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Purdue Boilermakers Football Preview: A look at the 2016 offense

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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.

 

Quarterback

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.

Running Back

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.

Offensive Line

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.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Jeff Brohm says no to Louisville, will Purdue be his long-term future?

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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. 

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Is Jeff Brohm to Louisville inevitable?

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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. 

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Purdue’s Moore puts Big Ten on notice in record-setting debut

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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