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Brohmfence 101 - Dig Route

Let’s examine some common plays in the Brohmfence

Purdue v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As the season rapidly approaches, I thought it would be interesting to break down some of the common plays you see out of Jeff Brohm and the Purdue offense. Brohm’s playbook is as thick as the Manhattan phone book (a dated reference no doubt) but there are some staple plays in both the run and pass game.

The first play we’re going to check out is the dig route. Brohm likes this play on 3rd down because it gives the quarterback several options, and a long window to potentially complete a pass.

This dig route (or square in) helped Purdue pick up momentum on offense in their first drive against Arizona. After 2 short incomplete passes, Purdue was facing a potential 3 and out on the first drive of the game. In order to avoid that fate, Brohm dialed up the dig route to get past the line to gain and continue the drive.

The Formation:


This is Purdue’s 02 package. In this formation Purdue lines up 2 tight ends (green), a field (yellow), slot (blue), and boundary (orange) receiver.

This is an interesting formation. The majority of teams go 5 wide in this situation, but Brohm favors the two tight end look in order to get 2 big targets in the middle of the field. When you hear a tight end recruit (Kyle Bilodeau for example) say that they like the fact Purdue runs 2 tight end formations, this is one of such example.

The Play:

Dig Route

I’ll give you a different angle on this play in a second, because it’s hard to see what’s really going on (wish I had access to the wide angle coaches film), but you get the general idea.

First, and most importantly, the offensive line holds, although it’s not a huge surprise, because Arizona goes conservative, rushes 3 and drops 8 into zone coverage. One of the problems w/ this formation is the empty set leaves no one in the backfield to pick up a blitz, but if the other team cooperates like Arizona, it’s not an issue.

Depth is key for the dig route. The receiver has to break inside between 12-15 yards. If you break the route off at 10 yards, you don’t have any room to come back to the ball and still get past the sticks. When you see this route stopped a yard short of the marker, it’s usually because the receiver broke it off to early and had to come back to make the catch. In this case, Phillips runs a nice route, breaking it off at around 13 or 14 yards.

Eli does an excellent job of climbing up into the pocket and waiting as Phillips runs across the zone. Eli is looking for a passing lane to open up. Phillips isn’t actually being covered by Arizona. You’ll notice he’s running horizontally through a void in the zone. He’s past the linebackers, but in front of the safeties. Eli just has to wait for a window to open up so he can drill the ball through the linebacker level of the defense.

This is where Eli’s exceptional arm strength pays dividends. As soon as that window opens, Eli fires a strike, not allowing the linebackers to recover, and keeping the safeties from closing on the receiver in time. A ball with less velocity could bring either the linebackers or the safeties into play.

Another Look:


This is an excellent view of exactly what Sindelar is looking at right before he throws the ball. The field receiver (yellow) and the tight end on the left (green) are both working outside the numbers. This is holding 3 Arizona defenders outside, and keeping the middle open for the dig route.

The slot receiver (blue) is key, because he is drawing the attention of 2 defenders. The Arizona linebacker (orange) is interested in the only route in front of him, which is the slot receiver running an out. He breaks to the out route, opening up the throwing window.

If you’re wondering what the Arizona defender (purple) is up to, I’m assuming he’s a spy on Sindelar (this is one of the reasons Purdue didn’t disclose Eli’s injury, you don’t spy a QB that you know can’t run), and he sees a bunch of potentially open space for a quarterback run, so he steps up to fill that space, again, taking him out of the window.

Finally, the tight end in the middle of the field (green) is occupying the deep safety and appears to be open as well. I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing he’s probable Eli’s 2nd or 3rd option on this play (either ahead of or behind the slot out). The boundary receiver (orange) is clearly the primary receiver, and play seems to be working. If the linebackers stayed in their zones and closed the window, Eli would then move on to other options.

It’s a little hard to see, because of the angle (and circling made it more difficult to see) but the boundary receiver (orange) is running across the face of the deep safety on his side of the field. At this point, the only player on the Arizona defense that can make a play is that safety, and it’s the receivers job to make sure he can’t break on the route (again, it helps that it’s extremely hard to break on one of Sindelar’s fast balls).

When to expect this play:

This is one of Purdue’s primary routes on 3rd and long. When the Boilermakers needs a long first down, don’t be shocked if this is the play (or a similar version of this play) Brohm dials up, especially if Sindelar is in at quarterback.