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Purdue Football: Offseason Questions - Austin Burton

Austin could play an important role in the 2022 offense.

Purdue v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

I wasn’t a fan Purdue picking up Austin Burton as a multi-year transfer from UCLA in 2019. I liked his game, but didn’t see how it fit into the Jeff Brohm system. At the time, the Boilermakers had a glut of young quarterbacks on the depth chart, and adding Burton only further muddied the waters.

Things have gone about the way I expected. Burton didn’t take a single snap in 2020, and contributed 14 rushing yards and 44 passing yards (all the passing yards came against UConn). He’s a zone read quarterback in a decidedly not-zone read system. I was surprised when he announced his return for his Covid season (although he’s working on his Masters in Technology, Leadership, and Motivation and getting that for free is a huge bonus). At the same time, this has the potential (note POTENTIAL is the key word in this sentence) to work out well for all involved.

If Purdue needs to turn to a back-up quarterback long term in 2022, I’m not sure Burton is that guy. That role probably goes to one of the two young, potential long term, quarterback answers on the depth chart, but that doesn’t mean he won’t bring value to the field in 2022. If everything works out according to plan, Austin should play more than either young quarterback, even if he’s not the long term backup. The cool thing about not having a perpetual off-season and in-season quarterback competition is it allows Jeff Brohm to get more creative. The core of the offense is already in place. Everyone knows their role. It’s time for the brothers Brohm to let their freak flags fly.

Last season, the redzone was an issue for the offense. Purdue ran for 6 touchdowns, threw for 21 touchdowns and kicked 22 field goals. They had 57 redzone attempts and came away with points 49 times. That was good enough for 48th nationally, in terms of redzone scoring percentage, but in terms of points per redzone visit, the Boilermakers were abysmal. This isn’t a stat the official NCAA stat book keeps, but I thought it would be interesting to have a look at points scored in the redzone, amongst teams with similar attempts.

Points Scored By Teams with 55-60 Redzone Attempts in 2022

Note: I’m counting TDs as 6 points, b/c I’m not looking at 2 point conversions. I have highlighted all the teams Purdue had a better points/rz appearance in 2021 (with similar redzone appearances).

Purdue - 57 ATTs - 27 TDs (162 PTs) - 22 FGs (66 PTs) = 228 PTs

4 Points Per Redzone Attempt

Buffalo - 57 ATTs - 38 TDs (228) - 11 FGs (33) = 261 - 4.58 Pts/RZ ATT

Baylor - 58 ATTs - 37 TDs (222) - 11 FGs (33) = 255 - 4.4 Pts/RZ ATT

BYU - 55 ATTs - 41 TDs (246) - 8 FGs (24) = 270 - 4.9 Pts/RZ ATT

Houston - 55 ATTs - 39 TDs (234) - 10 FGs (30) = 264 - 4.8/RZ ATT

Ohio St. - 59 ATTs - 38 TDs (228) - 16 FGs (48) = 276 - 4.68/RZ ATT

Northern Ill - 56 ATTs - 32 TDs (192) - 19 FGs (57) = 249 - 4.45/RZ ATT

Miss St. - 58 ATTs - 36 TDs (216) - 13 FGs (39) = 255 - 4.4/RZ ATT

Tennessee - 58 ATTs - 39 TDs (234) - 10 FGs (30) = 264 - 4.55/RZ ATT

UCF - 58 ATTS - 42 TDs (252) - 7 FGs (21) = 273 - 4.7/RZ ATT

E. Mich - 57 ATTs - 35 TDs (210) - 13 FGs (39) = 249 - 4.37/RZ ATT

Oregon - 57 ATTs - 39 TDs (234) - 9 FGs (27) = 261 - 4.58/RZ ATT

Oregon St. - 57 ATTs - 40 TDs (240) - 8 FGs (24) = 264 - 4.63/RZ ATT

Air Force - 58 ATTs - 39 TDs (234) - 9 FGs (27) = 261 - 4.5/RZ ATT

Marshall - 55 ATTs - 38 TDs (228) 7 FGs (21) = 249 - 4.53/RZ ATT

Wash St. - 55 ATTs - 31 TDs (186) 12 FGs (36) = 222 - 4.04/RZ ATT

Maryland - 60 ATTs - 33 TDS (198) 12 FGs (36) = 234 - 3.9/RZ ATT

So anyway, shout out to Maryland for being slightly less efficient, in terms of scoring points in the redzone, than Purdue last season. I’m guessing that had something to do with their 3-6 Big10 record.

That was a good bit of work to show that Purdue struggled to put the ball in the endzone when in the redzone last season. Most of you know that already, but I wanted to put their futility into perspective. That’s something that needs to change in 2022 for Purdue to max out their potential. You don’t win big games kicking redzone field goals, and as you can see, Purdue kicked a ton of redzone field goals.

Austin Burton - Red Zone Solution?

Normally I’m not an advocate for pulling your best quarterback in the redzone, but this is the exception. Aidan O’Connell can do great things on the football field, but running the ball is not one of those things.

The problem with most air raid (which is what Purdue ran last year for the most part) offenses is passing the ball gets much harder inside the 20. The field shrinks, defenders have to cover less ground, and windows get tighter. Last season, it got to the point where I preferred Purdue’s offense at the 15 over Purdue’s offense at the 5. I was hoping for penalties inside the 10 to give the offense more room. That’s not a good.

I’ve covered a couple great quarterbacks on my other teams over the last few years. Trevor Lawrence was a next level college quarterback, but on of the overlooked facets of Trevor’s game was his ability to put the ball in the endzone when Clemson made it inside the 5 yard line. Even with an elite running back like Travis Etienne in the Clemson backfield, Trevor was usually the goal line option. He put up 9 rushing touchdowns as a Sophomore and 8 as Junior (in 5 less games). Most of those were inside the 5.

Skylar Thompson may be closer, in terms of talent, to Aidan, and in his last healthy season for K-State (2019) he had 11 rushing touchdowns, again, most of those coming in the redzone. He had 4 rushing touchdowns in the Wildcats epic upset of Oklahoma in 2019, and if I remember correctly, they all came from inside the 5 yard line, despite Kansas State having multiple short yardage options at running back.

Having your quarterback run the ball inside the 10, and especially inside the 5, is a huge advantage. You pick up an extra blocker, take the threat of a fumbled exchange out of the equation, and it expedites the decision making process. Quarterback power is my favorite goal line play. It’s devastatingly efficient and extremely low risk. That’s missing from the Purdue offense.

Enter Austin Burton.

Pulling your immobile starter for a better running option inside the 10 isn’t without precedent. I’m sure there are other, more recent, examples, but Urban Myer (back before we knew he was the worst person in football) won a National Championship at Florida in 2006 on the strength of Chris Leaks’ arm and Tim Tebow’s legs. Leak got the Gators inside the 10 and Tebow took the baton and finished the race. Granted, Austin Burton isn’t Tim Tebow, but he doesn’t have to be, he just needs to be better than O’Connell at running quarterback power (I estimate that 75% of you fall into that category). I don’t want anything fancy, give Burton the ball inside the 5 and run quarterback power until he scores a touchdown or Purdue runs out of downs. I might humor the occasional jump pass to a tight end, but other than that, RUN THE DANG BALL!

I think Purdue’s offense is going to be better in 2022 than it was in 2021. If Brohm can convert 5 of those redzone field goals into touchdowns using Burton, it could be the difference between a 7-8 win season and an 9-10 win season. There is a reason why Burton’s on the roster. The coaching staff was looking for a mobile option behind center. It’s time to use him in 2022.