Preview 2017: Purdue Boilermakers
Previewing and looking ahead at the Purdue season – and what you need to know.
Biggest Key To The Purdue Offense
Develop the receivers – fast. Blough is good enough to make the passing game roll, but the receivers have to do their part with all-star DeAngelo Yancey gone, along with Bilal Marshall, Domonique Young and Cameron Posey.
Receivers will beg to play in this attack, especially with the way that Taywan Taylor and Nicolas Norris exploded for WKU last year, combining for 174 catches for 2,148 yards and 51 scores. But the targets have to emerge in a hurry to make it work.
What You Need To Know About The Purdue Defense
The defense should get an interesting injection of life from the coaches. Nick Holt is a veteran defensive coordinator at the highest of levels, being joined by former Virginia star defensive back Anthony Poindexter as a co-coordinator. The D couldn’t stop the run, failed to hold up, and did a miserable job overall of making key stops.
On the plus side, there’s a ton of veteran talent returning. The line might be losing some nice parts, but Gelen Robinson is a terrific end to start with. The secondary needs to find more depth and has to be better on the outside, but at least there’s experience. And then there’s the linebacking corps.
Markus Bailey is one of the Big Ten’s best all-around defenders, while Ja’Whaun Bentley and Danny Ezechukwu are terrific producers who should put up big numbers. Throw in WKU transfer T.J. McCollum – a major-league hitting machine – and the Boilermakers have a real, live positive on defense for the first time in a while.
Biggest Key To The Purdue Defense
Third … down … stops. Purdue was able to hang around from time to time, but once the offense sputtered after halftime – getting outscored 90-40 in third quarters – the defense needed to do a better job of getting off the field.
The D was among the worst in the nation on third downs, allowing offenses to convert 49% of their chances with far too many long drives allowed. To be fair to last year’s team, though, the last season Purdue finished under the 40% third down defense mark was 2008.
Purdue Will Be Far Better If …
It wins the turnover margin – always. Purdue can’t be the worst team in the nation when it comes to winning the mistake battle. The Boilermakers were a -17 on the season – with 25 picks and eight lost fumbles – losing the margin in every game but the win over Eastern Kentucky and the losses to Maryland and Indiana. They were a -2 or worse in six of the games – that can’t happen again.
Best Purdue Offensive Player
QB David Blough, Jr. – Interceptions are a big, big problem. He threw 21 of them last year and forced too many passes for an attack that tried to make up for the problems on the defensive side.
While the 6-1, 200-pounder isn’t accurate enough – completing just 57% of his throws – he ran for four scores, threw for 3,352 yards and 25 touchdowns, and had a few big performances, throwing for 391 yards and four scores against Minnesota and 401 against Cincinnati. Now the picks have to slow down.
2. RB Markell Jones, Jr.
3. TE Cole Herdman, Jr.
4. C Kirk Barron, Jr.
5. TE Brycen Hopkins, Soph.
Best Purdue Defensive Player
LB Markus Bailey, Soph. – One of the big plusses to come out of a rough season, Bailey came up with one of the best all-around seasons by any Big Ten linebacker, leading the team with 97 tackles and four interceptions. The 6-1, 231-pounder from Columbus, OH is a big-hitting machine with the smarts and the toughness to be the leader of a strong linebacking corps for the next few years.
2. DE Gelen Robinson, Sr.
3. LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, Sr.
4. LB T.J. McCollum, Sr.
5. LB Danny Ezechukwu, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
WR Gregory Phillips, Sr. – Or any one of a number of other receivers who’ll get their shot in the new system. Phillips is a 6-0, 200-pound veteran who looked good at times this spring, but hasn’t done a whole lot yet when the lights are on, catching just 17 passes for 172 yards last season.
Phillips is the leading returning wideout, to go along with Anthony Mahoungou and Terrance Landers who’ll try to help crank up the attack. A few transfers are coming in to help the cause, but it would be nice if Phillips – or anyone – could be a No. 1 guy.
The Purdue Season Will Be A Success If …
The offense gets better and better as the season goes on. It’s going to be a process. Purdue isn’t going to challenge for the Big Ten title, and it’ll take a minor miracle to be in the mix for a bowl game, but as long as the Brohm attack can start to look like it might be a really big thing in the near future, there will be reason to get excited for what’s coming next.
Key Game To The Purdue Season
Oct. 7 vs. Minnesota – To start the season, considering the experience returning and the change in coaching staff and styles, Purdue will likely lose to Louisville, at Missouri and to Michigan, and it’ll probably beat Ohio. Minnesota will be the measuring stick moment in a home game against an okay team. Win this, and all of a sudden the Brohm era might look like it’s on the right track.
2016 Purdue Fun Stats
– Interceptions Thrown: Purdue 25 – Opponents 12
– Penalties: Opponents 85 for 767 yards – Purdue 52 for 447 yards
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 9-of-13 (69%) – Purdue 15-of-33 (45%)