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Purdue Football Coaching Search: What Needs Fixing?

The cupboard looks bare, but Purdue’s next coach at least has a few pieces to build around.

Purdue v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

We’re going to be waiting for a while on this one, I think. Since there was not an announcement yesterday I am betting we will wait through the week because some of our targets are still involved in conference championship games. Most notably, P.J. Fleck and Jeff Brohm. This is mere speculation on my part, but I think we won’t know anything definite until Saturday at the earliest. Fleck plays on Friday evening, while Brohm’s team on Saturday.

Regardless of who gets the job (which appears to be the only open one in the Big Ten this year), they have a major rebuild ahead. What areas do they need to focus on going forward, however?

Offensive Line – This has got to be priority No. 1 for the new coach. Purdue is almost at a crisis point when it comes to the line, and it was an area that was never addressed under Hazell. It says something when Purdue’s two best linemen, Jason King and Jordan Roos, are both graduating and both were recruited originally by Danny Hope.

This year the line was mostly awful. It gave up 29 sacks and had some pretty disastrous performances against Maryland and Indiana. It also could not run block for shit. Purdue has some very good running backs that can do some serious damage if there is a line in front of them. Markell Jones, when healthy, is really good. Brian Lankford-Johnson and Richie Worship showed a lot of promise this year. D.J. Knox will also be back from injury. They all have at least two years of eligibility remaining. David Blough also led the Big Ten in passing, but often had to run for his life (leading to 21 interceptions).

Purdue can make drastic improvement if the new staff can put together a good offensive line. It appears we have a quarterback and several running backs, but Kirk Barron is the only rock solid piece back up front. Matt McCann has potential at right tackle, but often was overmatched this year. Michael Mendez had some promise before he got hurt. We have no idea what’s going to happen with Martesse Patterson after his suspension that lasted most of the season. Jalen Neal was awful, but will likely get another shot out of necessity.

This is my biggest concern by far for next season because the line does not get better by losing Roos and King. Both guard spots are completely up for grabs as well as left tackle. It is my hope we get a top notch offensive line coach for next season because the last two guys sucked and we need a damn miracle worker. The skill guys are there already, but they desperately need a line.

Defensive Line – Purdue wasn’t much better on the other side of the ball. The defensive line was banged up by the end of the season and even with healthy teams ran all day on Purdue. The Boilers gave up an embarrassing 238.4 yards rushing per game. That was 115th nationally out of 128 teams. The Big Ten is always going to have great ground games, so the task will never be easy. Losing Jake Replogle, one of the best run defenders at tackles in the Big Ten, makes it even harder.

The pass rush was slightly better. Evan Panfil and Gelen Robinson each had five sacks after no player had more than four since Kawann Short left. Panfil is gone and Robinson will be a senior this coming season. Purdue got some nice moments from Lorenzo Neal and Eddy Wilson, but it needs more.

What makes things even more frustrating is that some guys have completely disappeared. Antoine Miles is one of those guys. He was decent in 2015, and barely appeared this year. Keiwan Jones supposedly had a great camp and never appeared in a game that I know of.

Just like the offensive line could not contain an edge in the run game, out defensive line was routinely beaten in every way possible. I can see a front line of Wilson, Neal, Robinson, and Larkin, but there has to be some depth found somewhere.

Wide Receiver – Purdue’s top four receivers in Cameron Posey, DeAngelo Yancey, Domonique Young, and Bilal Marshall are all gone. Purdue does get its best two tight ends back, but Gregory Phillips is the most experienced receiver back with 17 catches for 172 yards. Anthony Mahoungou also had 13 catches for 99 yards for No. 2.

I think Purdue is going to have to rely on Terrance Landers to fill the Yancey role, but everything else is a huge question mark. Freshmen Brevin Harris and Tyler Hamilton, if they stay committed, will need to do a lot early.

So What Pieces Do We Have?

Quarterback – It certainly looks like David Blough will be the first quarterback in nearly a decade to start consecutive season openers for Purdue. The interceptions can be helped with better protection, too. Elijah Sindelar hasn’t had to play major minutes yet, but he did get five games of mop-up action. He was… underwhelming. He only completed 43.8% of his passes for 165 yards and 3 interceptions. Jared Sparks, a dual-threat guy, at least offers a different look as the No. 3 guy. Purdue has two quarterbacks currently committed for 2017 and they almost certainly will redshirt. For now, we’re good here.

Defensive Back – All things considered, the defensive backs were okay this year, and they were young. Navon Mosley looked really promising. If Brandon Roberts can return from his mysterious suspension that will help. There are a lot of speedy defensive backs that Hazell stashed away in redshirt like Simeon Smiley. For the most part this group is young and stocked. With good coaching, they can be solid.

Linebacker – Purdue has two really good linebackers! Ja’Whaun Bentley will be better with another year separated from his knee injury. Markus Bailey led the team with four interceptions and had an excellent freshman season. They are two really good guys to build around, and Danny Ezechukwu will be back as a senior too. Like many areas, we need some depth to develop, but the front line guys are pretty good.

Running Back – Purdue is loaded here, especially with Keyante Green exiled to the bench as a 4-star back. The top four guys are all good backs with a lot of time left. They also have experience. They just need a line for them.

Special Teams – Joe Schopper had a good year punting the ball and he still has two years left. J.D. Dellinger struggled out the start, but hit 8 of his last 9 field goals to finish the year 10 of 14. That’s not bad for a freshman. He also has a game-winner on his record, too.