Somewhere between the Foster Farms Bowl celebration and the hook and latter two minutes into Purdue’s spring game on Saturday, it hit me.
Jeff Brohm is going to be a serious problem in 2018.
By “problem,” I mean that he’s going to coach a team that has the potential to beat anyone in a given week. Not preparing for Brohm’s bevy of trick plays and two-quarterback system will increase those odds for any team assuming that this is still the same old Purdue.
By now, it’s no secret that Brohm figured out this coaching thing. That’s why he was reportedly pursued by Tennessee to fill that vacancy. Ultimately, though, he elected for a second year in the B1G.
Something tells me the rest of the conference is going to wish that he didn’t.
Brohm already proved that he had a handle on how to fix Purdue. Besides earning the program’s first bowl victory since 2011, nobody blew out the Boilermakers — not the Heisman Trophy winner and not the 12-0 division champ (on the road). To me, that’s the encouraging sign about Year 1 of the Brohm era.
As for Year 2, that already looks promising.
Do I think that Brohm is ready to lead Purdue to a division title and really shake up the top of the B1G West? Probably not. But do I think that he’s ready to upset a B1G contender or two and finish with a winning conference record for the first time since 2006? Absolutely.
With Brohm, it’s natural to talk about the offense. Between the trick plays and the spread-it-out, throw-the-ball-all-over-the-field passing game, what’s not to like? Ohio State and Penn State were the only B1G teams who threw for more touchdown passes than Purdue in Year 1 of the Brohm era. That was with a 2-quarterback system, both of whom were injured at key points of 2017.
I’m not sold on the belief that Brohm is going to use Elijah Sindelar and David Blough in the same capacity that he used them in 2017. In my opinion, Sindelar is the guy if he’s healthy. But if Brohm does insist on a 2-quarterback system again, you know that defensive coordinators will groan at the thought of game-planning for that.
Brohm definitely does things his own way. He gets credit for the offensive improvements, but the job he and his staff did rebuilding that defense was perhaps the best sign for 2018.
If you would’ve told me that in Year 1 of the Brohm era, the Purdue defense was going to allow just 10 rushing touchdowns and finish with a top-30 rushing defense, I would’ve laughed you out of the room. That’s a credit to co-defensive coordinator Nick Holt.
And yes, there are some massive holes to fill on defense with Ja’Whaun Bentley, Gelen Robinson and Danny Ezechuwku gone. There’s still a chance that Purdue posts the numbers it did in 2018 without those veterans. As long as Holt is running the show for the Boilermaker defense, it should be awfully competitive. It wasn’t difficult to see why Holt’s Western Kentucky defense was second in FBS against the run in 2016.
From top to bottom, Purdue just looks like a different program with Brohm and his staff. Anybody who paid attention in 2017 could see that. His teams play with purpose, they don’t collapse when they fall behind early and they actually look like they enjoy playing. After all, football is supposed to be fun.
I thought Big Ten Network senior writer Tom Dienhart had the perfect reaction to that trick play to start off Purdue’s spring game:
Who wouldn’t want to play in this offense? https://t.co/1QlkWfTvJj
— Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) April 7, 2018
That’s the dream. Every coach in America knows how much easier it is to succeed with an offense that kids want to play in.
Purdue bought into Brohm, and slowly but surely, people have started to do so nationally. Brohm trusts his players to run things like hook and ladders, and he trusts them to go for it on fourth down (Purdue was third in the B1G in fourth-down attempts).
Stuff like that matters when you’re trying to establish a culture. It’s not hard to like a coach who swings for the fences, even if he comes up empty sometimes.
We don’t know how long Purdue fans will get to root for Brohm. For all we know, he could head off to Louisville or another attractive job at season’s end. Surely the hope is that he stays in West Lafayette for at least a few more years.
Well, B1G coaches might not root for that.