Training camp is just around the corner, as Purdue sets for one of its most anticipated seasons in the 21st Century.

But there are questions about the Boilermakers, even after a season in which they won 9 games.

Let’s take a look at 10 of the most critical Qs facing Purdue:

 Can AOC raise the level of those around him?

Veteran Aidan O’Connell is a really good quarterback, as he showed during the second half of the 2021 season, when he rallied the Boilermakers to 5 wins in their final 6 games, including a big overtime victory over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.

But aside from the win over Tennessee, when David Bell (prep for the NFL Draft) and Milton Wright (academics) were unavailable, O’Connell had the comfort of having big-time, big-name receivers to carry a bulk of the work. He got them the ball, then they made plays.

But Bell and Wright are gone, as is reliable vet Jackson Anthrop, and so now O’Connell might be asked to shoulder more of Purdue’s big-play potential. His receiving options, particularly on the outside, aren’t household names, like Tyrone Tracy, Mershawn Rice, T.J. Sheffield and — probably the most well-known — Broc Thompson, among others.

But the difference, frequently, between a good quarterback and a great one is the ability to make others better. Does O’Connell have it? We shall see.

Does the offense have a burner?

Simple answer: No.

Purdue might have good receivers — Thompson had 30 catches last season, including 7 for 217 yards and 2 TDs vs. Tennessee while playing with injuries to both legs — but it doesn’t have a field-stretching burner. And that could be somewhat limiting to an offense that thrives off big plays in the passing game.

The Boilermakers are likely to counter by using a couple of good tight ends, starter Payne Durham and backup Garrett Miller, to occupy the middle of the field, then get one-on-one coverage on the perimeter. Then, even without great top-end speed, players like Thompson might be able to win on the edges. It happened vs. the Vols, and it could again in 2022.

Can a D-end accumulate at least 5 sacks?

Purdue will be without George Karlaftis this season, after the great defensive end was drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs.

He’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to replace, but Purdue will try its best. Karlaftis’ statistical productivity — 5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss in ’21 — pales in comparison to his overall impact on the Boilermakers. Purdue doesn’t have anyone else like him, but it’ll have to find a way to generate pass rush from its line.

Maybe newcomer Scotty Humpich, who transferred in from Murray State, can give the Boilermakers a jolt. Or returnee Kydran Jenkins, who had 5 sacks last season, can take another step forward. Jack Sullivan, who started the bowl game in Karlaftis’ place (he was prepping for the draft), will develop into a bigger pass-rushing threat. Purdue has high hopes for Nic Caraway, but he’s only a freshman.

Whoever it is, and maybe it’s a combination, the Boilermakers will need to find edge rushers.

Will Purdue again finish last in rushing in the Big Ten?

If the Boilermakers do, it’ll be for the 4th straight season.

And it seems likely again this season, considering A) Purdue’s style of play under Brohm, with a strong tendency toward the pass. And B) the Boilermakers might have quality backs, but none who are consistent home run threats.

Purdue is thin at running back, particularly now that Sampson James, the former Indiana back, has jumped into the transfer portal before even taking a snap as a Boilermaker. It leaves Purdue with veterans King Doerue and Dylan Downing, and Central Michigan transfer Kobe Lewis, as the only non-freshman options.

Brohm doesn’t envision an offense that is going to be balanced, but he does want the Boilermakers to be a threat to run. Or at least be able to get critical third downs or yards in the red zone.

Is there unexpected danger lurking in the schedule?

The general feeling — and it’s warranted — is that the Boilermakers have a very user-friendly schedule, especially on the front end.

Purdue opens with home games vs. Penn State and Indiana State, then has a road game at Syracuse before coming back to Ross-Ade Stadium for Homecoming vs. Florida Atlantic. Then, back in the Big Ten, the Boilermakers have road games at Minnesota and Maryland. It’s not unreasonable to think Purdue could start 5-1, right?

But maybe it’s not that easy. Purdue will be a slight underdog to Penn State in the Thursday night home opener. And Syracuse is likely to be a difficult opponent in a challenging venue, after the Orange finished 5-7 last season. The next 2 Big Ten games are vs. the Gophers, who have had Purdue’s number of late, and Maryland, which will have one of the best offenses in the league.

Purdue is hoping for 5-1. It would take 4-2. But what if the Boilermakers go only 3-3?

Different look in English?

Co-coordinator Ron English takes over as Purdue’s defensive play-caller, after Brad Lambert departed for Wake Forest after his one very successful season in West Lafayette. Will English do anything differently, particularly on game days?

It seems unlikely the Boilermakers are going to make sweeping changes, at least in terms of style of play. A year ago, Brohm made big adjustments to Purdue’s defense, bringing in an entire new staff, and asking the Boilermakers to play more aggressively, matching the way the offense likes to play. And it worked. Expect English to continue to dial up the pressure in the defensive front, which might make Purdue more susceptible to allowing big plays but also will make them more capable of making them.

Who is the defensive play-maker?

It’s Jalen Graham.

The safety/linebacker has a knack for being where the football is — last season, he had 7 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble — and he’ll be relied upon more in 2022, especially without Karlaftis, DeMarcus Mitchell, Marvin Grant, Dedrick Mackey and others have moved on.

Purdue will put Graham, a 6-3, 230-pounder, in position to come up big, moving him from nickel/safety on passing downs to linebacker on running ones. The Boilermakers need him to be big time.

What unit is the biggest concern?

At Purdue, there’s always at least a moderate concern about the offensive line.

And this season will be no different. The Boilermakers feel good about the left side, with veterans Eric Miller (left tackle), Spencer Holstege (left guard) and Gus Hartwig (center), but the right raises more questions. Junior Cam Craig is 2 years removed from his knee injury, so perhaps ready to take on a full-time starting position. And Purdue loves sophomore Marcus Mbow. Those 2 are likely starters on the right side, although who goes where is yet to be decided.

Sophomore Mahamane Moussa might be a factor too, as could FIU transfer Sione Finau.

If the Boilermakers can find 5 solid starters, then have a couple of versatile backups, then they’ll be happy about the state of the O-line.

Can Purdue win 10?

The Boilermakers haven’t hit double-figures in victories since 1979.

This season might mark the best opportunity since 2003, when Purdue rallied to win 9 games after being upset in its opener vs. Bowling Green.

To get to 10, the Boilermakers likely need to start 5-1 and finish 3-0 (against Illinois, Northwestern and Indiana), then win 2 of 3 in the middle of the season vs. Nebraska, at Wisconsin and vs. Iowa. It’s a narrow window, as it is for any team trying to win 10 of 12, but doable for the Boilermakers.

Will Purdue win the West?

Well, it could. Will it? A harder question to answer.

But in a division without a clear frontrunner, the Boilermakers might have as good a chance as anyone. But to do so, Purdue is going to have to overcome a couple of hurdles: Minnesota and Wisconsin. Gopher coach PJ Fleck is 4-1 against Brohm, including a win in a rain-soaked Ross-Ade Stadium last season. And the Badgers have had the Boilermakers’ number for a couple of decades, routinely out-muscling the Boilermakers in lop-sided victories.

If Purdue can score victories against those 2, then the Boilermakers will be right there near the top of the standings in the final weeks.