With basketball ending in heartbreaking fashion my focus slowly begins to shoot from the court to the gridiron. Purdue started spring practice this week. The first such occurrence under the leadership of new head football coach Ryan Walter. Walters of course replaces the departed Jeff Brohm who returned home to Louisville to become their head coach.
Purdue is coming off a Big Ten West division championship season and their first ever appearance in the Big Ten Title game. They of course lost to Michigan but it’s progress that we will gladly take. The less said about the bowl game the better. Now though, hope springs eternal. As Michael Scott famously said, “No question about it, I am ready to get hurt again.” Michael was taking about his dating life, but I’m talking about Purdue sports. Both can involve plenty of hurt. So, what am I looking for? What am I hoping for? What do I want to see? Let’s take a look at some quick things that I hope to learn more about as spring ball returns.
- Who replaces AOC as the starting QB? Purdue landed big fish Hudson Card via the transfer portal in the offseason and you’d think he didn’t come to Purdue to sit the bench, but Purdue also was able to retain former recruiting class crown jewel Brady Allen after a brief dalliance with the transfer portal. Competition at the QB position is good but under Brohm it was too much. I hope that one of the two pulls ahead and Purdue has a clear #1 man at the end of the spring.
- Who will stand out at the WR position? Purdue has a lot of returning names you’ll recognize but due to the hyper focus on Charlie Jones last year, and David Bell and Rondale Moore before him, there aren’t a lot of guys with a ton of game experience. I’m most excited for the return of Broc Thompson. He showed what he could do in the bowl game against Tennessee before his knees gave out on him and he missed last season. Rumors of Milton Wright fighting his way back on the team could be huge for a WR squad short on career catches. Look for Deion Burks, T.J. Sheffield, Mershawn Rice, and Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen to make their impact felt.
- The tight end has made a huger difference at Purdue not just under Brohm but basically since the Tiller era. With Payne Durham headed to the draft who steps up to take his place? Garrett Miller is the obvious choice but he has to stay healthy first. Presumably 5th year senior Paul Piferi will be the second tight end. Good opportunity here for a younger player to grab some minutes.
- The offensive line was surprisingly improved over the last two seasons. Not perfect by any means but moving in the right direction. Coach Walters just had to hire a new offensive line coach after his first hire stepped down allegedly due to health reasons. Can a fresh set of eyes keep the improvement going, and will depth be built so that one injury can’t derail the unit?
- Walter is known for defense and especially the defensive backfield. While Purdue has had some playmakers there recently, they haven’t had a cohesive unit that I’ve felt truly comfortable with. How many third and longs did Brohm’s teams allow? Countless. Is the talent available and will new schemes unlock their potential?
- What changes does the coaching staff make to spring ball? How do they make it their own? Walters has an entirely different energy and vibe than the last staff. Much more fun, much more modern, a younger vibe with lots of energy. I love it, but what results will it get? How does Walters mold this program to fit his personality? Coming in as a new coach is always a challenge. Walters has a great opportunity in front of him and I’m excited to see him take the reigns.
So that’s what I’m looking for in spring ball. What about you? Let us know in the comments.