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Purdue Football: Real Talk on Spring Practice

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Purdue has to get some stuff figured out to avoid another disappointing season, and it starts this spring.

Indiana v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

As we all witnessed, things were not last season. I’m more than willing to give Brohm and the coaching staff a free pass on that one (although Brohm wasn’t, heads rolled this offseason) because the rash of injuries derailed the season. I’m fairly confident that the Boilermakers scratch out at least 6 wins with Eli, Rondale, Markus, and Lorenzo in action.

Purdue, unfortunately, is starting off the 2020 season, much like it started the 2019 season. Their best players are injured and there are nothing but questions on the offensive line. Throw in a new defense coordinator and things aren’t going to exactly be “smooth” this spring.

First, the Injuries

Rondale Moore - Limited - Finger Surgery

David Bell - Out - Shoulder Surgery

Jackson Antrhop - Out - Lower Leg Surgery

Jack Plummer - Limited - Lower Leg Surgery

Viktor Beach - Out - Back Surgery

Lorenzo Neal - Out - Knee Rehab

At what point does bad luck turn into bad training and scheduling? I follow Clemson, they just finished up the 2019 6 weeks ago and started spring practice yesterday. They’ve got the vast majority of their players ready to roll this spring. A couple guys are still nursing injuries, but all the big names are suited up and ready to roll.

Purdue hasn’t played a game since November 20th, and several of these guys have been out much longer than that.

The wide receiver position in particular is troubling. Purdue has to find a quarterback and stop the game of musical chairs that has been the position under Jeff Brohm (sometimes through choice, sometimes through injury). How can you figure out which quarterback works best with your starting receivers, when your starting receivers are either on the sidelines or “limited”?

Plummer being injured is bad luck, but at this point, Purdue has to have some consistency at the position. One voice in the huddle leading the team is important, and it sucks for Jack, but if he’s not ready to roll this spring I hope that means A.O.C. or Piferi gets the nod at QB and Brohm doesn’t look back.

The same thing goes with Beach. It sucks for him, but the quarterback needs reps with the starting center, if he’s not ready to go this spring, I’m ready to turn the page unless he comes back and proves to be significantly better than whoever ends up starting this spring.

Finally, I have no idea what’s going on with Neal, but Purdue fans have every right to be nervous. We’ve seen knee rehabs stretch out indefinitely, and Purdue isn’t exactly good at filling the speculation void with information. The Boilermakers are going to try and transition into a new 3 man front where Neal will play a crucial role at a thin position. Having him stuck on the sidelines for his second straight spring practice is...not ideal. You’ve got to wonder how long it’s going to take him to get back into game shape once he’s cleared to play. Sometimes it takes big guys longer to get back into the swing of things.

Dale Williams

It’s time for Purdue’s offensive line to either get better or get a new coach. Sorry if that’s blunt, but this thing isn’t going to work without an offensive line, and Purdue’s line hasn’t shown much progress, in fact, it’s regressed with the loss of grad transfers and Hazel players.

I was on board with the entire “only recruit skinny tackles” strategy but it’s got to pay off now. The best linemen in the program under Williams have either been Hazel hold overs or grad transfers.

Yeah, I get, there wasn’t much to work with when he arrived, but I’m worried there still isn’t much to work with right now. Hermanns figured out how to start at left tackle as a redshirt freshman and McCann hit the field as a true freshman, but we’ve yet to see a Brohm/Williams recruit shine.

This is the year it has to happen or it’s time to move on and try something else. I’m a huge fan of coaching continuity, and I’m rooting for coach Williams, but at some point, I need to see something on the field.

That has to start this spring.

I want to see a set lineup of 5 guys working together, and I want to see that lineup carry over into fall camp. I saw enough offensive line juggling last year to last a lifetime. Figure out who your best 5 are and play them as a unit. 5 offensive linemen working together is the heart of a football team, and if you can’t get that on a consistent basis, you’re not going to get much else on a consistent basis either.

Bob Diaco

This is the first gamble of the Brohm era at Purdue. If it pays off, it’s a stroke of genius, but the thing about gambling is you can also lose. I’ll have more on Bob’s defense at La Tech over the next few weeks, but let me put a few things to rest.

No, you’re not going to see Purdue lining up in the 3-4 on every down like an NFL team. The 3-4 is his base defense, but much like teams that play the 4-3, you don’t spend a ton of time in your base defense these days. You’ll see some 4 man fronts, you’ll see some 5 man fronts, you’ll mostly see a 3-3-5 against spread teams. Diaco’s scheme is flexible, and that’s what Brohm keeps saying in his pressers.

The question, of course, is which coach is the real Bob Diaco? Is he the guy who won the Broyles award and helped Notre Dame make it to the National Championship? Is he the guy that flamed out spectacularly at Nebraska? Brohm is obviously gambling that Diaco is the Notre Dame guy and needs a stable situation to put together a defense. Bob has inexplicably jumped onto some sinking ships in his coaching career, but I guess that means he’s...confident?

He’s walking into a decent position at Purdue, if (and only if) Neal can come back close to 100% and anchor the nose position. If that falls into place, the D-line is pretty stacked, the linebackers are thin, but probably serviceable and there are some solid options at safety. I have no faith in the current crop of DB’s but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised with Diaco calling a less predictable game than Holt.

He’s got to get the moving pieces into place this spring and then get his defense fully installed this fall. He desperately needs all hands on deck for spring and fall practice, because this thing needs to come together quickly with Purdue’s early slate of games. Let’s hope Notre Dame Bob comes in and kills it.

I’ll have some more as spring practice gets moving.