Man, what could have (should have?) been last Thursday night. Purdue still has everything to play for, but it feels like another important early season win slipped through their fingers. Under Jeff Brohm, Purdue struggles in the first 1⁄3 of the season, spends the middle 1⁄3 of the season figuring things out, and the final 1⁄3 of the season dominating. I was hopeful this season would be different, but the Penn State game felt like a replay of a few other early season disasters (the Nevada game in particular).
At the same time, this is a talented team and that was on display last Thursday night. On paper, Penn State had a significant talent advantage, but I didn’t see that on the field. That’s huge for Purdue. They are no longer a team that can be overwhelmed by superior talent (in most cases). That’s an important step for the program.
The defense, in particular, looked amazing for long stretches of the game. They were tasked with winning the game in the 4th quarter, and they almost carried the offense over the finish line (which is a weird thing to say about a game that ended 35-31). There is plenty for the defense to build on moving forward, and a few things they need to shore up before they are tested again on the road against Syracuse.
Real Depth Chart
I’m about to divulge some top secret information. Before reading, I’m going to need everyone to swear an oath that they won’t divulge any of this information to Indiana State. The difference between a W and and L could come down to Indiana State not have Purdue’s depth chart.
Depth Chart Oath
I (insert your name) do solemnly swear to not divulge Purdue’s super secret depth chart to any future opponent. The penalty for breaking this oath is a forced watch party (Clockwork Orange Style) of the 2015 Purdue football season, in its entirety, including all Darrell Hazell and John Shoop press conferences. No booze allowed.
You’ve been warned.
Purdue Defensive Line Depth Chart vs Penn State w/ Stats
Note: All stats from Purdue Sports.
LEO - Red Dot
- #44 - Kydran Jenkins - 0 Tackles, 3 QB hurries, 1 Holding Forced
- #46 - Scotty Humpich - 5 Tackles (3 Solo, 2 Assisted), 1.5 TFL, 1 Sack, 2 QB Hurries
This should be the premier pass rushing position for Purdue. Last season George Karlaftis was a one man wrecking crew. Against Penn State, Kydran Jenkins was disappointing. Through game 1, the player with the impossible task of replacing Karlaftis was “meh”. He forced the Penn State right tackle into a holding penalty on the first drive, but after that, didn’t make much of an impact.
Humpich, on the other hand, had a more active game. He had Purdue’s only sack, and 1.5 of Purdue’s 3 tackles for loss. Between Jenkins and Humpich, Humpich was the more active, disruptive player. He reminds me of Rob Ninkovich in terms of motor and unwillingness to stay blocked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him grab a starting spot if this continues.
Defensive Tackle - Purple Dot
- #58 - Branson Deen - 0 Tackles, 2 QB Hurries
- #93 - Prince Boyd Jr. - 5 Tackles (2 Solo, 3 Assisted)
Deen missed a large chunk of camp, and was questionable coming into the game. He looked like a player that missed a large chunk of camp. In theory, he’s Purdue’s 2nd most disruptive defensive lineman behind Jenkins. That wasn’t the case against Penn State. He had a hard time getting off blocks and finding ball carriers. Purdue needs Deen to have a Gelen Robinson type of season at defensive tackle. They need him to get (and stay) healthy. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets limited run against Indiana State in order to further recover from his injury.
Much like Humpich at LEO, Boyd Jr. was the far more productive player, despite being the backup defensive tackle. There were several higher profile players (in terms of recruiting) trying to crack the depth chart at defensive tackle, but Boyd Jr. put down a solid marker in the first game. He held the point of attack well in the run game and managed to shed blocks better than Deen.
Nose Tackle - Blue Dot
- #90 - Lawrence Johnson - 1 Tackle (0 Solo, 1 Assisted)
- #91 - Cole Brevard - No Stats
Nose tackle is a thankless job. You spend most of the game getting double teamed. Your job is to not get blown out of the A gap. Penn State didn’t do much damage running in the A gap. Both Johnson and Brevard did a solid job of holding the center of the line and kept Penn State from dominating the game with the inside zone run.
Despite losing Damarjhe Lewis to a season ending ankle injury in camp, Purdue looks solid at nose tackle. I don’t want to go deeper into the bench though. Johnson and Brevard need to stay healthy. True freshman Mo Omonode is the next guy of the bench, and while I think he’ll be good, I don’t want to put that to the test this year.
Defensive End - Green Dot
- #99 - Jack Sullivan - 3 Tackles (3 Solo, 0 Assisted), 1 QB Hurry
- #96 - Khordae Sydnor - 3 Tackles (2 Solo, 1 Assisted)
Sullivan does his job. He’s a hard nosed dude that sets the edge on the strong side and doesn’t get bullied off the line. The defensive end position in this defense looks more like a defensive tackle than a traditional defensive end, and Sullivan is good in this role. He’s not going to terrorize the quarterback, but he’s going to hold up on the strong side and (in theory) let the back side LEO pass rusher get after the quarterback.
It was nice seeing Sydnor get playing time against Penn State. He’s not as strong at the point of attack of Sullivan, but he’s the more athletic of the two players, and could provide a little extra pass rush off the strong side. He didn’t get a chance to show off his pass rush skills against Penn State, but he looks like the future of the position.
Vs the Run
The defensive line looked great against the run. Penn State has several big, former 4* dudes on the offensive line and they couldn’t get much going on the ground. They finished with 107 total rushing yards, but none of their backs averaged 4+ yards a carry. The only issue I have with the defensive line in the run game against Penn State was Jenkins and Deen combining for 0 tackles. They need to consistently get in the backfield for Purdue’s blitz averse defense to work. I was hoping for more than 1.5 TFLs from this group.
Vs the Pass
This defense isn’t built to sack the quarterback. Purdue was 114th in the nation (out of 140) in team sacks last season with George Karlaftis on the team. They rarely send pressure from the linebacker or safety level. This looked like the same defense from last year, and honestly, 114th is optimistic for this squad. 8 quarterback pressures isn’t terrible, but Deen and Jenkins have to turn a few of their pressure’s into sacks.
Sean Clifford was generally comfortable in the pocket, and when he was pressured, it was by a single Boilermaker. You’re going to need more than 1 guy showing up in the pocket to get a mobile QB like Clifford on the ground.
Purdue trades pass rush for back end coverage. If the LEO or defensive tackle doesn’t get to the quarterback, no one is getting to the quarterback. It’s a “bend, don’t break” scheme. I hate it, but I don’t get paid to coach college football.