11 Personnel (3 receivers, 1 TE, 1 RB)
Blue Box - Quarterback
#6 - Grant Wells - Sr. - 6’2”, 212
Previous Game: 17/29 - 251 Yards - 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 165.5 QB rating.
Tech’s starter in 2022, Wells struggled to get anything going. They brought in former 4* quarterback recruit Kyron Drones from Baylor to compete for the starting job, but Wells managed to hold him off in camp and retains the starting job in 2023.
He’s one of those guys with cannon that he doesn’t have full control over. His deep balls are great, but he has a tendency to throw everything as hard as he can. It doesn’t matter if the receiver is 2 yards away or 30 yards away. Consider him Joe Milton light. His redzone fade route to Ali Jennings against ODU was one of the better throws I’ve seen in minute though. He put superb touch on the ball and dropped in exactly the right spot. Maybe he’s finally calibrated his arm as senior. At the same time, he has a history of throwing interceptions. last season he tossed 9 of them, and only threw 9 touchdowns. Let’s hope that version of Wells shows up on Saturday.
Blue Box - Running Back
#33 - Bhayshul Tuten - Jr. - 5’11”, 205
Previous Game: 19 Carries, 55 Yards, Long of 5 Yards
Tuten ran for 1,363 Yards and 13 touchdowns last season, averaging 6.6 yards a carry. He found the going significantly tougher behind Virginia Tech’s poor offensive line. Tuten is the type of back that bounces runs to the outside instead of putting the hammer down and forcing the issue. He kept bouncing runs last Saturday, but kept running into ODU linebackers and safeties. It’s hard to blame him for not slamming himself into non-existent holes for no gain.
Purdue will need to show better discipline on the outside than they showed against Fresno State. ODU didn’t lose contain on the perimeter, allowing them to easily shut down any run Tuten attempted to bounce. Purdue has to balance aggression and patience on the defensive line, and let the interior guys involve themselves more in the run game and pass rush by shutting down the outside runs and forcing Tech into the teeth of the defense. The tackling was poor at times last Saturday, that has to be cleaned up, especially if this game ends up being played in a downpour.
Red Circle - Field Wide Receiver
#00 - Ali Jennings - Sr. - 6’2”, 202
Previous Game: 5 Receptions - 72 Yards - 2 TDs - Long of 44 Yards
Jennings lines up at the field receiver position. Look for him on the wide side of the field lined up next to the slot receiver. Jennings is the primary receiver for the Hokies on the outside. The ODU transfer torched his former team in the opener. He works intermediate routes and the deep sideline. He’s also a key redzone target capable of making the spectacular catch in traffic.
Yellow Circle - Slot Receiver
#83 - Jaylin Lane - Sr. - 5’10”, 192
Previous Game: 4 Receptions - 69 yards - 1 TD - Long of 34 yards.
A prototypical slot receiver, Lane moves around the formation, but generally lines up to the field (wide) side of the field. He specializes in short and intermediate routes, often across the middle. He’s also a big part of Tech’s quick screen game. Purdue struggled (to say the least) last week trying to cover Fresno’s slot receiver. Lane will present a similar challenge.
Pink Circle - H-Back/Tight End
#82 - Benhji Gosnell - Fr. - 6’5”, 245
Previous Game: 1 Reception - 34 yards
You’ll mostly find Gosnell off the line of scrimmage in more of a fullback/tight end hybrid position than a traditional in-line tight end. If you want to know where a run is headed, keep an eye on Benji, they like to use him as a lead blocker. The only catch is they’ll also counter away from him if a defense keys too much on him as a blocker. His lone catch against ODU was out of the slot, Purdue needs to pay attention when he flexes out.
Green Circle - Boundary Receiver
#9 - Da’Quan Felton - Sr. - 6’5”, 215
Previous Game: 1 Reception - 34 yards
Is it possible for Purdue to kidnap Felton and bring him back to West Lafayette after the game, because he’s the type of physical outside receiver Purdue lacks. He’s not going to be a high volume receiver, but Tech will throw the ball deep if they find him in single coverage, especially against a smaller corner. They like to isolate him on the boundary in hopes that the opposing team rolls their safety to the field side. I expect at least 2 deep “shot” plays to Felton on Saturday.
The Change Up?
If the weather is nasty on Saturday, and that's a distinct possibility, you may see this look more often.
Blue Circle - Quarterback
#1 - Kyron Drones - So. - 6’2”, 235
Previous Game: 1/1 - 8 Yards - 3 Carries - -1 yards
Drones, a former 4* recruit who originally signed with Baylor, was brought in to challenge Wells for the starting job. Wells held him off and kept the starting spot, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see Drones tomorrow. First and foremost, he’s a big ol’ boy at 6’2”, 235 and is a load in the run game. He’s not a “run first” quarterback necessarily. He can spin it as well, but he’s a better runner than Wells. Coach Prey and offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen used him in a goal line situation against ODU, but he may play a larger role in the game in the game plan on Saturday if the weather is bad.
When it’s pouring rain, sometimes the best option is to snap it to the quarterback and let him run. It takes some of the risk out of the equation. While he didn’t show it against ODU, tackling Drones is like tackling a tight end. I could see Virginia Tech going to the ground and pound offense instead of throwing in a downpour. If that happens, Purdue’s poor tackling will be put to the test.
I’m glad I held this preview until today, because their is a 66% chance of thunderstorms starting at noon tomorrow and continuing throughout the day. I’m not 100% confident they play this game, and if they do manage to sneak it in, I doubt it will be in pristine conditions.
That should help Purdue and hurt Virginia Tech. The Boilermakers, in theory, have the better running back, and are better at stopping the run. I know the Tech offensive coordinator was licking his lips and ready to feast on Purdue’s shoddy pass coverage, especially their inability to cover the slot receiver, after watching last week’s game. That might not be an option now.
If this does turn into a soggy mess, my concern shifts from pass coverage to tackling. Can OC and Yanni hold it down at linebacker? Last week didn’t fill me with confidence. Now that Washington is in question, linebacker is an even bigger question mark. Will a one armed Kane, and Cam Allen (gulp) do enough to prevent Tech from breaking off big runs once they breach the second level? Can Thieneman repeat his performance last week? All questions that will be answered, or not answered, on the field.
Fresno State asked some tough questions regarding Purdue’s coverage ability. Virginia Tech will ask some tough questions regarding Purdue’s tackling ability if the weather forecast is accurate. Hopefully Coach Kane, Walters and the Boilermaker defense have a better response to the question this week.