Leading up to the start of the 2016 season, we’ll preview three key factors for every B1G team to have success.
Here are Purdue’s:
1. Stick with one quarterback
Darrell Hazell has started four quarterbacks in three seasons with the Boilermakers. Needless to say, that hasn’t worked well.
Purdue’s quarterbacks have rotated quicker than a revolving hotel door. When there’s no certainty under center, it’s hard for the rest of the offense to get into a rhythm. The constant fluctuation is also a good explanation for some dreadful offensive numbers each of the past three seasons, as well.
After a long battle with redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar, sophomore David Blough has been named the starter for the Week 1 match-up against Eastern Kentucky. Now that the decision has been made, it’s time for Hazell to put some faith in his decision.
The “Cradle of Quarterbacks,” has become the “Carousal of Quarterbacks,” under Hazell. Blough threw for 1,574 yards and 10 TDs while completing over 57 percent of his passes. He’s good enough to be the permanent starter even if he encounters some hiccups along the way.
2. Linebackers living up to expectations
Talent, experience and depth for a position group is a hard combination to beat. That’s why Purdue has high expectations for its linebackers in 2016.
With Ja’Whaun Bentley back on the field after an early season ACL injury kept him sidelined for much of the 2015 season, the Boilermaker linebackers have the potential to be good. Really good.
Bentley tallied 76 tackles as a freshman and had 3.5 stops for a loss. He’ll be joined by fellow junior Danny Ezechukwu, who was the team’s second-leading tackler last year with 79 total stops. Both guys have big play capabilities.
Jimmy Herman and Andy James Garcia have combined for 66 game appearances, making 16 starts during that times. Then there’s Markus Bailey, a young star who played in the first three games before suffering a season-ending injury.
Injuries really plagued the linebackers last season and Purdue’s defense suffered. It was the B1G’s worst at defending the run, allowing 214 yards per game.
Bentley’s return is a serious boost. If injuries aren’t an issue again in 2016, the Boilermakers could have one of the most improved defenses in the conference.
3. Offensive line maturity
Last season, the line was expected to show drastic improvement.
Purdue’s troubles in the trenches hindered its abilities to successfully run the football, averaging a paltry 131 yards per contest. It also struggled to keep the quarterbacks clean, giving up 29 sacks throughout the year. There’s some real concern that things won’t be much better in 2016.
Jordan Roos, Kirk Barron and Jason King will be staples in the middle but the real question comes at the tackle positions, where four guys are still battling for snaps. Throughout fall camp, the defensive line has beaten its offensive counterparts with relative ease on the edges. That’s something that must get fixed. And fast.
The Boilermakers need a better push up front to give athletes like running back Markell Jones or receiver DeAngelo Yancey an opportunity to make big plays. If they struggle to keep defenses out of the backfield, though, it’ll be hard for the offense to gain any traction.