Yesterday I posted an article talking about the nominal “starters” on the offensive line.
I looked at the players that ran out with the first team on the first day of fall camp. The thing is, this position group won’t be settled until late in camp (optimally) or sometime in the first 1⁄3 of the season (less than optimal).
I will now repeat my controversial claim from that article using slightly different words. Unless a few guys are way ahead of schedule, I don’t think the coaching staff did a great job of supplementing the offensive line with experienced talent for the 2019 season.
This offensive line is desperate for a grad transfer or a juco interior lineman, but those weren’t available because Purdue over signed a few positions and didn’t have room for an instant impact lineman. If the staff wasn’t planning on bringing in an experienced lineman this year, they should have worked more guys in last year (although that was tough because of the hole Purdue was in early last year). The truth is, the staff was looking for a grad transfer after signing day, but scholarship numbers made that difficult proposition.
Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying that any current player is a “failure” or any such nonsense. I just don’t like the look of an offensive line that has to start 3 guys (whoever they might be) with little to no college experience. I think the current players on the roster are fine, but I would like to see them get their feet wet as backups before being tossed into the deep end of the Big10. That’s not an option.
There isn’t anything the staff can do at this point other than put together the best line possible with the parts on hand. It will mostly likely involve a good bit of mixing and matching until they settle on a line they are comfortable with on a game to game basis. The sooner they can settle on a starting 5 and sub rotation, the sooner Purdue can get down to the business of ringing up points on the scoreboard.
These are the guys I didn’t cover yesterday
As a Recruit
DT - 2*(79) - 6’2, 300 - Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
DT - 6’4, 310
DT - 6’3, 310
DT - 6’3, 300
OG - 6’3, 305
You’ve got to love Alex Criddle if you’re a Purdue fan. He spent the first three years of his college career playing sparingly at defensive tackle, and then selflessly moved to guard this offseason. He was a two way player in high school, so offensive line isn’t totally foreign for the big man, but it’s been a while since he’s attempted to block someone in a game.
Purdue is going to need him to block people this year. In a sense, Criddle is the grad transfer offensive lineman on this team. He hasn’t played offensive line, but he does have some experience playing in the Big10, and is physically mature. That’s a positive.
He is currently running with the 1st team at left guard. If Criddle ends up as a starter at left guard, it will provide Purdue with a more physical run blocking line. Criddle is a big, strong guy, and spent most of his time in high school pancaking guys. He’s got prototypical size for an interior lineman. It’s always easier for guys making the transition from defensive line to offensive line to move forward and maul, and Criddle is a mauler.
Pass protection is another story. It’s almost unfair to ask him to be up to speed in pass protection and offensive line technique because he hasn’t been an offensive lineman at the college level. I would be more comfortable with him in pass protection if he was sandwiched between two experienced players, but Beach isn’t exactly an experienced center.
Expect defensive coordinators to stem their defensive linemen late and run stunts and twists to confuse Criddle. It doesn’t matter how physical he is if he’s blocking the wrong guy or air. He’s been named Academic All-Big10 the last two seasons, and is majoring in finance, so you know he’s got it between the ears, it just might take some time for it pass protection to come naturally to him.
If you’re a fan of college sports, you should be a fan of Alex Criddle. I know I’ll be rooting for him to have a break out season this year.
As a Recruit
OT - 3*(83) - 6’6, 245 - Carmel, Indiana
Stickford was a member of Brohm’s first recruiting class. The former Carmel wide receiver turned offensive lineman was brought in as a developmental offensive line prospect, and he’s been adding size in his two years.
After a redshirt as a freshman and not seeing action in his second season in the program, this should be the year where Stickford makes his move into the 2 deeps. That, unfortunately, isn’t happening. Right now Stickford has a boot on his right foot and is expected to miss significant time. This is a blow to the Purdue’s depth.
As a developmental program, Purdue needs their offensive linemen to progress. Stickford is behind schedule (through no fault of his own) because of injury, and when you’re not taking a full allotment of offensive linemen every year, any setback hurts. Purdue needs Stickford to get healthy sooner rather than later and provide some depth off the bench at both tackle and guard.
As a Recruit
OT - 3*(81) - 6’5, 275 - Louisville, Kentucky
Washington was also member of Purdue’s first recruiting class. He redshirted as a true freshman and appeared in one game as a redshirt freshman. He’s done a nice job of building up his strength during his time at Purdue and should be a factor in the offensive line this year.
Right now, he’s actually penciled in as a starter at right guard. He’s a little light for the guard position at his height, but is a plus athlete and has been in the program for two years. In a perfect world, this is the year Washington should crack the 2 deeps as a reserve and pick up some much needed experience. This isn’t a perfect world, and Washington looks like the favorite to start the season at right guard.
I like Washington at guard better than the redshirt freshman, because it shows that Purdue’s offensive line development is working. It’s never good when young guys come in and jump over guys that have been grinding in the program unless they are elite talents. Washington making a move up the depth chart and grabbing a starting spot is probably the best case scenario for Purdue. He doesn’t have any notable game experience, but at least he’s been in the program for two years.
He needs to make up for his lack of ideal size with athleticism. As a former tackle, he should be decent in pass protection. While he might not be a mauler on the inside, he should be able to pull and lead plays from his guard position. He’ll be challenged by defensive coordinators and has to hold up mentally against interior stunts and twists if he wants to lock down the position moving forward.
As a Recruit
OT - 6’6, 260 - Mason, Ohio
Miller was one of my favorite recruits in the 2018 class. The former basketball/football star from William Mason High School oozes potential at the left tackle position. He’s done an excellent job of adding weight during his redshirt year, and is probably about 10 pounds away from his ideal playing weight at Purdue.
This year Miller should continue to build his strength and serve as an understudy to Hermanns at left tackle. He’s a year away from being someone I would trust at left tackle, which is why Hermanns’s health is crucial. Miller is going to be good. Out of all the offensive linemen on the roster, I think he has the highest upside, but like the other young linemen, he needs time to grow into his body.
My biggest question for Miller this year is his ability to hold up against a bull rushing defensive end. If I were a defensive coordinator, I would line up my end right in front of Miller and make him prove that he can block the power inside move. Miller should be able to cut defensive ends off at the corner, but his ability to handle the inside rush will dictate his ability to play this year.
He’s an athletic run blocker, but again, he’s probably not physically ready to put his hand on the ground and fire off on the goal line yet. That will come with more time in the weight room. Here’s hoping he can get some solid experience this year as a reserve behind Hermanns, continue to get stronger, and be prepared to take over the position from Hermanns (or even allow Hermanns to move to right tackle next year) in two years.
I’ll talk about the true freshman should the need arise, but right now, they’re not ready to go, and if Purdue needs them to play, things have gone terribly wrong. Expect them to redshirt.
Sam Garvin and Marc Roland are two intriguing walk-on players that could find a spot in the two deeps, but much like the true freshman, if either see substantial action, we’ve made it to the worst case scenario.