The Harrell-Doege Connection
It’s been a few months since the college football coaching carousel came to a halt and we’ve collectively had some time to process new hires.
For the Purdue Boilermakers, offensive-minded head coach Jeff Brohm left for his alma mater, taking a solid portion of the offensive coaching staff with him, forcing Mike Bobinski to act quickly in making new hires from almost the entire top down.
Personally, I’d have graded the Ryan Walters hire as a B+, at the very worst, before I saw who he was adding to his offensive staff.
Then it became an A+ hire in my mind.
Purdue flipped the coaching script, finding a defensive-minded head coach to replace an offensive-minded one. Walters rapidly assembled a defensive staff mostly consisting of defensive assistants from Illinois, his previous stop, but was forced to execute a nearly total and complete offensive overhaul. He had to fill five on-field coaching positions on the offensive side alone. Well, he had to replace five coaches involved with defensive sideline duties, but it’s expected for a former defensive coordinator to bring along a bunch of his guys into his first head coaching gig and he did just that. I digress...
Ryan Walters played his college ball as a defensive back at Colorado from 2004 to 2008, in which time he saw plenty of Air Raid offenses when the Buffaloes were members of the Big XII. Among the most famous of those offenses was Texas Tech’s Red Air Raider offense led by the late head coach Mike Leach.
The new Head Boiler actually started his playing career as a quarterback, with his father playing quarterback at Colorado in the late 1980’s. As per The Kansas City Star, Eric Bienemy was his babysitter and Walters considers him a mentor. I say “defensive-minded” but the guy knows both sides of the ball insanely well.
When piecing together the offensive coaching staff puzzle, he found some former players from the old Big XII to run an offense that has historically had its most offensive success running the Air Raid.
Back to Texas Tech. Walters chose Red Raider legend Graham Harrell to helm the traditionally pass-heavy Purdue offense. Harrell was arguably the most successful quarterback in Mike Leach’s famous offense. He played against Walters twice in their overlapping collegiate careers and Walters actually intercepted him twice. I bet that topic comes up in the office every now and then.
Harrell left Texas Tech with a storied career and was succeeded by Seth Doege, another certified gunslinger who eventually set the NCAA record for completion percentage (90.9%) with 40 or more passing attempts. The previous record setter? Former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. This is getting dangerously close to just being a round of college football trivia so I will proceed.
Doege worked as part of the offensive quality control personnel under Harrell in Harrell’s first season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Southern California and was promoted to tight ends coach the following season. He remained there for another season until, despite putting up good passing statistics, USC fell to 4-8 behind a lackluster defense and shoddy offensive line. Head coach Clay Helton was fired, and the Trojans cleaned house prior to the 2022 season.
Graham Harrell, coming off one year as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at West Virginia, jumped at the Purdue opportunity and hand-picked Seth Doege to be his tight ends coach (and almost assuredly having a say in the overall “passing game coordinator” type of role). After parting ways at USC, Doege was working as a quality control assistant at Ole Miss, who boasted a pretty darn good passing game under Lane Kiffin in 2022.
Point being, Purdue exists as one of the few consistent Air Raid style offenses in the conference over the past 25 years, and Ryan Walters brought in a few guys who know how to do that sort of thing, uh, pretty well. Jeff Brohm didn’t invent passing at Purdue, and if people were expecting a ground and pound offense under Coach Walters, they will be sadly mistaken.