over as you think it is.
Purdue has money, new facilities in the works and a wide open division. Louisville? That money situation has really dried up, the program and athletic department have taken massive hits and it’ll mean another rebuild just two years after starting his latest project.
Will the power of family connections win out? Maybe…but it isn’t nearly as inevitable as many in the media are leading people to believe.
Until Jeff Brohm or Louisville make that announcement, skepticism remains the smartest option.
Purdue’s Moore puts Big Ten on notice in record-setting debut
There are no moral victories in college football. So, don’t expect the Purdue Boilermakers to be happy about a 31-27 loss to Northwestern in the 2018 season and Big Ten opener.
But, despite the loss at least one individual showcased an ability to tear up Big Ten defenses nearly at will.
That person is true freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore.
All that Moore did was go out and set a single-game record for the most all-purpose yardage with 313 combined yards. He broke Otis Armstrong’s school record, set in 1972 of 312 yards.
It wasn’t just one part of the game that stood out either, as Moore did it as a receiver, a running back and a kick returner too.
Just how impressive was Moore’s debut? He nearly broke the record in just one half of his college football debut. Moore had 302 of his 313 yards in the first half alone.
That first half total broke down like this — 79 rushing, 98 receiving and 125 on kickoff returns.
HIs big night almost looked like it wouldn’t get off the ground though. On the first drive of the game, Moore broke loose up the middle of the Northwestern defense, only to drop a good pass from Elijah Sindelar.
Moore made up for it quickly though. He single-handily put his team back in the game after watching the Wildcats go up 14-0 quickly in the first quarter.
First it was a 32-yard touchdown reception and less than three minutes later it was a 76-yard touchdown run. The rushing touchdown was the longest by a Purdue player since an 82-yard effort from Akeem Hunt back in 2014.
Clearly the stats are impressive, but it was the how it happened that also matters. Moore had the Ross-Ade crowd oohing and awwing and on the edge of their seats every time he touched the ball.
When was the last time that happened?
Brohm being able to get Moore wasn’t just getting lucky with an underrated recruit either. Purdue won a major battle to get him on campus and he came to Purdue as the highest-rated recruit to ever done the black and gold.
He had just about every school in the country seeking out his talent, with Ohio State, Alabama and the like in the mix. Now, some believe those schools soured on him as he didn’t sprout up height wise over the final two years of high school, but that speed man. That speed.
But, it was Purdue that overlooked his lack of height and saw his blazing speed as an asset that could be used.
It was on full display on Thursday night against a quality Northwestern defense and special teams units.
Moore plus Jeff Brohm’s innovative offensive mind could be a very dangerous combo.
It also put the rest of the Big Ten on notice — Purdue isn’t going to go quietly in any game this season.
Early Big Ten results remind us why bowl season matters
Don’t tell Iowa, Michigan State and Purdue that their bowl games and wins were meaningless, because they sure weren’t.
Bowl season is usually a cruel, cruel mistress to the Big Ten. Let’s just say hopes always start high and results crash fans of the teams in the conference back down to earth quickly.
There are a myriad of reasons and excuses often given, and some of them are valid (or at least used to be). Examples usually include the fact that 90 percent of the games are played well outside of the Big Ten footprint and the old reliable of huge disparities in caliber of opponents (addressed a bit by the last change in bowl alignment).
So, as the 2017-18 bowl season got underway it was hard to expect much from the Big Ten. After all, the conference teams managed to go just 3-7 last year and only one of those three wins was very meaningful (Wisconsin over Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl).
Then the games were played and we here in Big Ten country have been reminded just how meaningful bowl season really is.
Purdue not only got to a bowl game, but it won its bowl game against another offense-first team in Arizona. Sophomore quarterback Elijah Sindelar overcame injury and threw for nearly 400 yards (396 to be exact) and four touchdowns, while running back D.J. Knox had 101 yards on 11 carries.
If you believe bowl games don’t matter, just talk to anyone on the Purdue or Arizona sidelines following that game. Going 7-6 in season one under Jeff Brohm was huge, but most importantly it sets new expectations for the program’s floor going forward.
When is the last time there were anything but dreadful expectations surrounding the Purdue football program? If anything, that should tell you just how meaningful bowl games are.
But, it was just Purdue’s three-point win out in the Foster Farms Bowl that showcased the importance of winning so-called meaningless bowl games.
Michigan State not only rebounded from a 3-9 season to go 9-3, but it just beat a fellow top 25 program in Washington State. Sure, you can point to Luke Falk being out of the game, but the Spartans looked like the Spartans that climbed their way to the College Football Playoff just two years ago again.
Dantonio’s crew pounded the ball down the throat of Wazzu’s smaller defensive line and that led to LJ Scott putting up 110 yards on just 18 carries. Meanwhile, the Spartans defense held the Cougars high-scoring offense to just 17 points in the 42-17 win in the Holiday Bowl.
Think MSU will be overlooked by bowl games in the future again?
Even Iowa, who had the most maddening up and down season of any Big Ten team, pulled off a win in the opening game for a Big Ten team this bowl season.
It wasn’t always pretty, but in a matchup of two 7-5 teams, what else would you expect? Most importantly, the game showed that Iowa could win a close game against a quality defense. For a team full of young players at key positions, it’s a win that builds momentum heading in to the offseason.
All three wins set up increase expectations for next season and there’s nothing better than expecting quality football and increased competition within the Big Ten at all.
Of course, the rest of the Big Ten teams in bowl games have some huge matchups to play in.
It’s a nice start to reversing the trend of horrible bowl seasons for the conference, but there’s a lot of work still to be done for the rest of the conference. With three teams in New Year’s Six bowl games, winning them puts the conference at the forefront of the offseason discussion and as much as we hate to admit it — perception is reality these days in the college football world.
That was the lesson we were supposed to take away from the College Football Playoff committee’s selection of Alabama over an actual conference champion, right?
With a snub from the College Football Playoff committee this season, a huge turnaround in bowl game results would mean a whole lot to the reputation – fair or not – of the conference going forward.
Let’s see if the early momentum can be maintained by the big dogs of the B1G.