Biggest takeaways from Purdue's spring game
Purdue’s defense was the talk of the town again.
After an impressive turnaround in 2021, the Boilermaker defense showed it’s here to stay in Saturday’s spring game. It dominated the first half of the weekend’s glorified scrimmage, completing shutting down the Purdue offense while heading into halftime.
Things finally started clicking for the offense in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the major deficit. The defense won the spring game 45-42, playing with the same sort of aggressiveness we saw all throughout the 2021 season.
It’s always difficult to gauge a team based on its spring game. For the Boilermakers, a lot of key contributors either stayed on the sideline or saw limited action in Saturday’s game, providing opportunities for the younger talent on the roster.
Still, after watching Purdue’s spring game on Saturday, we left the afternoon with a few takeaways:
Transfers are going to play a big role
A few of Purdue’s additions through the transfer portal are in position to make a significant impact during the 2022 season. Saturday’s spring game provided just a taste of that.
Former Indiana running back Sampson James provides a nice complement to King Doerue out of the backfield. He flashed the ability to find holes in the defense and his quick burst led to some big games at times throughout the afternoon.
Ex-Iowa wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. is also going to have a substantial role in the offense — and in multiple roles. Tracy caught passes as a wide receiver, was involved in some jet sweeps and was utilized out of the backfield. The former Hawkeye might be the most versatile player in Purdue’s offense for the upcoming season.
Defensively, Indiana transfers Damarjhe Lewis (DL) and Reese Taylor (DB) both made plays in the spring game. Lewis showed he’s capable of getting pressure along the defensive front and Taylor was aggressive in breaking up passes and keeping receivers in check.
Those are just a few of the names that stood out on Saturday.
Defense hasn’t lost its aggressiveness
Losing defensive lineman George Karlaftis, linebacker Jaylan Alexander and defensive coordinator Brad Lambert were significant to Purdue’s defense. Though the Boilermakers return a lot from last year’s squad, will they be able to replicate the success they enjoyed on that side of the football?
That question can’t be answered confidently after a spring game, but it is possible.
Purdue’s aggressive nature in 2021 was the kind of change Brohm wanted to see on that side of the ball. It was on full display again on Saturday inside Ross-Ade Stadium. The defensive line worked to get pressure on the quarterback and the secondary shut down receivers throughout the first quarter.
There’s no doubt the Boilers are going to be going after pass break-ups, interceptions and trying to force fumbles. Through the entire first half on Saturday, they did a pretty good job of it.
Keep an eye on Zion Steptoe
Freshman receiver Zion Steptoe doesn’t just have a perfect name for his position, he showed the potential to be the next great Purdue wide receiver. Stepping in for a lot of guys who were sidelined for the spring game, the newcomer proved to be a reliable target in the passing attack.
If he’s already flashing that kind of potential in the spring game, what will he be capable of doing during the regular season?
Since Brohm took over, Purdue has done an outstanding job of getting great production out of its wide receiver corps. Even when David Bell was out of the lineup, guys like Broc Thompson and Milton Wright stepped up last season. Could Steptoe be next in line?
He’s probably not going to emerge as the No. 1 target this season. But considering the display he put on in the spring game, he might be able to carve out a significant role for himself as a true freshman.
The offensive line is still a big concern
One of the biggest concerns heading into 2022 is the offensive line. There wasn’t really anything answered in the spring game. The play up front was inconsistent … and that’s probably putting it kindly.
Brohm has done a good job of being creative with the running game, incorporating screen passes and sweeps to open up space for playmakers when the offensive line has been unable to create a push. But how will the Boilers fare when it comes to running between the tackles?
Right now, it doesn’t look good.
Purdue was able to crank out 9 wins and upset a pair of Top 5 teams with below average play along the offensive line last season. Because of the offensive ingenuity, the Boilers don’t have to be the most dominant team in the trenches to compete in the B1G West.
Still, Purdue needs to show some improvement up front. It’s still a big question mark heading into fall camp.