Purdue got jammed up in the second half vs. Michigan.
The Wolverines' press-man coverage, in combination with a relentless pass rush, kept the Boilermakers to only 10 yards of offense. Separation by wide receivers, particularly on the outside, was a problem for the passing game.
Tuesday, we talked to JaMarcus Shephard, Purdue's wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator, about the issues:
Gold and Black: Your receivers need to get off that press-man coverage. How difficult is that to do?
Shephard: "First of all, let me thank all the fans of Purdue Nation for coming out this past Saturday. It was amazing to see the crowd, it was electric. I could feel it flowing through me and I feel like I'm a guy who already has a lot of energy. I could feel it through me the entire time. Thank you guys so much, it's really appreciated. I can promise you it didn't go unnoticed. We look forward to seeing you guys, hoping in better situations going forward.
"As far as the press coverage, there are things you have to work on. You've got to get a little bit better technique or at least use better technique. They do a good job. Those guy can run, they had some guys who can run a little bit and even when we did have opportunities and got off press coverage, they had make-up speed to be able to get back in the hip pocket and so on and so forth.
"There's no question about it, they're a good football team that has a bunch of good players. We have to work and get better so that when we face that in the future, we can have victories there."
Gold and Black: What is the technique involved?
Shephard: "A lot of it is footwork and using hands, being strong especially at the line of scrimmage and within the first five yards that you're going to release on the route. That's the majority of it. Like I said, we did have some opportunities where we did break free and got across the field, got routes open and we've got to be able to hit those going forward."
Gold and Black: It's easier to do if you're a faster receiver.
Shephard: "Of course. Everyone has heard the phrase, 'Speed kills.' If you're a faster receiver, a quicker receiver, then that helps you.
"Greg Phillips did a tremendous job getting in and out of breaks and finding openings and so on. He did a tremendous job. He has some quickness to him, quick-twitch, and that's what it was. Terry (Wright) found some openings, got open down the field on a couple plays and whatnot, we've just got to find ways to be more consistent with it and find ways to win those battles."
Gold and Black: Those newcomers seemingly have some of that physical ability with speed and maybe some quickness ...
Shephard: "Well, you know with them getting here late, some of it has to do with a little bit of strength. They got here so late, they've got to get a little stronger and that definitely plays a role in being able to get releases. Our weight program for them is going to be tremendous, it's just that Corey Holmes showed up in fall camp. Isaac Zico and Terry got here during the summer and then we're starting fall camp. So trying to get those gains in the weight room are critical going forward, but certainly they do have some of that quick-twitch and they've used it. You can see it a little bit on the film. It's just a matter of being able to break away from it in the long run."
Gold and Black: Do you anticipate teams pressing you now?
Shephard: "I hope so. Come on. Look, that's just what football is all about. People are going to press you from time to time. I hope we see some of that and are able to defeat it. Honestly, it doesn't matter to us what actually comes our way, you've got to be great in all situations. You get to this level and you never know what you're going to get. You don't know what the defensive coordinator is going to throw at you, so you've got to be great in all situations."
Gold and Black: What do you like about the development of Wright the last couple weeks? And where does he need to make strides?
Shephard: "Definitely his knowledge of the playbook has jumped. He's definitely got it down pretty well at this point. Can get better, there's no doubt about that, but that certainly is one thing that has been huge for him. And that's allowed him to play a little faster when he gets out there. That's important when you're out there and you're thinking and thinking and thinking, then all the sudden, boom you've finally got it, but the ball is about to be snapped.
"Now, when he sees the concept, he knows what he's doing, and boom, 'I can look over the defense, see what I'm going to be facing once I run the particular concept and I can have a bit more success."
Gold and Black: He needs to hold on to the ball.
Shephard: "We did some drills today to emphasis that piece of it. I can't stress to you guys enough how important it is to take care of the football. I don't have to give you all the statistics and whatnot, but that was very disappointing. I can say that. And hopefully he gets a chance to see this and understand even though I've told him in the meetings, I'm telling him again, that's very disappointing to let go of the football. You let your teammates down, first turnover that we had within the group this year and the only turnover we had in the game. Very, very disappointing in that and we'll do that better moving forward."
Gold and Black: I don't know that it showed up against Michigan, but your downfield blocking, I think it's been pretty good this season. Has it been?
Shephard: "They understand. It's really funny, because most people don't notice a lot of that stuff until something bad happens, so I appreciate you guys even mentioning that at all. But the guys understand my philosophy: If this isn't a play that you would want on film to win the Super Bowl, then it's not a good enough play. So when they're going down field and they have an opportunity to do a Super Bowl-making play, then that's what I want them to do. That's the expectation.
"Like I said, a lot of times it goes unnoticed 'til something bad happens, and so far, they've hung on to that and they understand that. They're getting better. Not that they've been perfect, there's no question about that, but they're certainly getting better at it as we go forward."
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