Purdue spring recap: 10 takeaways

Kyle Charters, GoldandBlack.com staff
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Jeff Brohm finished up his first spring practice at Purdue with Saturday's game, won by the defense 45-30 in a modified points system.

What did he — and the rest of us — learn about the Boilermakers? Below are 10 quick takeaways, a preview of our position-by-position breakdowns over the next two weeks:

10. Although the Boilermakers had about 15 players out for the spring game, including potential starters like OL Matt McCann, DT Lorenzo Neal, DE Austin Larkin and TE Brycen Hopkins, Brohm said no injuries were expected to be long-term.

Perhaps the one to watch is Rob Simmons, as the linebacker was forced to the sideline in the second half of Saturday's game with an apparent shoulder injury.

9. Purdue has only a couple positions where its depth meets expectation: Linebacker and running back.

At linebacker, it has returning starters Ja'Whaun Bentley and Markus Bailey, who both experienced solid springs, and Danny Ezechukwu, plus WKU transfer T.J. McCollum, who sat out while rehabbing an injured elbow. And perhaps Simmons can find a pass-rushing role.

The running backs appear to have options, particularly with the return of D.J. Knox, after his ACL a year ago, plus Richie Worship and Tario Fuller. Maybe Markell Jones returns to form, and Brian Lankford-Johnson is a speed threat, although he needs to understand — and embrace — the nuances of the offense.

8. Nick Holt's defense will be more more aggressive, particularly at linebacker, than what was on display Saturday.

Brohm called Purdue's schemes "vanilla" for Saturday, perhaps only the couple gadget plays on offense being out of the box.

7. The Boilermaker defense has depth concerns, especially on the defensive line, where it's hard for a play to get upwards of 80 snaps per game. Purdue tried it — and failed — last season, wearing down in the second halves.

Neal's return might help.

But on the edges, promising underclassmen, like Kai Higgins, need strong offseasons.

6. No place, however, is depth more concerning than on the offensive line.

Purdue might feel comfortable with four starters — maybe — but it'll need a fifth. McCann's return, although it's unclear what position he'll fill, will help. But afterward, Purdue is short.

It was telling on Saturday, when the second-team offensive line gave up nine of the defense's 11 sacks.

5. Jared Sparks closed the gap on backup quarterback Elijah Sindelar, raising questions about who would be No. 2 in the fall. Although far from a finished product, Sparks, a redshirt freshman, seemed to make great strides this spring.

4. Speaking of ... Sparks might have carved himself out a role as a multitool player for the Boilermakers, considering his natural abilities as a runner and receiver. Perhaps his impact on the perimeter in the fall will be depend on whether Purdue finds other play-makers, whether they be those currently on the roster or those set to arrive.

3. Newcomer T.J. Jallow became one to watch in the spring, for good reasons and bad.

The safety has some moxie, playing with a swagger that Purdue's not seen much recently. He wants to hit, and he did so in the spring, sometimes needlessly so by taking shots on his own teammates. But he'll be going after opponents — within rules, it's hoped — in the fall.

But does Jallow understand coverages, schemes, etc.? We'll see.

2. Purdue's new coaching staff spent 15 practices being very detail oriented with its new team, a good tactic to take with a group needing a lot of development to be able to compete in the fall.

1. Purdue needs playmakers on the perimeter.

At the end of spring, it probably only feels comfortable with receiver Gregory Phillips, and only after the senior had an impressive final week of practice when he showed more consistency and big-play ability.

His sideline catch while closely covered by cornerback Kamal Hardy might have been the offensive play of the spring game.

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