Getting closer to kickoff, today we recognize a very important piece of the offensive puzzle.
Villa Park, CA
6’5” - 240
2023 Projection: TE2/splitting reps at TE1
“I’d be a liar if I told you it was easy.” - #89
Paul Piferi has had an interesting career trajectory. When Purdue asked him to change positions not so long after he enrolled, he easily could have transferred to a school that would let him stick to being a pocket passer. Evidently, the kid loves Purdue and really wants that coveted engineering degree (which, as he mentioned in spring practice, he would go on to earn last month).
Piferi came to West Lafayette as a tall, lanky three-star quarterback from Orange County. According to him, he weighed 190 pounds. Four years after getting buried in the QB depth chart, he says he is now 255 pounds (despite being listed at 240) and, depending on who you ask, has grown an inch from 6’5” to 6’6” and is the de facto leader of the tight end room.
Following his switch to tight end, the Californian appeared in three games in 2020. No receptions, mostly blocking and special teams duty. In 2021, he saw action in five games, starting in one, receiving five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Following an injury to Garrett Miller in the summer of 2022, Piferi was thrust into his first season of serious playing time at his new position. He appeared in all 14 games, tallying 10 receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Piferi is a rare type of tight end schematically; he’s used primarily as a blocker, but when he’s targeted, it’s typically on routes exceeding ten yards. Entering his final season at Purdue, he averages 13.6 yards per catch. Not too shabby for a guy who was built like a relief pitcher a few years ago.
The senior will likely split reps with a recovering Garrett Miller early on in the season. If the coaching staff sticks mostly with sets involving just one tight end, Piferi will likely be TE2 and rotate in if Miller stays healthy. That said, I’d love to see Graham Harrell use some 12 personnel incorporating both of them this fall. This is a particularly nerdy case of me saying “oh boy, I can’t wait to see the snap count at the end of the season!”
Paul Piferi, as a tight end, is what any college team wants. He has background in multiple roles in a pass-first offense. He’s simply a big, strong dude and carries his new weight well downfield. He’s good in run-blocking on the edge, good in pass protection, and good at shaking off contact to get open when he’s targeted. With him being the elder statesman of the tight end room and having a former quarterback, Seth Doege, leading the tight end room, Piferi will prove invaluable in helping this offense coalesce through his play and his leadership.
Sappy off-the-field storylines aside, I also think he catches close to 400 yards and at least two touchdowns this season in the new offense.