Yesterday was a whirlwind. I got absolutely nothing done because I was constantly refreshing browsers and searching for any tidbit of information. Even with a huge basketball game last night the Jeff Brohm news was going to dominate the day. I even saw it in our traffic. I did one morning post that basically said, “today is the day”. We didn’t know what was going to happen or when, but it served as a de facto open thread all day.
By 1pm it was the No. 1 post on SB Nation.
All day it went back and forth. There was a team meeting. There wasn’t a team meeting. He was definitely gone. He was definitely staying. His agent was in West Lafayette. He was leaving West Lafayette to meet with Vince Tyra again in Indy. He was really in Chicago recruiting. Louisville recruits were told he was going to be their coach. If you followed this from the Louisville side every possible rumor was flying. From Purdue it was dead silence. The only thing that got shot down by Purdue media was the team meeting.
It was so strange because literally NOTHING was happening. It was exactly like last year with Tennessee. There were tons of wild theories, but nothing concrete until Brohm himself released a statement. That came around 6:30pm and sent Purdue fans into euphoria, while Louisville fans (some of them) completely lost it.
On paper it looks odd. Why would we go so crazy about a coach who is only 13-12 in two seasons so far in West Lafayette? After all, Danny Hope was 13-12 in his final two seasons.
But Brohm is different, and we have seen it. We saw it from that first game when we were supposed to lose by four touchdowns, but instead we led the reigning Heisman winner in the fourth quarter. After the Hazell Error it was a welcome just to be competitive again. In year one we were supposed to go 3-9 at best and he squeezed out 7-6 with a bowl win. Year 2 was supposed to be more, but the combination of a talent deficit and uneven performances had us all over the map. We had the 0-3 start, but then beat three ranked teams when we had lost 18 in a row to top 25 teams. We absolutely crushed Ohio State at home just weeks after a soggy loss to Eastern Michigan.
This was the critical year, however. We had to keep him after this season, especially with the new early signing period. If we could just survive this season, even if we had stumbled to 3-9, help was on the way. The 2019 recruiting class was going to be a transformational class that really got things going. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the recruiting rankings per Rivals of what Brohm has had to work with in his two years so far:
2013 (Last year’s 5th year seniors, the Hope/Hazell class): 56th, 1 four star in Danny Etling
2014 (This Year’s 5th year seniors): 71st, 1 four star in Gelen Robinson
2015 (This year’s 4th year players): 68th, 0 four stars
2016 (This year’s 3rd year players, Hazell’s final full class): 73rd, 0 four stars
2017 (This year’s 2nd year players, the Hazell/Brohm class): 68th, 0 four stars
2018 (This year’s true freshmen, Brohm’s first full class): 49th, 0 four stars
In his first two years Brohm has had access to one Rivals 4-star players in Gelen Robinson, and he had him for one season. The bulk of his teams have been rated 65th or worse in talent. Only this year’s true freshmen were in a class in the top 50. These were guys that were not rated well and, clearly, Hazell did not develop them at all based on 9-33. Brohm immediately came in, patched a few holes with grad transfers like Josh Okonye, T.J. McCollum, and Shane Evans, and squeezed out a bowl. The talent wasn’t significantly better this year, but he did bring in Rondale Moore as a true immediate impact guy. We saw improvement by beating ranked teams, but we still had a paper thin depth chart at several spots and it showed.
Now, let’s look at the 2019 class that is 20 days from signing:
2019 (Incoming true freshmen): 24th, 5 four stars (as of now)
This is before David Bell makes his decision. Rivals has information going back to the 2002 recruiting cycle and this is our highest rated class since the 2004 class was rated 20th. Since that time our classes have been rated as follows: 29, 50, 60, 63, 74, 54, 93, 33, 56, 71, 68, 73, 68, 49. That’s one class in 12 before Brohm’s first full class that was in the top 50. It is no wonder we have struggled.
It is also why it was so critical to keep him and get this class signed. We know guys like George Karlaftis, Marvin Grant, and Steven Faucheux can potentially be Rondale Moore-like instant upgrades, but it is also about quality depth. I really, really like the brothers Thieneman and Antonio Blackmon, but it is a hard life to regularly rely on walk-ons at critical positions. This class is loaded with players that can be quality reserves early on and take some of the pressure off of starters.
Had Brohm left yesterday that would be shattered. Sure, we would still sign a few guys on the early signing day, but this is only year two of it and it has changed everything. We essentially would have had 20 days to find a coach and try and keep the pieces of the class together. That’s before you consider we would still have to prepare for a bowl game with a skeleton staff because a lot of the staff would have left with Brohm, most likely.
There are reports that Brohm is going to get about $6 million a year now, which is a lot of money. It makes him one of the highest paid coaches in college football, but we’re paying for stability now. Brohm leaving would have been a huge setback. The high salary is basically an investment to keep the foundation in place. The real building begins with this incoming class combined with the experience returning next season.
That’s why we had to keep him. It is a gamble for sure. If it doesn’t work out we’re going to owe him a lot of money. Given where Purdue football was just two years ago right now there is no question he has exceeded expectations. In the 12 losses, 8 have been by 8 points or less. Three this season came on the game’s final play. Yes, he is 13-12, but you’re telling me that a significant talent upgrade wouldn’t have changed a few of those games?
It is also about building because he can hopefully repeat the same recruiting success with the 2020 class. That would give us two really good hauls, followed by a third in 2021. With that, the record continues to improve and suddenly we’re in a positive feedback loop.
Of course, none of this is a guarantee. Next year is the year we need to be better than 6-6, but the schedule is there. The Big Ten West was not great this season and we have enough coming back to really make some noise. We might even see a preseason ranking come our way, who knows.
After years of barely even trying in football (from an administrative perspective) it is good to see Purdue step up and swing big. From this point forward, however, we need to deliver. So far, I trust that Brohm will do just that.