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Shuffling Deck Chairs On The Titanic? Purdue Football Coaching Changes

There are two types of College Football programs this time of year: Those that are losing coaching because of successful runs to bowl games, and those trying to improve by making coaching changes. Sadly, Purdue fits into the later category at the moment. Purdue recently lost receivers coach Brian Rock to Kent State, where he became the new offensive coordinator there.

According to Brian Neubert at GBI, This is not a surprise. Here is what he posted about Rock in his blog:

Brian Rock leaving was no surprise whatsoever. Another case of a guy who's been trying to get out and quite frankly a situation where maybe he needed to get out. We just couldn't confirm anything prior to today's announcement but did allude to it here and there. - Brian Neubert, Gold and Black Illustrated

Okay, so Rock is gone and he didn't want to be here anyway. This was only an issue last year when it seemed like nearly every receiver was hurt at one point and we were down to Alpha Gamma Rho's backup flag football receiver at one point.

As far as other moves, Gary Emmanuel is now the full-time Defensive Coordinator, Donn Landholm is "possibly" taking over as linebackers coach to fill Mark Hagen's spot (or, as Crimson Quarry put it, Indiana took more than the Bucket from West Lafayette). We need a new receivers coach and there will be a new "Director of Sports Performance" job within the athletic department.

This leaves us with the following staff:

Danny Hope - Head Coach

Gary Nord - Offensive Coordinator, Assistant head coach (new title)

Gary Emmanuel - Defensive Coordinator

J.B. Gibboney - Special Teams Coordinator

Lou Anarumo - Defensive Backs

Shawn Clark - Offensive Line

Corenell Jackson - Running backs

Jim Lathrop - Strength and conditioning

Let's break them down one by one:

Danny Hope - Some people are willing to give him time, while others are sharpening pitchforks and lighting torches. I am willing to give him a little more time based on the injuries this season. We never had consistency at any key offensive position, and it is that consistency that can derail an offense quickly. There were enough positives with the way the team found something to play for in 2009 after a 1-5 start to give him another chance.

That said, there have some real questionable choices and calls over the past two years. I don't think coach Hope handles timeouts well at all. I like his aggressiveness to go for it on 4th down, but the play calls in those situations leave a lot to be desired. If you look at things though, a lot of things can still be boiled down to critical turnovers at key points. Robert Marve threw an awful pick at Notre Dame to kill a drive. Rob Henry had two bad fourth quarter interceptions at Michigan State. The Toledo game, when we couldn't score a touchdown with 1st and goal from the five, had a few screwups on the field. There is no question that Hope has to get better, but the players' inexperience was also a big key here.

Gary Nord - Nord is known for his work with quarterbacks, but I am sure he would like to have one starter for the reason rather than four, especially since two had never played college football before and the other two hadn't played in two years. His assistant head coach title was given mostly for recruiting, where he is making an impact. Ultimately, that is where Hope and Nord will be judge. They have improved recruiting efforts from the end of the Tiller era, but they now have most of their players. Assuming we can get healthy, they will have experienced depth now (a nice byproduct of having to play virtually everyone last year).

Gary Emmanuel - I am a big fan of this one because our defense needs an edge and I think he can give it to us. We need guys like Ricardo Allen who are vocal leaders and not afraid to hit someone. I can see Emmanuel building off of guys like Allen. As long as he remembers to defend the slant over the middle on third down it will cause instant improvement.

J.B. Gibboney - Without question this guy causes the most consternation outside of Hope himself. So much fan angst has been raised that there was a statement made that there would be no change on Special Teams. Personally, I wouldn't put this guy in charge of coordinating a five-year-old's birthday party, let alone the Special Teams unit for a college football team. I'm convinced he would think it was a 25-year-old's bachelor party, hire strippers, and order a keg of beer when all that is needed is a cake and a clown.

It is amazing to see how much Special Teams has regressed despite having better specialists. Carson Wiggs and Cody Webster are a great kicker/punter combo. We still can't do anything as simple as provide solid punt protection, stay in lanes on kickoffs, or return punts with any regularity. The three-back protection formation that Gibboney instituted has led to three blocked punts when previously it was rare for us to surrender a block. It actually invites a heavier rush and, as we demonstrated at Wisconsin in 2009, we can actually vault a rusher higher to block a punt. We have had exactly one good punt return (by Aaron Valentin for a score vs. Northern Illinois) in two years. Since that moment we have struggled to find guys that can successfully make a fair catch back there. Kickoff coverage has been awful at times (costing us the 2009 MSU game), and that is being kind. I'm not even considering dumb penalties and the like, either.

I have said multiple times since the 2009 season Gibboney needs to be fired. My position hasn't changed. If he needs a job maybe he can be a delivery guy for Mad Mushroom. Even then, he would probably fly over campus in a plane randomly dropping pizzas.

Anarumo, Clark, and Jackson - I don't have a problem here.

Donn Landholm - Please, for the love of God, improve the linebackers in pass coverage. I think we have a very solid young group where the younger guys like Joe Gilliam, Will Lucas, and others may be better than the more experienced players. Just please remember that tight ends and slot receivers are eligible receivers and, therefore, should be covered at the snap.

Wide Receivers coach - There is some speculation that one Taylor Stubblefield could be offered this job. I like that idea. I would also like to see if we can get Jake Standeford. This is a guy that was a prime example of not being blessed with talent, but he had technique (blocking, route running, etc.) down cold and it allowed him to earn his way to the field. We have talent at wide receiver, but the basics need to be learned more. Standford could teach that. Imagine the talent of our receivers with Standeford's fundamentals.

Jim Lathrop and the Director of Sports Performance - These are key spots since we have been popping ACLs like douchebags pop collars lately. The Keith Smith one can be forgiven since that was on a bad hit. Many of the others have been non-contact injuries. I am not sure what can be done to alleviate this, but it has to be priority one for these guys.

Final Thoughts

It is understating the obvious when you say that the 2011 season is huge for these guys. If Indiana is firing coaches after three years for lack of performance then Purdue, a program that has been above them for nearly 15 years now, will likely be held to a similar standard. The college football world is too competitive and there are too many bowls to have anything longer than a three year drought.

The talent is in place from recruiting. Several players have experience. Even the schedule is there with four of the first five games likely having Purdue as a favorite. Only back-to-back game against Ohio State and Wisconsin in November looks really difficult. It is safe to say that if 2011 is another bowl-less season it might be time for a change.