INDIANAPOLIS – After a hugely successful 2021 season, Purdue Football Coach Jeff Brohm began holding press conferences Wednesday during day two of Big Ten Football Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Boilermakers, who ended last year with nine wins for the first time since 2003, have high hopes for the coming season. The program will look to continue its momentum into early 2022 after a thrilling 48-45 overtime win over Tennessee at the Music City Bowl.
After ascending to the podium, Brohm emphasized his excitement for the upcoming season and the importance of improving all three phases of his team’s work toward potential Big Ten Championship competition.
“I like our collection of guys on our team,” Brohm said during his opening remarks. “I think we have a great group of young guys who are hungry, they play with a chip on their shoulder, they work extremely hard, they want to prove themselves. And it’s been a lot of fun coaching these guys.”
Here’s a look at all of the topics Brohm touched on during his inaugural press conference, before being made available on an individual panel:
Purdue’s undisputed starting quarterback
There’s no question who Purdue’s starting quarterback is for the 2022 season, no contest to determine who will be under center in Week 1. Aidan O’Connell is back with the Boilermakers for his final college football season after leading a stellar year on offense at Brohm.
O’Connell, one of four Purdue players to compete in the Big Ten Media Days, finished the 2021 season with 3,712 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions after taking over the starting job from Jack Plummer. He rushed for 2,161 yards and 19 touchdowns in the Boilermakers’ last five games of the year.
A former walk-on, O’Connell is entering his sixth season at Purdue next season.
“Aidan O’Connell is our quarterback that’s here, a great leader who has earned his place as our starting quarterback over the years,” Brohm said. “He earned it the hard way. He is a man of great faith. He worked from the bottom up to our starting quarterback.”
O’Connell was a second-team All-Big Ten pick in 2021 and set the all-season completion percentage record with 71.8% of his passes. He didn’t officially take over offense until the second half of Purdue’s game against Illinois in week three of the season. O’Connell made his first start of the past season against Minnesota the following week.
“It’s unfortunate his head coach didn’t use him earlier this year but we were able to find out,” said Brohm.
View of the position of the wide receiver
Purdue Football will be without its top three receivers starting in the 2021 season. David bell and Jackson anthropo have both left the program while Milton Wright was deemed academically ineligible for the coming year.
This year’s roster featured a bevy of players inexperienced on Brohm’s offense, led by Senior Broc Thompson – a transfer last season from Marshall, who underwent surgery on both knees. Several pass catchers for the Boilermakers were unable to attend spring training due to injuries, but Brohm indicated they are almost healthy for the start of the season.
Thompson ended his 2021 campaign in great fashion, earning the Music City Bowl MVP honors by recording seven catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Behind him, TJ Sheffield, Mershawn rice and Abdur Rahman-Yaseen are a group of young players who want to make a difference in the passing game.
“This year we’re going to have new arrivals that you may not have heard that much about,” Brohm said. “I think we’ve built a very good depth in that space and we have a lot of guys who I think can show up and move up and hopefully play close to that level if they play well.”
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Purdue also added an explosive all-round transfer into the former Iowa wide receiver Tyrone Tracy. The redshirt senior is quickly learning Brohm’s complex offensive system and could prove to be a crucial factor in a variety of roles this season.
Only time will tell who will be available just outside the gates as the program pivots toward fall camp.
Further development of the defense without George Karlaftis
Defensive End Georg Karlaftis has been a dominant force for Purdue defense for the past three years, but the team will have to adjust in the 2022 season without the recent NFL draftee.
However, the Boilermakers have a number of veteran players on defense, and they’re poised for breakout seasons. Brohm brought seniors with him Jalen Graham and Cam Allen with him to the Big Ten Football Media Days, two athletes who have steadily improved throughout their college football careers.
Graham and Allen, along with several seniors, have joined forces on the defensive side of the ball in a bid to expand their leadership role in Karlaftis’ absence next season.
“We have to play complementary football to win but I have a lot of faith in our defence,” said Brohm. “I think we’ll see more guys show up. We lost George Karlaftis, who was an outstanding player, a great leader and a great teammate. We need to find ways to pick up the pieces from there.”
View of the Penn State Nittany Lions
Certainly, the kick-off to Purdue’s football season can’t come soon enough for Boilermaker fans. Ross Ade Stadium in West Lafayette will be packed to the brim for a “blackout” game against visiting Penn State.
The last time the two teams met was in 2019, which ended in a 35-7 loss at State College in Pennsylvania.
“They had 28 points before we could blink and we had to fight to stay in the ball game,” Brohm said, thinking back on the matchup.
Last year Penn State finished with a 7-6 overall record. The Nittany Lions finished second in the Big Ten in goal defense, conceding just 17.3 points per game. They also gave up 199.8 yards through the air in the 2021 season, which placed third in the conference.
“We understand that they are well trained. They have great talent. They will be hungry to prove themselves,” said Brohm. “We have to play at a high level and do a lot of little things right to win this football game.
“Fortunately we have it at home. Our fan support has certainly been outstanding over the last few years. They’re looking forward to playing against a great opponent and we’re looking forward to getting on the field.”
The Boilermakers will take on the Nittany Lions on Thursday night, September 1, with kick-off scheduled for 8 p.m. ET live on FOX.
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