Players and coaches come and go every year in the Big Ten, but oftentimes trends continue on offense even with the new faces. This week at Land of 10, we are going to take a look at every offense in the league and compare it to a year ago, making a determination whether they should be better or worse in 2016. We will assess a team a day in each division, and today we will take a look at the Purdue Boilermakers.
One thing is certain in West Lafayette, Ind.: Everyone understands improvement must be made in 2016. Another season of massive struggles at Purdue just can’t be accepted.
Darrell Hazell enters his fourth year as Purdue’s head coach, and, in this bottom-line business, his numbers aren’t very good. Hazell is just 6-30 overall at Purdue, with three of those wins coming against FCS foes. Further, Purdue is just 2-22 in the Big Ten on his watch, so this is a make-or-break year.
It helps that the Boilermakers enter 2016 with an experienced quarterback in David Blough. He’s going to have the be the leader as Purdue looks to improve offensively.
Here’s a closer look at Purdue’s offense:
Purdue by the numbers
Total yards per game: 368.6 (11th in Big Ten/No. 95 nationally)
Rushing yards per game: 131.3 (13th in Big Ten/No. 108 nationally)
Passing yards per game: 237.3 (5th in Big Ten/No. 54 nationally)
Key returning players: RB Markell Jones, RT Cameron Cermin, OG Jordan Roos
The skinny: There’s a lot to like about Markell Jones, Purdue’s workhorse at running back. He rushed for 875 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago and looks to see those numbers grow in 2016. Purdue finished 13th in the conference in rushing, primarily because the offensive line struggled to get a consistent push most of the year, usually losing that physical battle across the line. It remains to be seen if Purdue’s offensive line has progressed. It needs to. There’s also still some concern as to whom steps up to spell Jones. Coaches say they aren’t worried about depth, but no one has jumped to the top of the depth chart with Jones – at least, not yet.
Key returning players: QB David Blough, WR DeAngelo Yancey, WR Cameron Posey
The skinny: Blough, who started eight games last year, had some nice moments, most notably a 274-yard performance in the 55-45 win over Nebraska, the Boilermakers’ only Big Ten win last year. He threw 10 TD passes but also had eight interceptions last season, and that ratio needs to improve. Blough, though, has plenty of confidence: he’s sure Purdue will be better in 2016. Everyone is hoping that confidence will rub off on others. Yancey and Posey have been good so far during their years in West Lafayette, but this is a season when that they need to step up and become stars. That’s certainly a possibility.
One stat that must improve
2-22 record in the Big Ten. How’s that for stomach-churning numbers? This decade, Purdue has become that team on the bottom of the Big Ten, and it is, of course, totally unacceptable for the Purdue faithful, a group that’s been quickly dwindling in numbers lately. To avoid a coaching change, winning at least three Big Ten games is probably a must, especially the season finale against Indiana, who’s danced away with the Old Oaken Bucket three years in a row. That’s a crusher for the Boilermakers.
That this underachieving offensive line still isn’t talented enough — and strong enough — to win the battles in the trenches in the tough and physical Big Ten. There is talent at the skill positions, and Blough seems to have what it takes to be successful as a quarterback, but will he have time to throw and will there be holes to run through for running backs? That clearly remains to be seen.
Better or worse in 2016?
BETTER: But not by much. There’s no reason to believe that a running game headed by a back like Jones can’t do better than 131 yards a game this season. A 20 percent jump wouldn’t be a surprise. Yancey is capable of being an all-conference receiver and Blough, with a year under his belt, can get it done. Now it’s just time to prove it. The schedule might set up some early success, with three non-conference home games (Eastern Kentucky, Cincinnati and Nevada) followed by Big Ten road games against fellow league bottom-feeders Maryland and Illinois. The Boilermakers absolutely need to get off to a good start.