There was a lot of good on the field Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium. Yes, that good is mostly relative to what we have seen recently from Purdue football, but when you're at rock bottom you will latch on to anything positive. That said, all the good seemed to be undone midway through the second quarter. Junior running back D.J. Knox planted and crumbled to the turf with a non-contact knee injury. Knox, who rushed for 409 yards and 2 TDs and caught 26 passes for 189 yards last year, was determined to likely have a torn ACL, putting his 2016 in severe jeopardy.
While his injury comes at Purdue's deepest position, Knox was the starter for most of last season and formed a nice tandem with Markell Jones. Before his injury he had run for 62 yards on 8 carries and was second on the team behind 69 from Jones on the day. With less than five months until the season opener it seems highly unlikely he will be ready for the season, if at all. He does still have his redshirt available, however, so he can come back in 2017 with two years of eligibility remaining. Given Purdue's depth I would redshirt him.
If Knox is out, and it certainly seems like a probability by the way the staff is talking, it opens the door for Purdue's deep stable of running backs. David Yancey and the long lost Keyante Green had the most carries today other than Jones and Knox with three each. Yancey got more run last year, while Green was supposed to be The Guy as a redshirt sophomore last season only to not get a single carry. The former 4-star recruit now has an opportunity to prove himself. He had nine yards on three carries while Yancey had 8 yards and a TD.
Redshirt freshmen Richie Worship and Tario Fuller will also get a look. Worship is a huge back that played as kind of a superback where he split out as a tight end. That led to two catches for 14 yards. They will definitely be in the mix, as will redshirt junior Keith Byars II. Given Purdue's lack of depth and experience at TE, plus offensive coordinator Terry Malone's experience in coaching TEs, expect Worship to have a role.
Dan Monteroso - I was very impressed with the senior receiver today. He had three catches for 93 yards including a 44 yard TD. He used his superior size well on our defensive backs and was regularly gaining separation from his defender. He also returned four kickoffs for 75 yards, one of them for 34 that had 15 added on with a facemask penalty.
Elijah Sindelar - Did he win the QB derby today? For the most part he and David Blough were even. Sindelar was 16 of 30 for 248 yards and two scores while Blough was 17 of 28 for 226 yards, a TD, and two INTs. At least one of Blough's INTs was tipped by the receiver. Both quarterbacks showed a nice touch on the deep ball. Sindelar's TD to Monteroso was a beautiful pass, but so was a 62 yard pass from Blough to DeAngelo Yancey to set up David Yancey's TD.
On the same note, I do have to say that the offense as a whole was at least semi-competent. Now, before you say, "well it was against the Purdue defense" consider what the Shoopfense managed against the Purdue defense in the last three spring games. Last year was a 28-23 final score, but before that the spring games scores were 12-7 and 14-0. This was 17-17 at halftime and was going to be a tie before Sindelar led a late drive and found Gregory Phillips for a 35 yard TD pass (that happened as the result of a broken tackle).
It is not like the Shoopfense was lighting up a crappy Purdue defense before. By the eye test the offense as a whole just LOOKED better, and when the Shoopfense was just godawful, semi-competent is a vast improvement.
Markell Jones - Yep, he is still awesome.
Cameron Posey - Posey was downright dangerous on crossing routes and finished with five catches for 60 yards and a TD. With Posey in the slot and DeAngelo Yancey plus Monteroso on the outside the passing game has a chance. This is especially true with Jones in the backfield. He also had a 34 yard punt return.
Brycen Hopkins - He only had one catch, but he is a grown-assed man as a tight end. I want to see him involved in the offense a lot.
Knox's injury - Obviously.
The offensive line - It was a shitshow for the most part and the defensive line was getting into the backfield with impunity. On the one hand, yay for defensive pressure! On the other, we had better hope a healthy line with the incoming JuCo tackles can be put together. Yes, Cameron Cermin was out and JuCo tackles Jalen Neal and Tanner Hawthorne won't be here until the fall, but... yikes.
Purdue has some good skill position players. We have a ton of senior receivers and a damn good running back. Even the quarterbacks looked good today. It all means nothing if we can't build a line.
Placekicking - In J.D Dellinger we trust. The incoming freshman is expected to be the guy from day 1, and Purdue's three walk-on kickers were mediocre at best today. Myles Homan hit a 24 yard field goal. Tyler Duncan hit an 18-yard, but Brian Bravo missed a 35-yarder just before halftime and Duncan missed a 27-yarder. Duncan also handled a terrible snap and hold on the final PAT after the Phillips touchdown in a play that was just a disaster.
Overall today was about as spring games go. There was some good and some bad. Backups and walk-ons played a lot in the second half, especially once Knox went down. We only had 9 healthy offensive linemen so that was going to cause plenty of struggles. There was enough shown by the offense, however, to at least provide a modicum of hope, which is all we can really ask for.