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Purdue Football: Coaching Staff - Graham Harrell

Coach Walters landed an intriguing offensive coordinator intent on playing basketball on grass (now with more running!)

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

* Note: If you’re looking for in-depth biographies of the new coaching staff, click here. Purdue’s official site does a great job, no need for me to rehash what they’ve already done. This is an analysis article, not an information article.

Offensive Coordinator Graham Harrell

*Note: I’ve got a bunch of film stuff in the works looking at Harrell’s time at West Virginia, USC (the real one) and North Texas.

Saving, ahem, I, I mean saving, Harrell from West Virginia was one of the first moves on Coach Walters’s to-do list. I like the move. Coach didn’t sort through the clearance section of unemployed coaches to come up with his offensive coordinator. Neal Brown’s ship is listing like the Titanic post iceberg, and it’s only a matter of time before it sinks below the surface. Coach Walter’s tossed Coach Harrell a life preserver and he latched while Coach towed him back to the calm waters of West Lafayette. That’s a smart move from a young coach. For the most part, assistant coaches value job security over everything else, and Ryan Walters will be at Purdue long after Neal Brown graduates from Nick Saban’s coaching rehab clinic.

I know the first response to this move was “IT’S THE AIR RAID!”

That’s fair, most remember Harrell slinging the rock for Mike Leach at Texas Tech, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. Graham runs elements of Leach’s air raid, but he’s not an ideologue like his pirate mentor (R.I.P. of course). You won’t confuse his offense for a classic Wisconsin ground and pound scheme, but he does have at least one page in the playbook dedicated to run plays, and he’s not afraid to call them.

You’re going to hear me talk (or see me type I suppose) about North Texas when it comes to Coach Harrell. I know that was two stops ago, but I think it’s the best example of his offense. At USC, he coached under Clay Helton, a guy with a heavy background on the offensive side of the ball. The offense you saw from Graham with the Trojans was clearly a collaboration between Harrell and Helton. At West Virginia, Neal Brown was another head coach with a background in offensive play calling, and it’s rumored he would unplug Coach Harrell’s controller on occasion and call plays, or at the very least, give strong recommendations. It’s no coincidence Neal Brown is expected to call plays for the Mountaineers in 2023 in an effort to save his job (based on a limited sample size that has worked exactly 0 times).

At North Texas, while Seth Littrell also had a back ground on offense, the precipitous decline of the Mean Green after Harrell dipped for SoCa, leads me to believe what happened at North Texas was the pure, unadulterated Harrell offense. I’m sure he’s picked things up since then, but I have a hunch that Purdue offense is going to look more like the Harrell’s North Texas offense, and less like “his” USC or West Virginia offenses.

To give you a taste of what I expect, his 2017 North Texas offense averaged 37.1 passing attempts and 36.8 rushing attempts. His 2018 Mean Green offense averaged 38.8 passing attempts and 35.5 rushing attempts. To put that in perspective, Purdue’s offense averaged 41.6 passing attempts and 33.3 rushing attempts (that’s with 2 Austin Burton games skewing the numbers). Brohm’s 2021 offense averaged 44.3 passing attempts and 29.7 rushing attempts. Harrell throws the ball a little less and runs the ball a little more than Brohm, and I’m good with that.

This is a unique opportunity for Coach Harrell. He’s the man in charge of the offense. I’m sure Coach Walter’s will have basic game plan input, but this is Harrell’s show. In his first 3 stops as a coordinator, he had a former play caller looking over his shoulder, now he’s on his own. Purdue’s offensive success (or failure) will be on him. I can 100% promise their won’t be rumors of Coach Walters taking over the play calling mid-game.

I’m excited to see how things work out.