All of Purdue’s quarterbacks needed to learn Jeff Brohm’s offense and develop in decision-making, footwork and accuracy this spring.
For the most part, the top three did that. But Brohm says there’s still plenty of work to do.
So much so Brohm wasn’t giving any firm declarations exiting the spring on who the starting quarterback is, though David Blough led the Big Ten last season in several passing categories in his first season as a full-time starter.
Though Blough would appear to head into the offseason as the No. 1, considering he got the bulk of the first-team reps over the team’s 15 practices, the race apparently is closer than it may have appeared.
On Monday, Brohm told a small group of reporters that sophomore Elijah Sindelar is “going to be in the competition.”
And not only that.
Jared Sparks may be part of a competition of sorts, too, considering Brohm’s current strategy that includes all three quarterbacks on Saturdays.
“I met with all of our guys after the spring, and all of our quarterbacks know that … we’ll probably play more than one quarterback,” Brohm said. “Even if we didn’t have an athletic guy like Jared who could do a bunch of other things, we’ll probably play more than one quarterback. We’re not afraid to give a guy a series or two in the second quarter when the game is on the line, not wait until the end of the game when it doesn’t matter. What that does is it keeps everybody into it. Whoever ends up being the starter understands, ‘I’m going to have to produce and do things right,’ and whoever goes in second says, ‘Hey, I’m getting an opportunity, let’s take advantage of it.’ Lot of times in those situations, if someone goes in and does well, they stay in.
“But it definitely puts pressure on everyone to perform and continue to work, and it gets guys ready in case something happens or somebody goes down. That happened to me when I was a player and it’s happened when I’ve been a coach a couple places I’ve been, and it’s been very productive and successful, and that’ll be the strategy going into it. It always can change.”
As the starter last season, Blough completed 57 percent of his passes for 3,352 yards and 25 touchdowns. He had 21 interceptions, a number that Blough admits was too high and had him focusing on improving his decision-making this spring, as well as his accuracy.
In the three scrimmages, including the spring “game,” Blough unofficially was 38-of-70 (54 percent) for 502 yards (13.2 per completion) with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
"We want David (Blough) to continue to improve," Brohm said. "He has all the intangibles you want as far as he works extremely hard, he’s a terrific young man, he’s a team player. Now it’s about improving upon his weaknesses. Last year, too many interceptions, a little bit jumpy in the pocket. Sometimes there’s good reasons for it (with offensive line allowing pressure). But it is what it is, we’ve got to improve it. We’ve got to make sure he becomes a great decision-maker. We get him completions, we get him comfortable, we get him in a rhythm to where when he takes his shots, he feels comfortable with it. But he’s got to make sure to take care of the ball and be able to stand in the pocket. He’s not a big guy in stature, so we’ve got to find ways to create lanes, maybe move the pocket, whatever we’ve got to do, we’ve got to get him to where he’s feeling comfortable."
As a redshirt freshman last season, Sindelar was 14-of-32 (44 percent) for 165 yards with no touchdowns. He had three interceptions in those 32 attempts, all in mop-up duty at the end of games against the opposing team’s backups.
This spring, Sindelar unofficially completed 57 percent of his 63 passes in the three scrimmages for 449 yards (12.5 per completion). He had one touchdown and two turnovers, one interception and a fumbled snap.
"He made improvements and there are some things he did I liked. He’s a bigger guy in stature, he can see the field, he’s got a good arm, he worked extremely hard as well. I liked his work ethic, so we’ve got to make sure that competition is going on," Brohm said.
Sparks redshirted last season as a rookie.
Late in spring ball as injuries piled up at receiver, Sparks got some reps at receiver, both in the slot and on the outside. He proved to be largely sure-handed in the quick passing game — even without wearing receiver gloves — and he’s an athletic, elusive option when he has the ball in space. Whether that’s by catching it or when he got outside the pocket on zone-read keepers.
That's why Brohm called Sparks the "X factor."
"He can continue to improve on his quarterback skills, which he will, but he can run," Brohm said. "He can do things with the ball in his hand and right now we’re looking for playmakers, so I think it’s important that we make sure to have things that he does well in the package while we continue to improve his quarterback skills and make sure he’s ready to go at other positions. But the ball needs to be in his hands some, also."
• Brohm said there were two serious injuries this spring: Defensive end Chazmyn Turner and defensive back Brandon Shuman will miss the season after knee injuries suffered in the spring.
• Andy Chelf, the linebacker who was shot in an off-campus incident the morning after the spring game, is expected to make a “full recovery,” Brohm said. Brohm said there’s hope Chelf would be able to return to class on Tuesday. As far as a return to the football field, Brohm said he didn’t know a timetable for that.
• As can be typical over an offseason, there likely will be some roster attrition. Brohm said there could be a better idea of that next month. “When the grades come out middle of May, that’ll dictate a lot of things. We’re hopeful for the best, but there are some areas we’re working through that will dictate how it all plays out.”
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