The easy part is over.
Signing a six-year, $20 million contract to coach a B1G program was a no-brainer. Now comes the hard part for Purdue’s newest head coach, Jeff Brohm. He’s got the task of turning one of the worst programs in major college football back into a contender in the top conference in the country.
Brohm appears to be the ideal candidate for this job, a former quarterback who brings a unique offensive blend with him, something the Boilermakers have been missing. He won 30 games in three seasons at Western Kentucky, including a pair of C-USA titles.
Purdue, though, has become one of the most difficult places to win in the country. This won’t be an easy fix for the former quarterback.
Can Brohm turn things around in West Lafayette?
Here are five things he must do to be successful at Purdue:
Win over the fan base
It’s no secret that Ross-Ade Stadium has been empty for a long time. Bringing fans back after a decade-long plunge isn’t going to be an easy task, but it might be the most important.
How can Brohm do that?
Well, he can bring this type of intensity with him:
Brb grabbing our pads. https://t.co/l4MFtJzES1
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 10, 2016
Who isn’t fired up after that?
From a football standpoint, Brohm’s unique offensive scheming should be appealing to a fan base that has lived with inconsistency for so long. Every year at Western Kentucky his teams averaged at least 44 points per game. That type of excitement – even if it doesn’t lead directly to wins early on – is at least something that would get some attention and bring fans back to the gates.
Empty seats has been an eyesore for Purdue lately. Filling the stadium on Saturday afternoons again would help grow the image of the program and could ultimately be a factor in landing better recruits.
Establish a strong recruiting base in Indiana
Speaking of recruiting, perhaps what’s hurt Purdue the most over the last eight seasons has been its declining relevance on the recruiting trail in its home state. Since 2015, the Boilermakers have landed just seven in-state recruits, and haven’t enticed a four or five-star prospects to spend their college years in West Lafayette.
Michigan, Michigan Sate, Notre Dame and Ohio State have poached a lot of the state’s top talent, but even Indiana has become a threat to Purdue’s recruiting in the past three years. According to 247Sports, the Hoosiers are expected to land seven of the state’s top 20 recruits. The Boilermakers don’t have a commitment in the top 25.
Right now, Purdue doesn’t have much to offer. Brohm’s up-tempo style of offense could be a game-changer in the state, especially since Kevin Wilson is now out of Bloomington.
It’s going to take time before Brohm can recruit with some of the big boys in the B1G, but he needs to at least bring some of Indiana’s top talent to campus.
Improve the offensive and defensive lines
Purdue has been pushed around in the trenches on both sides of the ball for quite some time. Those failures have been most noticeable in the running game. Offensively, the team ranked last in the B1G in rushing yards per game (96.2) and surrendered 29 sacks this season. It also gave up 238.4 yards per game on the ground defensively.
Fortunately, Brohm understands the importance of good play on both lines.
At his introductory press conference, Brohm stressed the importance talent and depth up front. If he can somehow reconstruct those two areas into strengths for the Boilermakers, they’ll quickly become more competitive on Saturday afternoons.
Place more emphasis on defense
Most of the talk about Brohm has surrounded his offensive scheming and rightfully so. That’s clearly the former quarterback’s forte. But he’s also going to have to be more defensive-minded in the B1G.
Wisconsin was a prime example of how important defense can be in the conference. Despite a relatively simplistic offensive approach, the Badgers won 10 games and reached the B1G Championship Game by shutting down opponents.
Purdue doesn’t have to be a defense-first team – and it won’t be anyway – but it needs to be more formidable than it has been recently, especially against the run.
Brohm’s defense ranked first in C-USA in 2016 but surrendered an average of 37 points per game against teams with winning records. That won’t lead to many wins in major college football.
Rebuild the ‘Cradle of Quarterbacks’
Lately, Purdue has looked more like a quarterback carousel than anything else. Until this season, the program hadn’t had a consistent starting quarterback since 2009 and has seen former starters Danny Etling and Austin Appleby have impacts at LSU and Florida.
Brohm needs to bring his hammer and a few nails to reconstruct the cradle in West Lafayette.
He inherits David Blough – the B1G’s leading passer in 2016 – as well as Elijah Sindelar. Those are two pretty good pieces to build an offense around. And Brohm might be just the guy to help them reach their full potential.
After grooming Brandon Doughty into the nation’s top passer in 2015, this might be the easiest chore on Brohm’s to-do list when once he gets settled.