I fondly remember the first days of Joe Tiller. The man brought the forward pass to the Big Ten. It was an utter delight in those early days to see opposing defenses completely panic because they had absolutely no idea how to defend four and five wide sets. Before Drew Brees there was Billy Dicken, who came out of nowhere to throw for 3,100 yards in 1997 as Purdue passed to set up the pass. Dicken gave way to Brees, to Orton, to Painter, and Big Ten passing records tumbled. The five best passing yardage seasons in Purdue history happened between 1998 and 2007 and air owned by either Curtis Painter or Drew Brees. Brees, Painter, and Orton are three of the top four prolific passers in school history, all with over 9,000 career yards, while Brees and Painter were both over 11,000.
All those numbers would be pedestrian under Jeff Brohm.
If you thought Tiller liked to pass, Brohm is a mad aerial bomber by comparison. His offenses at Western Kentucky the last three years have put up absolutely absurd numbers. Let’s take a longer look at him.
Current Job: Western Kentucky head coach
Current Salary: $800,000/year guaranteed (signed 2016 4-year extension through 2019)
Coaching Record: 25-10 in 3rd season (15-5 vs. Conference USA), 2015 Conference USA Champion
If you love passing you will love Brohm. Last season the Hilltoppers were 12-2, losing only by 3 at Indiana and by 28 at LSU. They also threw the ball. A lot. The Purdue record for passing yards in a season is 3,985, set by Curtis Painter in 2006 when Purdue played in 14 games because of the trip to Hawaii. Last season in 14 games Brandon Doughty threw for 5,055 yards and 48 touchdowns against only 9 interceptions. He completed nearly 72% of his passes (388 of 540). All of these numbers would shatter existing Purdue records.
That was Doughty’s 2015 season. In 2014, Brohm’s first in Bowling Green, he threw for 4,830 yards and 49 TDs against 10 INTs, completing 68% of his passes. In two years he threw for 98 passing touchdowns compared to 90 for Brees in 3 years (and change from 1997). WKU averaged 44.3 points per game, 372.2 yards through the air, and effectively had a 5:1 TD to INT ratio. They were also a respectable rushing team last year. They had 2,159 yards as a team and Anthony Wales offered balanced as a 1,000 yard back. As a team they added 30 rushing TDs to 50 passing TDs in 2015.
Those are just flat out absurd offensive numbers, but there is the caveat of “yeah, but not against the Big Ten”, which is a valid one. This season has been a little more rough as the Hilltoppers are only 5-3, but two of the losses have been close. They lost 55-52 at Louisiana Tech (which is not their ultimate defenses turned off game) and 31-30 in overtime against Vanderbilt. The other loss was a 38-10 loss at Alabama, who is, admittedly, a pretty good team. They at least made Alabama work for a little bit, as they were tied 3-3 before a TD on the last play of the first quarter.
Offensively, they continue to chuck the ball. Mike White has taken over at quarterback and has thrown for 2,476 yards and 20 TDs against five INTs. Wales is going to get his 1,000 yards again as he has 739 and 11 TDs. The balance is there, and this being year three, Brohm is getting it done more with his own players now. Taywan Taylor has been a stud in the offense with 219 receptions for 3,497 yards and 32 touchdowns in his career to date.
Here is how Brohm has recruited (Rivals Rankings):
Western Kentucky Purdue
2014: 79 71
2015: Below 100 71
2016: 85 74
2017: 68 65
As you can see, Hazell was winning that battle, but not by a whole lot. WKU is facing off against a lot more SEC schools though. They are possibly a harder place to recruit to than Western Michigan, but Brohm is still getting results even with what he has recruited. WKU has beaten Vanderbilt (2015, 14-12) in terms of major conference victories and has come close against Vanderbilt (again), Indiana, and Illinois.
The biggest knock on his teams is its defense. The offense often needs to score in the 40s because the defense is going to give up 35. In his first season Brohm had a 50-47 loss (in triple OT), a 42-39 loss, a 45-38 loss, and an epic 67-66 overtime win at Marshall where absolutely no defense was played. That box score is a masterpiece. Brohm and Rakeem Cato combined for over 900 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. Both teams had a 200 yard rusher. WKU won not by getting a stop in overtime, but by scoring second and converting the two-point conversion. The teams gained a combined 1,400+ yards.
So yeah, his teams are not as balanced between offense and defense as Fleck’s are. This year they are giving up 29 points per game, which is up from 25.3 last year. At Louisiana Tech they gave up 52 points in the first three quarters alone.
That’s what makes me a little hesitant to go after Brohm. He has a year less experience than Fleck, he hasn’t recruited quite as well, and his defenses are quite a bit worse. Granted, WKU did at least play Alabama semi-tough and wasn’t completely flattened in a 70-7 manner as one would expect.
I do love his offenses though. If Purdue wants to get back the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” moniker what better way to do it than with a pass happy offense that still has a respectable ground game?