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What’s Up With Purdue? Offense Edition

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People keep asking me about Purdue’s issues on offense are. This is what I see.

TCU v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The first thing I want to make abundantly clear is this isn’t a “Fire Brohm!” post. Anyone that thinks Brohm has been anything other than amazing for Purdue needs a lobotomy.

At the same time, we’re paying Brohm top 10 money right now, and that brings with a magnifying glass. It’s not Brohm’s fault that Louisville imploded under Petrino and then drove his price well over market value (take Louisville out of the mix and his contract numbers drop significantly), but that’s where we are right now.

Purdue has a coach they’re paying top 10 money sitting at 1-2 with a loss to a terrible Nevada squad (they lost their next game 77-6 to Oregon and managed to knock of Weber State 19-13 last week) and a beat down home loss to TCU.

Things are currently not great for the Boilermakers.

Granted, they have time to get better, and losing to TCU isn’t the end of the world, but 1-2 was the worst case scenario going into the season, and we’re at 1-2. The fact that we somehow lost to Nevada and beat Vandy to get there doesn’t make it any better.

The question of the day is, “how did we get here?”

I’ve got a few ideas.

Offense

Offensive Line

This is the obvious problem.

Brohm walked into a tough situation. He didn’t like the guys on the roster with the exception of Hermanns, McCann, and Barron. You’ll notice Hermanns and McCann are the only two guys left from the previous staff. That’s all fine and good, and revamping of the offensive line was certainly in order. The first two years it made sense. I’m not sure what’s going on during year 3, but whatever it is, it’s not it...not it at all.

The first two years, Brohm played it safe with the offensive line. His best line was probably his first line because he was able to bring in Shane Evans and Dave Steinmetz as immediate starters. Those two added to Hermanns, McCann, and Barron made a solid starting five.

Eric Swingler was also found gold for Purdue. While he wasn’t great, he was able to play both guard and tackle and the coaches trusted him. When Hermanns went down, Purdue had a serviceable option at tackle.

At worst, the line went 6 deep with players Brohm was comfortable with on the field.

LT - Hermanns / Swingler

LG - Evans / Swingler

C - Barron / Swingler

RG - McCann / Swingler

RT - Steinmetz / Swingler

Last years line was also serviceable. Brohm brought in Dennis Edwards as a grad transfer at guard to replace Steinmetz (with McCann kicking out to tackle).

Purdue again ended up with 6 players they were comfortable playing.

LT - Hermanns / Swingler

LG - Evans / Swingler

C - Barron / Swingler

RG - Edwards / Swingler

RT - McCann / Swinger

This season, Purdue ran into a scholarship crunch, and couldn’t bring in a grad transfer. Saying Purdue missed on grad transfer linemen is a bit of a stretch. They just didn’t have much to offer other than “we might have a spot open in fall camp.” Graduate transfers tend to want more of an assurance than that.

If Brohm wanted a grad transfer he needed to make sure he had room to take a grad transfer(s). The staff managed to pull Steinmetz late the first year, but he was transferring up from and FCS school. He was a huge exception to the general rule.

When I looked at the depth chart this year, I saw 2 Big10 caliber linemen in Hermanns and McCann. The other 3 spots were huge question marks, and the depth was non-existent. That was doubly true on the interior line, where a couple big recruiting misses killed the potential depth.

In reality, this was Purdue’s line coming into this season.

LT - Hermanns

LG - ?

C - Beach?

RG - McCann

RT - ?

There will always be questions on college rosters when you recruit at Purdue’s level. One thing that helps answer some of those questions is playing guys as reserves before they have to play starters minutes. You haven’t seen that sort of development with Purdue. In Brohm’s first two seasons, the starters played until someone got injured, and then Swingler filled in at that spot.

Again, I’ll fully admit that Brohm walked into a tough situation, but in his first two seasons, he managed the line well enough to make it work. This season, he gambled on guys that, at best, had a handful of snaps under their belts at offensive line. It appears that he lost that gamble.

Brohm knew what the line was going to look like with Evans, Edwards, Barron and Swingler leaving the program, but didn’t address the problem in recruiting. In order to solve the line problem this year, Purdue needed to punt on some talented players in the 2019 class at positions where depth wasn’t an issue. Brohm decided to go with long term potential over short term production. I think Brohm believed he could patch things together enough to win 6 or 7 games with the current line, while at the same time stockpiling players for the future. That’s still a possibility, but it’s going to be a tough road ahead.

Brohm knew the line was going to be bad this year. He watches practice. He understands football. There is no way this is a surprise. It’s just something he thought he could deal with in the short term.

Running Back

This is another position that Brohm gambled on and lost, and honestly, I’m having a hard time figuring out his thought process.

Purdue lost Knox and Jones to graduation and didn’t bring in anyone they were comfortable with carrying the ball this year. He gambled on oft injured Tario Fuller carrying the load for the Purdue running game, and Fuller got injured.

Yes, it was a freak accident / injury that took Fuller out this year, but let’s be honest, Tario being injured wasn’t a huge surprise. He’s spent most of his college career dealing with injuries. Asking him to be the sole lead running back on the roster was a huge gamble.

I look at James Gilbert, a graduate transfer from Ball State and originally from Indianapolis, churning out yards for Kansas State, and wonder why he wasn’t an option at Purdue. Brohm signed 1 running back in his first two recruiting classes (Evan Anderson, who transferred out) and is now left with a former walk-on starting Big10 games. This was a choice Brohm made because Knox, Jones, Fuller, and Worship were already on the roster. He was able to over sign some positions because running back wasn’t in immediate need. That now appears to be somewhat short sided if the goal was to win this year.

Note:

Worship is the only possible reason why we didn’t bring in a running back this year. If he were healthy, a depth chart of Fuller, Worship, and Horvath makes sense. Unfortunately, Worship isn’t healthy, and at this point, I’m not sure he’ll ever be healthy. I hope the big man can make it back, but counting on him to be back, well, that was a huge gamble on long odds.

Quarterback

The only way that this roster devoid of offensive linemen and running backs works is with Eli pulling the trigger. He anticipates throws and has a cannon for an arm. The opposing team is going to bracket Rondale and try to make other Boilermakers beat them. Eli can throw into double coverage and fit the ball into a tight window. As we saw against TCU, Plummer can’t do the same thing. With Plummer at quarterback, when Rondale is doubled, he’s not open. Eli might make big mistakes on occasion (most involve him scrambling or anticipating a throw incorrectly) but he’s the difference between a 6-7 win season and a 4-5 win season.

I’ll never understand putting him in peril. In the 4th quarter of the Nevada game, Brohm thought he was the second coming of DeShaun Watson and managed to escape with a healthy quarterback. He wasn’t as lucky against Vandy. I’ll never understand why Brohm ran his oft injured senior quarterback on 3rd and 14 with a 3 possession lead and 2:40 left on the clock.

That play call cost the Boilermakers any chance of beating TCU.

Moving Forward

It’s all about Eli this season.

I hope Brohm remembers the TCU game every time he’s tempted to run the ball with Eli, because the TCU game is Purdue’s future on offense this year without Eli behind center. He’s in enough danger behind a leaky offensive line with no running back to keep defensive ends honest without having him run the ball.

Please, Please, Please, stop running Eli. He’s our only hope. Without him, this season is lost.