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Further Exploring the Harrell/Doege Connection, Part Two of Four

We’re going down a Texas Jackrabbit hole.

Texas Tech v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Last week, we explored the connection between new Purdue hires Graham Harrell (offensive coordinator) and Seth Doege (tight ends coach).

Tomorrow, we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of what they did well in working together previously, but first, we’ll go further down the rabbit hole that originates somewhere in Texas.

Harrell and Doege worked together for several years at USC before Doege was promoted to tight ends coach for the Trojans. He was a behind-the-scenes offensive staff member for two seasons prior.

After the Trojans’ 4-8 season in 2021, the school’s athletic department did some renovations and Harrell found himself back in the Big XII at West Virginia while Doege was hired as an offensive analyst at Ole Miss.

Doege’s connection to Ole Miss: his predecessor at tight ends coach in Southern California.

John David Baker left Los Angeles for Oxford, Mississippi for a lateral career move that now has him as passing game coordinator and co-offensive coordinator at Ole Miss under Lane Kiffin, himself a former USC head coach. Seth Doege, then an offensive quality control staff member for the Trojans, was promoted to replace Baker in 2020 when Baker was called to work under offensive-minded Kiffin in northern Mississippi, where they’ve enjoyed success in a pass-first scheme with dynamic tight ends.

A year later, after USC cleaned house from top to bottom, and Doege was brought in by Baker, a former quarterback at a rival high school in their shared hometown of San Angelo, Texas. Doege transferred to a high school closer to Lubbock in the process of committing to Texas Tech, but the two certainly knew each other through camps and through, generally speaking, how high school football works as a social institution in Texas.

The coaching Venn diagram then begins to look more like a circle: John David Baker had worked under Graham Harrell at the University of North Texas. Baker was an offensive quality control staffer for Harrell in his first gig as an offensive coordinator. When Harrell and Baker transitioned to USC together, Baker was working in offensive quality control alongside Doege, both in their first season at the school alongside Harrell.

The Boilermakers are going head-first into maintaining a pass-first offense, and the two guys mainly in charge of the passing game only know how to pass efficiently and for a lot of yardage. If they trust their quarterback, they’re familiar with getting in the neighborhood of 50 pass attempts per game when necessary. I could stand some Big 10 barn burners this fall.

Then, of course, we have to look at Purdue’s conference-unique commitment to an air raidesque offense for the better part of 30 years and the Boilermakers’ success with offenses that resemble the strategy of a team like Texas Tech in the mid-to-late 2000’s.

The presumed starter at quarterback for Purdue is Hudson Card, a Texas kid who grew up playing in the same challenging Austin region as some guy named Drew Brees.

Card, a senior transfer from the University of Texas, will be looked after by a few coaches from his neck of the woods who played a part in the heyday of “oh dang, if my favorite team plays one of those Big XII air raid offenses in a bowl game and we’re not prepared for it, they could hang 45 or 49 or 52 points on us.”

All of this, combined with the fact that head coach Ryan Walters played against those offenses as a safety at the University of Colorado, makes evident a vision in how Purdue can become capable of hanging those 45 or 49 or 52 points on opponents.

Ryan Walters, as a first-year head coach with a background on the other side of the ball (he did enter college as a quarterback before becoming one of Colorado’s most decorated safeties...) has done an amazing job assembling an offensive staff that fits right into Purdue football’s offensive identity.

With the addition of Card, it would appear that this portion of the staff have their man. These good ol’ Texas boys feel Card is comfortable in the type of offense they know so well, with the added mobility that is almost a prerequisite in modern college football. A kid with a cannon of an arm who can use his legs sounds right up the alley of these coaches, who themselves were good at that sort of thing while regularly facing Colt McCoys, Robert Griffins, Brandon Weedens, Ryan Tannehills, Johnny Manziels (for one year).