When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Outside of Saquon Barkley, no true freshman tailback in the B1G performed as well as Jones did. Not even Michigan State’s L.J. Scott put up the numbers Jones did in his first season. Double-digit touchdowns and five yards per carry are solid accomplishments for a senior, much less an under-recruited freshman.
Even in a spring game, Jones is a touchdown waiting to happen. Purdue desperately needs a star worth the price of admission, which Jones is. He isn’t necessarily the fastest guy on the field, and he isn’t necessarily a “thunder” to D.J. Knox’s “lightning.” Given his ability to catch passes and run in between the tackles, Jones can do both.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of packages new offensive coordinator Terry Malone has drawn up for Jones. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the offense work through him again on Saturday.
-Austin Larkin’s debut
Purdue’s highest-rated recruit was a JUCO defensive end who began his career as a walk-on at Notre Dame. He’s also Hall of Fame infielder Barry Larkin’s nephew, for what it’s worth.
Larkin is off to a nice start in West Lafayette, where he’s already at the top of the depth chart. A plug-and-play edge rusher is exactly what the Boilers need. They ranked 90th in the country in sacks and 89th against the pass in 2015.
Saturday won’t be a true test of Larkin’s abilities. The quarterbacks won’t be live, which means the pass-rush will be limited. And Purdue has only eight healthy offensive linemen. Larkin might not get much of a chance to show off the skills that helped him earn 17 tackles for loss at City College of San Francisco, but he can still get off blocks and make a good first impression.
-A comfortable David Blough
As previously mentioned, the quarterbacks won’t be live. That means Blough doesn’t have to worry about taking hits like the one he got from Jordan Lomax that ended his season.
Still, Saturday is a chance for Blough to look like a starter. The biggest difference for Blough in Year 2 should be his decision-making. He’ll be put in situations out of the pocket that force him to decide if it’s worth it to keep the play alive or throw it away. Those decisions should start to come more naturally.
Oddly enough, Darrell Hazell still hasn’t named Blough his starter. Elijah Sindelar is getting some No. 1 reps, and he’ll have the chance to narrow the gap. Blough will have the benefit of throwing to DeAngelo Yancey and Cameron Posey, who figure to be Purdue’s top two targets in 2016. A few big plays early against Purdue’s inexperienced secondary would help Blough any notion of a quarterback battle lasting through the summer.