Black Gold Game Thoughts/Observations
Full disclosure: My Hazell-Era Hangover is still in process...I have read a grand total of two practice reports as my apathetic habits from the last few seasons have just begun to melt away. Thankfully, my sadist drive to be at the Spring Game continues to hold...and I'm glad for that.
A few fellow Boilermakers and I headed to God's country on last sunny Saturday morn and made a day of it. We fortified our Purdue wardrobes with some "Let's Play Football" t-shirts and some other items, enjoyed a meal in a jam-packed Triple XXX, and got to meet a slew of ex-players, current players, players' parents and even the new guy in charge.
Oh yeah, we watched some football too.
Spring games are a mixed bag of positive an negative feelings, generally...you know the whole, "Our offense looks great...but our defense looks horrible." "Yay, we won. Oh no, we lost." vibe. But honestly, I was pretty aware of what I'd see- A thin team trying to patch together enough players to moderately entertain a small group of fans as the coach tried to show very little due to the game being broadcasted live...and this one lived up to those expectations.
That said, a few details were different. Purdue had the motion "P" on their gold helmets, the field was fully painted, the grass looked damned good (recall some of the Ross-Ade surface in the recent past). No black helmets were worn, no game unis...practice black and white jerseys, charcoal pants along with the white jerseys, black pants with the black jerseys...QBs in their standard goldenrod yellow jerseys.
Part of the game was full contact, then it switched to thud touch football as it got deeper into the depth charts. It felt like an all-star game at times...meaning no one really wanted to be the guy who injured someone. All of that said, a couple of things stood out.
Blough looks like the clear number one. While the QBs were under a down-by-touch rule for the entire day, his combination of solid footwear, quicker release and more accurate passing seemed obvious to me. He missed a few passes, and most of the routes and formations seemed vanilla. But #11 seems to be the clear leader heading into the fall.
Sindelar didn't look terrible, but wasn't as crisp. His delivery is quicker than the last time we saw him play, but it still a tick slower than Blough's. He's not as quick with his feet as Blough either, but seems to throw the ball harder at times; while less accurate.
Lemme remind you that these are unscientific observations...no stat sheet, no film...just live Spring game thoughts. After reviewing that info, if I my opinions change, I'll get back here and re-post...
Knox took a few pops in live action...which was good to see. Here's to a fully-healthy DJ Knox this fall. It was clear he was healthy yesterday. He hit holes harder and ran with more purpose than anyone else that I observed.
Markell Jones played in the game in spite of being injured for much of the Spring. He didn't play tentatively, but really didn't get an opportunity to show what he can do after first contact...mostly because the modified rules as the game progressed weren't full speed.
I love Tario Fuller...have since he torched the B/G game a few Springs ago (if my memory serves me well). He had the play of the day; the only real gadget play of the day, mind you...a fake flea-flicker that yielded a healthy gain very early in the game.
Richie Worship looks pretty thick in his uni this Spring...no surprise there. He had a couple of scores...one was through a MASSIVE hole in a goal line situation.
Both Green and Lankford-Johnson were in sweats on the sideline due to injury.
Jackson Anthrop looks like a smaller Danny Anthrop in the #33...and might be just as nifty, but not quite as fast as his big brother. I was impressed with him and think he will make an impact next season...someplace; either from the slot or on special teams...but he's too quick to keep off of the field with Purdue's roster that'll be available in the fall. I believe Anthrop had the longest catch of the day...but was caught from behind in the play down the middle by Hunte (I believe).
From all accounts, Purdue's best three receivers weren't in uniform; two JuCo receivers and UND transfer, Holmes, might quickly move past Anthrop, Mahungou Phillips and Franklin, who all had catches. True Frosh speedster, Hamilton didn't grab my attention on the positive side...but I remember him getting a case of alligator arms on a route across the middle.
Cole Herdman deserves continued props. After starting to look like a budding solid TE last season, he continued and was the most-noteworthy TE to me on Saturday.
It looked like the offense would run away with the game thanks to solid play by Blough and co...but in the second half, with Blough, Sindelar and the two-deeps done, the defense took over and took the modified scoring Spring game away.
One of my highlights of the guys outside of the two-deeps was back-up QB, Sparks. He has super quick feet and runs with a ton of control...looks like he can change direction very quickly in tight quarters while avoiding big hits. He doesn't really seem to run with reckless abandon, but doesn't need to. My hope is he will play a lil' slot receiver next season.
On the defensive side of the ball, most of the guys looked like they simply weren't going full speed, especially as the game turned to two-hand touch. Hunte still looked solid and was around the ball, Danny E made some plays...in fact, he might have chased Anthrop down on the long pass (can't confirm this yet). LB/DE Tim Faison looked really fast off of the edge...I'm not sure if that's a product of his speed or poor blocking. He reminded me a bit of Cliff Avril when he first arrived on campus...SUPER lean; like a WR, really, off of the edge. DT Anthony Watts was kinda near plays all day and seems to have a solid motor.
Kirk Barron is the lone returning starter in the trenches...he looked solid, but didn't have a ton of help due to youth and injuries that kept a few guys off of the field. So while the defense didn't look like a bunch of world beaters (yet), they kept Blough, Sindelar and co. on the run all day.
One thing seemed obvious on the defensive side of the ball, as my pal Adam noted- in the absence of depth, Brohm and co. seemed to move faster, lighter players toward the line of scrimmage. Guys who looked like LBs and even safeties were playing on the end, a few MLB-looking guys were playing in the interior on defense...these guys will need to eat a bitl and lift a lot in the offseason to really look the part of a B1G defensive front by the fall.
Did I learn much?
I dunno...I learned that I, along with a few thousand other Purdue fans are pretty stoked for what's to come. As a beleaguered Purdue ex-coach once told the media, this fanbase is starved for a winner. I'm not convinced we'll see a ton of that in the Fall, but I am sure we'll be entertained by the offense.
I believe this coaching staff is damned good...I watched a few guys talking to recruits and even talked to current and ex-players about the overall feel of the program right now. This coaching staff seems to focus on important stuff like recruiting, in a way that was simply neglected by Hazell. It will eventually pay off, but the lack of depth for our Boilers seemed crystal clear on Saturday.
The more I hear about Hazell's inability to visit target players, engage their coaches and simply hustle on the recruiting trail, the more amazed I am that Purdue has the players it does now on the roster. It's probably a testament to the recruiting prowess of a handful of his assistant coaches, as much as anything.
It's often said that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence...I can tell you that the grass is much greener this Spring than it was a year ago, in God's Country...both literally and figuratively.