In a somewhat surprising move, Jack Wegher found himself in his familiar running back position yesterday in fall camp. Jack played running back almost exclusivly for IMG Academy as a junior, but an early season ankle injury, combined with another 5* running back on the roster, moved Wegher to wide receiver his senior season. Most people assumed that’s where the 5’9, 200 pound freshman would land at Purdue. Specifically, most people, including myself, thought he would end up playing the slot for the Boilermakers. That changed, however, with Jack getting reps coming out of the backfield yesterday. At first, I really didn’t understand the move, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense from a personnel perspective, at least for this year.
Purdue has been looking for “thunder and lightning” tandem for the last three seasons. Unfortunately, we’ve either had the lightning (Hunt and Mostert) or the thunder (Jones and Knox ) but we’ve never had two players with different skill sets in the Purdue backfield. Why is having a 1-2 punch in the Boilermaker backfield significant? Let tell you a little story about when a certain Darrell Hazell was actually a successful football coach, and considered one of the up and coming talents in college football.
The year was 2012 and Kent State was coming off of a 5-7 record under first year coach Darrell Hazell. 5-7 was about par for the Kent St. course, if not a little better than average, and then it happened….”thunder and lightning “hit Kent St. The Golden flashes lined up 6’1, 250 pound Trayion Durham in the back field and started running the ball down opponents throats. Then, when teams adjusted to tackling a human bulldozer, Kent St. hit them with a 5’8, 170 pound flea in Dri Archer. The tandem of Durham and Archer was one of the most formidable duos in college football. Durham carried the ball 276 times, for 1316 yards and 10 touchdowns, with an average of about 5 yards per carry. Dri Archer carried the ball 159 times for 1429 yards and 16 touchdowns, good for an astonishing 9 yards a carry. He also managed to haul in 39 catches for 561 yards and 4 touchdowns, which comes out to a robust 14.4 yards per reception. Kent St. had a marginal quarterback who threw for 12 touchdowns and 10 picks, but it didn’t matter, because the duo of Durham and Archer were unstoppable. The Golden Flashes ended the year with a program best 11-3 record, and Darrell Hazell landed a coveted Big10 coaching job. That was the offense I thought we bought when we signed Hazell, and in year 4, I’m still waiting.
That brings me back to Jack Wegher. I’m certain that Wegher will not match the incredible production of Dri Archer this season. In fact, if history is any indicator, Wegher will only see the field on kick returns, but maybe…just maybe, Purdue can get creative with new coordinator Terry Malone, and deploy Wegher as the lighting to the Markel Jones thunder. What’s interesting is Malone spent a good bit of time in New Orleans, and Sean Peyton loves to employ a “thunder and lightning” tandem. Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles gave opponents nightmares catching passes out of the backfield, and helped some guy named Drew Brees but up otherworldly numbers and win a Super Bowl. Again, I’m not saying that Jack Wegher is Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles, but he doesn’t have to be. If Purdue can use him as a viable option on third down out of the backfield, they will have an added dimension to an offense that has been wildly unpredictable in play calling, while at the same time, completely predictable in personnel groupings. I’m dreaming of a season where we are more conventional in our offensive approach, but get more players on the field to actually showcase their talent. Instead of attempting to out think teams with ass backwards play calling that resembles a third grader playing Madden; we will try and outplay teams, by actually putting our players in a position to succeed.
I for one am looking forward to seeing Jack Archer…I mean Dri Wegher in the Purdue backfield. I’ll probably be disappointed, but such is life as a Purdue football fan. I can still dream dammit, at least allow me to dream a little longer, the season is only 29 days away