As I mentioned in the David Blough piece last week (found here), the race for Purdue’s starting quarterback job is a tight one. I think the starter for the Northwestern game will be named the last week of camp, but that might only settle it for the Northwestern game. I expect this to be a season long competition unless one quarterback clearly outplays the other.
That being said, we’ve got to have a starter for Northwestern, so here is how I evaluate Elijah Sindelar as a starting quarterback.
Sindelar took over the quarterback position full time after Blough’s devastating ankle injury, and put together a stretch of four games Purdue hasn’t seen since Kyle Orton. In the final 4 games of the season Sindelar threw for 1160 yards, 11tds, and 2 ints. Purdue went 3-1 in those games, including a win at Iowa, a win against Indiana to regain the bucket, and an improbable bowl victory against Arizona. He certainly looked like Purdue’s starting quarterback the last 4 games of the season.
This was Sindelar’s last pass from the 17/18 season. It helped Purdue win its first bowl game since 2011. He’s carrying a ton of momentum into the 18/19 season.
Sindelar has one of the strongest arms in the nation. He can make every throw on the route tree, and his deep ball, in particular, is elite. He can launch the ball down the field with the rush in his face and no room to step into the throw. His arm strength opens up the entire field. He can throw the out and the fade from the far hash accurately with no problem. If he remains healthy, I believe Sindelar will play in the NFL, and it’s all because of his cannon right arm.
Eli lets this pass go at the 48 and Mahoungou comes down with it around the 12. That’s 36 yards down the sideline with ease, and it’s right on the money. Notice how he doesn’t even have to take a big step into the throw, just a little crow hop and its out. This is elite arm strength.
Sindelar fits the mold of a Jeff Brohm quarterback. At Western Kentucky, Brohm worked with Brandon Doughty, a 6’3, 220 pound QB with a great arm and no mobility (-179 rushing yards at WKU, which, of course, includes sacks) and Mike White, a 6’4, 225 pound QB with a great arm and no mobility (-74 rushing yards in his one year under Brohm). Brohm got to where he is today because of his passing attack, and that attacks requires the quarterback to deliver the ball on time and generally from the pocket. At 6’4, 230 Sindelar is a classic pro style quarterback, whose strength is delivering the ball on time from pocket.
This is an absolutely gorgeous throw by Sindelar. He lets it go from the 23 and places it perfectly in the corner of the endzone. This route is available because Sindelar has the ability to make the throw from the far hash. Sindelar’s arm opens up the entire Brohm passing play book.
Reliant on Surrounding Talent
Sindelar is 100% reliant on the talent that surrounds him in an offense. If the receivers are playing great, like they did (for the most part) against Arizona, Sindelar looks great. If the receivers are playing poorly, like they did against Rutgers, Sindelar looks terrible. Same goes for the offensive line. If the line does a respectable job in pass protection, Sindelar looks great. If someone on the line whiffs, Sindelar is going to eat a sack.
I think the wide receiving talent should be better this year, but it’s still TBD with a few key new faces, and the line should be decent if it can stay healthy. If either falter, however, Sindelar is going to struggle.
This isn’t the best example, because it’s pretty much a jail break, but once that linebacker fires, it’s all over, Eli has no chance to make a play. If the line struggles, Eli is going to struggle because he’s not very creative outside of the play.
Note: I wanted to add some clips from the Rutgers game, but that game no longer exists on the interweb apparently.
Looking for Elijah Sindelar? You’re usually going to find him about 5 to 7 yards behind the center on most plays. Sindelar is a decent athlete (he was also a pretty good baseball player in high school) but no one is ever going to accuse him of being a mobile quarterback, especially now that he’s working on two surgically repaired knees. His lack of mobility limits some things in the run game, and takes the zone read off the table completely.
It’s hard to show someone not being mobile. I can’t show Purdue not running the zone read, but this was Eli’s longest run from last year (13 yards). I’m going to guess that he declines to run the 40 at the combine. He almost tripped over the 45 yard line when he decided to take off and attempted to accelerate.
I don’t have a clip for this, because it would just entail a bunch of incomplete passes. Sindelar must improve on his 56.8 completion percentage if he wants to secure and maintain the starting job throughout the season. He had way too many games (4 to be exact, not counting any game where he thew under 20 passes) where he completed just at, or below 50% of his passes, and that’s not going to get the job done. Some of that you can pin on wide receiver drops, but obviously not all. He’s got to get better at checking things down when the primary receiver isn’t open, instead of trusting his arm strength too much and forcing balls into covered receivers. He’s got to be willing to take the short gain sometimes when the big gain isn’t available, and he’s got to make quicker decisions with football once he comes off his initial read if he wants to improve his completion percentage.