7 way-too-early predictions for Purdue's offense in 2022
Coming off a 9-win season that included a big-time victory in the Music City Bowl, the Boilermakers feel as though they’re on the verge of competing at the top of the Big Ten West.
If they’re to do so, it’ll likely be on the shoulders of an offense that could be one of the best, once again, in the Big Ten.
Aidan O’Connell returns for a 6th season, after being one of the conference’s breakout players in the second half of last year. He loses weapons, the biggest of which is All-America receiver David Bell, but has other options, although less experienced ones. And can O’Connell raise the play of those around him? Maybe so.
If he does, then Purdue is poised for a big season. Let’s make 7 way-too-early predictions for the Boilermakers’ offense in 2022:
Although he didn’t become Purdue’s starter until Week 4 last season, quarterback Aidan O’Connell still passed for 3,711 yards thanks in large part to a 5-game streak to end the year in which he averaged more than 432 yards per game.
It was an incredible stretch, one that gives the 6th-year senior — and the offense — a huge jolt of confidence heading into the fall of 2022. How good can the 6-3 gun-slinger be? He could be great. If O’Connell stays healthy, gets a good performance out of a rebuilt offensive line and can find enough weapons — primary target David Bell is now with the Cleveland Browns — then he’ll surpass the 4,000-yard threshold, likely with more than 30 touchdowns. Last season, he tossed 28 scores with 11 interceptions.
Already considered one of the best returning QBs in the Big Ten, probably second to Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, O’Connell’s numbers might get him national recognition, particularly if Purdue can be a contender in the Big Ten West.
Running in last place (again)
While the Boilermakers’ passing offense will be great, its running attack — once again — will lack bite.
Purdue has finished last in rushing yardage in the Big Ten for the past 3 seasons.
And there’s very little reason to think the Boilermakers will be able to reverse the trend in 2022. Not only did they finish last in the Big Ten in rushing last season, but they weren’t even close to the 13th-ranked team, with Purdue’s 84.2 yards-per-game average being more than 23 yards worse than Penn State’s.
Brohm sought to bolster Purdue’s running game in the offseason, looking for a dynamic speed back who has big-play potential, but he struck out. Instead, he’ll stick with senior King Doerue, who has been a consistently solid runner but not a game-breaker, and former IU transfer Sampson James, who is another physical between-the-tackles runner.
Wright gets right
Milton Wright will lead the Boilermakers in receiving yardage in 2022.
But only if the senior gets his academics in order so that he’s allowed to compete for Purdue. And really, that’s the big question. The 6-3, 195-pound receiver would be O’Connell’s No. 1 target, but his eligibility is a question mark. Wright was forced to miss the Music City Bowl win over Tennessee due to academics and he was only a partial participant in the spring, when he was trying to work his way back into good standing.
Hard to tell where he stands now, but there’s at least a chance he could be with the Boilermakers in the fall.
If so, he could have a huge season. As the No. 2 last year, Wright finished the season with 57 receptions, 732 yards and a team-high 7 touchdowns, and that’s after he fought off a slew of drops in the first few games.
A Payne for the D
Tight end Payne Durham has turned into a big-time target for the Boilermakers, particularly so inside the red zone, where the 6-5, 255-pounder has shown an ability to find openings in the end zone.
He had 6 touchdown receptions last season, despite having battled a few nagging injuries that at times limited his effectiveness. Durham might not be a superior athlete with great top-end speed, but he’s a big target with soft hands who understands how to use his body to get open in tight spaces. And he’s used that well when the field gets tight in the red zone.
Give Durham a couple more TDs next season. Perhaps he could even get to 10.
Tyrone Tracy might have been the Boilermakers’ biggest offseason acquisition, as the former Iowa Hawkeye gives the Boilermakers another weapon on offense.
The 6-1 Tracy, an Indianapolis native, made an instant impact in the spring, lining up as a slot receiver — and giving Purdue the kind of play-making ability that is critical to Brohm’s offense — and in the backfield, too. Purdue is going to find ways to get Tracy the ball, whether it be by throwing it to him or handing it to him.
Tracy will accumulate 800 yards of total offense next season, 600 through the air and 200 on the ground.
O-line depth a problem
Purdue feels OK about its 5 starting offensive linemen, especially with veterans Spencer Holstege at left guard and Gus Hartwig at center, with Eric Miller, the right tackle last season, moving over to the left side. But the right side of the line is unsettled. Veteran Cam Craig, who was a swing man backup last year, could fill in one of the positions. And maybe Sione Finau, a transfer from FIU, can be the starting right guard.
But young will fill out the rest of the depth chart.
Purdue likes sophomore Marcus Mbow and Mahamane Moussa, although both are inexperienced. Will the lack of depth hurt an offense otherwise full of potential?
6 for 40
Even though Purdue had a stretch last season in which it scored only 13 points in 3 consecutive games, the Boilermakers still averaged 29.1 points per game, good for 5th in the Big Ten.
And the Boilermakers had 4 games, 3 of them in the last 5 outings of the season, in which they scored at least 40 points.
Given that O’Connell will be the starter from Day 1, Purdue should be more consistent with a better potential for huge scoring outbursts. Purdue will have at least a half dozen games next season in which it puts up at least 40 points.