Last year there were no Big Ten football media days. In fact, there was very nearly no Big Ten football. I haven’t been to media days in a while, but with the ability to work remote and the site of Media Days being less than 5 miles from my house I decided to go. It was the first time I have been to a credentialed event since March 12, 2020 when the Big Ten Basketball Tournament was cancelled as I was sitting courtside.
As part of the need for social distancing this year (even though the vast majority of media was unmasked, so yay vaccines, I hope) the event was moved to the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium. I have to say that it definitely worked, too. The entire event was on the field with the appropriate bunting up and the end zones painted. As I write this I am sitting on the 18 yard line and could attempt a field goal if I had a ball.
It was really only the venue that changed though. The questions were the same and the same rote answers were recycled by every coach:
“Coach talk about what your team learned in the offseason.”
“We’re just excited to be back here at media days and excited to get started.”
“We’ve really established a culture here...”
“What adjustments has your team made...”
And so on. The only major difference was each coach at least referenced their vaccination rates (Coach Brohm said Purdue was “around” 90% and he himself was vaccinated) and was excited to get fans back in the stands.
I went over to the more intimate sit down session with coach Brohm, where they turn the lights down, put on some Barry White, and Brohm puts on a smoking jacket to field more detailed questions. There were a few good tidbits from them:
- Brohm is open to playing two or even more quarterbacks, but hopes to settle on one by about 2 weeks into camp. He said that some QBs may have their own package. As Drew said in our group chat, if you read between the lines that means Austin Burton, the most mobile of the QBs, might be there for a series or two.
- He mentioned that Marcellus Moore, TJ Sheffield, and Jackson Anthrop were the likely return men. He said special teams was a focus as we need to find a replacement at kicker and every other aspect of special teams was mostly a disaster last year. true freshman Deion Burks might also get some run there.
- He cited Sheffield, Mershawn Rice, and Marshall transfer Broc Thompson as new contributors at receiver, along with David Bell, Anthrop, and Milton Wright.
- He was adamant about being more involved in the defense, but he also trusts the new coordinators as each have strengths as former assistants and head coaches. He says the secondary lacks some depth, but they will try to build it. Jalen Graham is also now the hybrid outside linebacker/safety and they feel he can be very good.
- He was big on getting guys to the field early. His line was, “If we feel you’re ready we can put you as the No. 1 guy at a spot and you can prove you’re not ready.” He cited that this is both due to the prevalence of more guys getting early playing time in college football and out of guys being more ready.
Those were the biggest nuggets, really. Everyone wants to be more aggressive on defense. Everyone wants to be dynamic on offense. Everyone needs to shore up special teams while not risking front line guys to injury. This is usually what comes out in the 15 minute televised filibuster session. Among those highlights from around the league:
- Mel Tucker talked the longest, taking up the most time before questions. It was all about lunch pail toughness, culture at Michigan State, blue collar, etc. He gave me some real Darrell Hazell vibes (sorry Sparty).
- Kirk Ferentz was just excited to be back at his 23rd one of these.
- Tom Allen was really intense and shouted out a long snapper. He coaches at IU, but I like the guy.
- Ryan Day looked like a pro wrestler.
- Finally, coach Brohm got the dreaded “any other questions?” with a no, then the early walk off. That is often a gigantic red flag. It means the league media at large is bored with Purdue and we currently don’t have anything flashy or any real expectations. It is also normally a sign of a dead coach walking.
I don’t think Brohm is a dead coach walking, but it is a big year for him no doubt. If anything, I read his body language as trying to do a little too much. Again, this is mere speculation and likely means nothing. I do feel like if Purdue misses a bowl this year we begin the countdown until the buyout is lower.
And that is what it comes down to. Purdue has a mix of proven talent (Bell and Karlaftis), a bunch of transfers, and some newcomers. People say the schedule is hard but I only see two games (Notre Dame and Ohio State) where I would be absolutely shocked if Purdue won. Getting off to a hot start is key with our three weakest opponents in the first four games, so we’ll know early.
I at least can claim the National Championship for us: