After his 13-yard touchdown reception Saturday, in which he had to dive across the endzone to get by a defender, Jackson Anthrop came to the sideline.
There, wide receiver coach JaMarcus Shephard enthusiastically greeted him, telling the redshirt freshman that it was an excellent answer after he had messed up, presumably an assignment, earlier.
“Great job,” Shephard said. “That’s how you come back.”
And that’s where Anthrop is right now, a little bit of good mixed with a little bit of bad, but plenty of potential to indicate he might be carving himself a role in the fall. And on a Purdue team devoid of established playmakers, the Boilermakers will welcome anyone who shows promise.
Anthrop finished Saturday, Purdue’s second major scrimmage of the spring, with a game-high five receptions for 47 yards with the touchdown in Ross-Ade Stadium.
“He’s been great,” QB David Blough said Jackson Anthrop, the younger brother of former Boilermaker starting receiver Danny Anthrop. “I got to play with Danny, so of course, you’re going to make that comparison. But you come out here and probably sit in the stands and are like, ‘Wow, that looks like 33 (that Danny wore, as well)’ and that’s a good thing, because Danny was a great player for us.
“Jackson has done a great job of making his own name and he’s had a great camp, probably the best camp by a receiver so far.”
He’s still, however, a work in progress. Jackson Anthrop was largely a running back and return man during his outstanding career at small Central Catholic High School in Lafayette. But last season, the 5-foot-11, 191-pounder transitioned to receiver and redshirted, getting most of his opportunities on the scout team.
But Anthrop’s taken on a much bigger role now. Purdue graduated its top four receivers, plus has had several — Anthony Mahoungou, D’J Edwards and Terrance Landers — injured or absent during spring. It’s left Anthrop in a starting role, in the slot, and he’s taking advantage.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Anthrop said. “You hate seeing guys go down, especially your brothers, the guys in your room who you’re playing with. But when your number is called, you’ve got to step up and make the play.”
Anthrop made some big ones Saturday. On No. 1s’ second series, he caught one of the best balls of the day, when Blough hit him on a post, just past safety T.J. Jallow. The reception set up a first-and-goal at the 2, although Purdue had to settle for a 21-yard field goal.
Later, on a second-and-goal from the 13 — Antoine Miles, perhaps the defensive player of the game, had a tackle for loss on a D.J. Knox first-down rush — Anthrop pulled a Blough pass in for a score.
But Anthrop isn’t without error. During the two-minute drill that ended practice, he and Mahoungou couldn’t get aligned correctly on the left side of the formation, drawing a penalty. The duo was yanked off the field, and the penalty, in combination with Miles’ sack on the ensuing down, killed the drive.
“We just got mixed up a little there, but that’s on us,” Anthrop said. “We’ve got to know where we’re at. Those are the mistakes we can’t make, but have to move on from it.”
After practice, Shephard had a brief convo with Anthrop, suggesting that the receiver get into the playbook a little more to better learn the subtly of the new Boilermaker offense. Anthrop admits he’s still trying to pick up those details.
And considering Anthrop could be playing himself into a bigger role, those little details might turn out big.
“He does give us some toughness and his desire to get it done is there,” Coach Jeff Brohm said. “I like his makeup. In time, he can be a very, very productive player for us. Hopefully, right off the bat he can. But I think he’s making progress and needs to be a little more consistent, pay attention to the details. But I like the effort I’ve seen.”
Active up front
Purdue’s defensive front seemingly had a solid day, both in getting to the quarterbacks and knocking down passes at the line.
Miles had two sacks, including the one on the two-minute and a third-down takedown earlier. He also had a pass breakup. Linebackers Marcus Bailey and Danny Ezechukwu sacks; Purdue had one other, unofficially credit to the team.
D-tackle Eddy Wilson was active, with a couple of passes broken up on the line of scrimmage.
And reserve tackle Fred Brown had the day’s only interception — another by safety Jacob Thieneman, during which he appeared to hurt a shoulder, in the endzone was negated by penalty — when he snuffed out a screen in the second-team’s two-minute.
“At times, I think we look like we’re supposed to look,” Brohm said of Purdue’s front. “Then, whether it’s the shuffling guys, or maybe we don’t have all of them in there, they don’t look like they’re supposed to look.
“I do think the first unit, we have enough players there to make plays for us and do a good job. We’ve got to get them in shape where they can play a lot of plays, but we have to develop the guys behind them. There’s a little bit of a drop off and we’ve got to make sure they’re improving and continuing to get better because we have to have more than one set of D-linemen.”
And the O-line
Blough thinks Purdue’s offensive line has seen improvement since Day 1 of the spring.
Good, considering the Boilermakers have had so much questions about the rebuilding unit. Purdue’s QB were sacked five times on 61 passes, too high a rate but not disastrous either. And at times, Blough had plenty of time in the pocket, like when he was able to scan the field before finding tight end Brycen Hopkins open for a 29-yard gain.
“They’ve came a long way, across the whole line,” Blough said of the O-line. “They’ve done a great job. And Coach (Nick) Holt really dialed it up on us today, trying to bring a lot of pressure and confuse them. It made it hard on us, but they did a good job, maybe a couple sacks, but that’s on everybody, got to get the ball out quicker.”
Lineman Matt McCann, who isn’t participating in team drills after having offseason ankle surgery, says he’s liked what he’s seen from the sideline. Particularly, he thinks, the starting tackles — Grant Hermanns on the left Eric Swingler on the right — have improved greatly.
“I’ve seen a lot of people get a lot better,” McCann said after Friday’s practice. “Like every spring, that should be the goal, to see guys get better and get ready for fall camp. It’s a good opportunity to be with the coaches and make strides.”
• Blough would have liked to end the day on a better note.
The junior quarterback threw for two touchdowns, hitting 14-of-30 passes, unofficially, for 190 yards.
But the first-team offense sputtered on the two-minute drill. Down only two with less than two minutes left, the Boilermakers started on their own 35-yard line, but after three completions, and two incompletions, the Boilermakers had advanced only to midfield.
Then, Purdue had the illegal formation, when Anthrop and Mahoungou couldn’t get properly set on the line of scrimmage, and Miles had a sack. Following a timeout, Blough threw incomplete pass deep.
“We didn’t really get the drive started well,” he said. “You’ve got to get that first first down in the two-minute drill. Then, we had a penalty, and it’s hard when you don’t have the visual clock, we’re just listening to it. And then we just have to complete passes and we didn’t do a very good job of that.
“The first time we’ve done (two-minute this spring), so it was different. But we were only down two points and didn’t get to kick a field goal.”
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• Richie Worship was Purdue’s leading rusher (in terms of running backs), with 47 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns. On back-to-back carries with the second team — they appeared to be the same play consecutively — in the redzone, he picked up 20 yards. The second carry, a six-yarder, he bowled over linebacker Semisi Fakasiieiki.
Third-string QB Jared Sparks had 56 yards on five carries, including a 44-yard touchdown on a scramble. Plus, the redshirt freshman was 2-of-7 passing for 17 yards and had two receptions for 19 yards.
Anthrop led Purdue in receptions and yardage, while tight end Cole Herdman had four catches for 31 yards. Hopkins had three for 52 yards and a TD.
For a full list of unofficial statistics, click HERE ($).
• J.D. Dellinger hit a 54-yard field goal, the highlight of a solid day by the three place-kickers.