Let there be throws again in West Lafayette! Now, to be fair, the Boilermakers did lead the Big Ten by some margin in pass attempts per game last season, but that felt more like the last gasp of the aimless and exhausted Darrell Hazell era. But it’s always been part of the plan for new head coach Jeff Brohm, he has the quarterback to handle it and if Purdue can eventually get it working, maybe it starts to feel like the Joe Tiller era again.
Brohm had a solid backfield at Western Kentucky last year, including a 1,600-yard rusher and three other backs who rushed for at least 200 yards. Thus it wasn’t quite the typical air-it-out year for the Hilltoppers, but Purdue in 2017 might feel somewhat similar. Quarterback David Blough proved he’ll take as many throws as you give him, but the Boilermakers have to replace four of their top five receivers and three starters on the line. That could lead Brohm to lean a little more run in year one. Purdue returns four backs who contributed as underclassmen in 2016.
Purdue didn’t rank better than 13th in the Big Ten in any of the adjusted-yards per play categories and ranked last in explosive plays allowed, so there’s nothing but room for improvement here. Nick Holt, formerly the defensive coordinator at USC and Washington, takes the reins and will have eight returning starters to deploy. The Boilermakers are deep in the back seven, but have some questions to answer up front.
Did Brohm look at the schedule before he took the job? Purdue will play 11 Power 5 schools, opening with a neutral-site game against Louisville in Indianapolis and making a trip to Missouri in week three. The one Group of 5 game is against an established Ohio program, so that’s no stroll in the park either. Big Ten play opens with a home game against Michigan, which could be interesting given how much the Wolverines must replace and how early that game falls on the schedule. Rutgers and Indiana are the other East-Division draws, so Purdue gets a little back later in the season after a tough September.
It would be hard for the Boilermakers to be trending downward from the Hazell era, but 2017 could be a season where Purdue’s real gains remain somewhat hidden by a tough schedule. But the Brohm hire was a good one, his staff was probably better than what the Boilermakers had before he arrived and it finally seems like there’s some reason for optimism in West Lafayette. Purdue’s trending UP, but don’t be surprised if you don’t notice until 2018.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.