Another season, another wide open quarterback battle in fall camp. The old coaching cliché, “if you’ve got 2 quarterbacks, you have no quarterback” is antiquated in modern college football. Successful teams have incorporated two quarterbacks into a game plan for some time now.
Last season, Clemson, for instance, ran a “2 quarterback system” with consensus overall #1 pick Trevor Lawrence as the starter. Once a game, 6’5”, 250 pound true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei would come in and run zone read and quarterback power, daring opposing linebackers to fill the hole and tackle a massive Samoan running down hill. That look fell apart down the stretch after D.J. injured his non-throwing shoulder in the Miami game, but it was still on tape, and the other team, at minimum, had to mention it in the defensive team meetings.
The key to running a two quarterback system is having a starter and a change of pace quarterback. I have no issue with Brohm playing a two quarterback system as long as he nails down the starter. Trust, as I mentioned last week, is my theme for the 2021 Purdue season, and no position requires more trust than quarterback. Unfortunately for Purdue, it’s something that has only been established once in Coach Brohm’s four year tenure with the Boilermakers. That ended with Sindelar injuring his knee on a mind numbingly stupid play call (why Jeff, why?) in garbage time in a win against Vandy, and breaking his collar bone in the worst play in Purdue football history (in terms of injury) against Minnesota.
This isn’t a quarterback preview though, because I can’t write another one of those. Purdue has 4 potential starters on the roster. Only one of those 4 hasn’t started a game in college. It’s a true pu-pu platter of quarterbacking talent. Each brings a something different to the table, and I don’t particularly care which one wins the job, as long as one of the four wins the job and the trust of the head coach.
This has to be a season of trust at the quarterback position. Coach Brohm needs to decide which of the four quarterback he likes, name him the starter, and run him out as the starter (barring injury) in every game. The season is going to have ups and downs. That’s where trust comes into play. If you trust your quarterback, you don’t have an “open competition” in practice during the season. If Brohm’s guy has a bad day, he has to have enough trust in his evaluation to run him out for the next game. Whoever he chooses to start the Oregon State game needs to be looking forward. If the Notre Dame game ends up being rough (not saying it will be) the starter needs to be focused on turning it around against Illinois instead of worrying about losing his job to one of the guys he beat out in fall camp.
Naming a starter and sticking with him doesn’t mean Purdue has to only play one quarterback. Coach Brohm is on record saying that he isn’t adverse to playing 2 quarterbacks this season. That, to me, indicates that Austin Burton will see the field. If you’re going to run a two quarterback system, the quarterbacks need to have different skill sets, and Burton is the mobile, read option guy coming from Chip Kelly’s system. At minimum (unless he wins the job outright) I expect to see Burton in every game. In theory, I like the idea of having a change up option waiting in the wings, but with Brohm it makes me nervous.
There has to be a plan in place for playing two quarterbacks, and Coach Brohm has to stick with the plan. When Clemson deployed the “Big Ocho” package, the outcome of the drive didn’t change the game plan. If D.J. came in and went 3 and out, he was heading back to the bench. If D.J. came in and led the team on an 80 yard touchdown drive, he was heading back to the bench. It’s tempting to “ride the hot hand” but that’s when things start going sideways. Purdue has to trust the starter, regardless of how Burton (or one of the other quarterbacks if Burton wins the starting job) plays. This isn’t an audition for the starting job, it’s a two quarterback system that allows the coach to give the defense something extra to prepare for on a weekly basis. As soon as it becomes an audition, all trust in the starter is lost. Playing two quarterbacks as fine, as long as everyone goes into the the situation knowing their role, including the head coach.
If Purdue is going to regain the trust it has squandered over the last 3 seasons, it starts with trusting a quarterback. I’ll be watching along with the rest of you, and don’t expect Brohm to name anyone officially until you see one of the four under center against Oregon State. I’d love to see Brohm trust his team enough not to resort to his cloak and dagger routine in the media, but that’s another article. This has to be the year that Purdue starts and finishes with the same guy pulling the trigger.
I trust Coach Brohm to get his specialty position figured out.