The biggest question mark coming into fall camp has yet to be settled. Purdue has 2 quarterbacks with starting experience. The same 2 quarterbacks also happen to be captains for the 2018 season, and both quarterbacks are coming off major surgeries to their lower extremities (David Blough: Ankle - Elijah Sindelar: Knee).
Purdue played both quarterbacks last season, and I would be shocked if we didn’t see both Blough and Sindelar in most, if not every, game. That said, someone has to start, and I expect the starter to get the majority of the work, depending on how the game progresses.
This is how I evaluate Blough as a starting QB.
Blough, while not putting up huge rushing numbers, is elusive in the pocket. He is adept at making the first pass rusher miss, and making a play. His mobility brings something extra to the Purdue offense, especially around the goal line.
This play showcases Blough’s ability to make plays as an athlete. The rush is in his face before he can make the swing pass. Instead of taking the sack and settling for the field goal, or making an ill advised pass, Blough escapes the pocket and absolutely embarrasses the Missouri defender with a pump fake before sprinting into the endzone.
When things break down, Blough is able to make something out of nothing. He utilizes quick flips, pump fakes, and other creative ball handling to get himself out of trouble and move the ball down the field.
This is another classic Blough play. His ability to improvise and keep drives alive is an important part of the Boilermaker offense. When the play goes wrong, Blough can still make something happen with his legs. Sure, it’s a risky play, but it’s also what makes Blough a dynamic option at quarterback.
When Blough is on, he is really on, and can blow a team out quickly. When he’s hot, he’s an accurate play maker that looks to go for the throat of an opponent. Last season, he had two incendiary games, going 11-13 (84%) with 3 touchdowns vs Ohio and going 22 of 28 (78%) with 1 touchdown vs Missouri. He absolutely dominated those two games, and was the key reason why two early season match ups ended in Purdue blow out victories.
This isn’t something you normally think of when it comes to quarterback play, but Blough changes Purdue’s run game. His running ability allows Purdue to go to a zone read scheme that Sindelar simply can’t pull off. He’s also able to run more stretch plays because he can move his feet and get to the mesh point on time.
Blough brings the read option into Purdue’s run game. On this play Blough does an excellent job of selling the fake, seeing that the end crashes down the line, and pulls the ball for a touchdown. Blough’s ability to run the read option greatly increases Purdue’s options in the run game.
This has been a constant theme for Blough throughout his career. When he’s hot, he’s scorching, but when he’s cold and out of rhythm, he throws the ball to the wrong team. When he throws interceptions, they generally come in two varieties: bad throws over the middle or “hero ball” throws.
Over the Middle:
I have no idea what Blough is looking at on this throw. It appears that Blough has both the running back and tight end open underneath, but instead, opts to throw the ball to the blanketed wide receiver.
Yes, Blough is trying to get the ball to the sticks, but this is one of the throws where you dump it off and hope either your running back or tight end can make a play. Instead, Blough gives Minnesota great field position with the pick. This is a freshman mistake being made by an experienced Junior.
You take the good with the bad when it comes to Blough and his hero ball instincts. Sometimes he tries to make a throw that simply isn’t there instead of eating the ball and living to fight another day. Sometimes a punt is OK and sometimes you just have to take your 3 points and move on with the day.
This is Blough at his worst. This is just throwing the ball in a general area and hoping something good happens. Red zone interceptions are absolute killers, and Blough has a bad habit of trying to force things into the enzone. It’s almost like he decided to throw this ball pre-snap and doesn’t even look at the coverage.
Deep Ball Accuracy:
Blough is much better at short and intermediate routes. He has decent arm strength, but will miss wide open receivers down the field. I feel like he really has to load up to push the ball out past 20-25 yards, and it hurts his accuracy. Blough is more of a ball control, move the ball in 5-10 yard increments type of quarterback, and when you run into elite defenses, that decide to crowd the line of scrimmage and take away the short routes, that becomes and issue not only in the passing game, but also in the run game. Brohm’s offensive system is predicated on spreading the field both vertically and horizontally, and when the vertical threat is missing, the short stuff tends to struggle as well.
This isn’t the best example, because this game was already well in hand, but tracking down incomplete passes on film is difficult. On this play, Blough does everything well, except for the actual throw. He either needs to drill this ball into the receiver or put more air on the ball and let the receiver run under it. Instead, he sort of splits the difference and misses a wide open touchdown pass.
These are passes teams dare Blough to make. The scouting report on Blough is to shrink the field and make Blough throw it accurately down the field. If he can’t consistently make this throw, teams can successfully smother the Boilermaker offense.
Blough’s strength is his mobility and play making ability. He can make plays both inside and outside the offense, and brings a different wrinkle to the run game. His mobility is key around the goal line.
He still struggles, however, with decision making, and has to understand time and score. Sometimes you just have to tuck it or dump it off and take whatever you can. Blough wants to make every play, even when a play isn’t there to be made.
If Blough isn’t the starting quarterback, it’s because he has 3 years of bad decisions on film, because outside of those bad decisions, he’s a starting caliber quarterback, and has star potential.