Craig has the Scout - Purdue 2018
Who: Purdue Boilermakers
When: 2:30 pm - October 13th, 2018
Where: Home Sweet Homecoming
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm. The bane of Robert's patience mantra. Brohm, a former Illini QB coach and Offensive Coordinator for fighting hunger, is in his second season in West Lafayette. Brohm is a bit of a riverboat gambler, and likes to use gadget and gimmick plays within his base scheme to break big plays. So far so good at Purdue, but with Louisville going so poorly the question will be if Brohm can be lured away to home.
Offensive Style: Modern Pro Style?. Brohm's offense is the dreaded term multiple. The core of the offense is the Bobby Petrino offense. The offense is a scheme that utilizes misdirection and options for the offense (similar to Rutgers last week). Petrino offenses have always had lots of eye candy for defenders, and Brohm added up-tempo elements to that core. As modern passing spread offenses have proliferated, Brohm leaned more heavily on the pass as well. Brohm does try to stay balanced though and will stay committed to the run. And, as mentioned above, he loves to take advantage of the misdirection and run trick plays for home runs.
Defensive Style: Nick Holt is a veteran of the Pete Carroll tree, and connected with Brohm at Western Kentucky. He moved to Purdue with him, and utilized an extremely veteran unit last season to post a top 40 defense. Graduating most of that defense has left Nick Holt to his own wiles, and he now posts a top 80 defense. Holt runs a version of the 4-3 similar to Illinois, and is in Nickel coverage against spread teams like Illinois. Holt has been mixing in a 3-4 look with a standup LB on the end of line, and another hybrid S/LB in the box._ *_
Specialists: Rondale Moore is explosive, and will return most of the kicks for the Boilers. Moore can break a play at any moment on the field, so Hayes should work on hang time this week.
Three Things to Watch
David Blough's mobility vs. the Illini rush. Illinois struggles with mobile quarterbacks, and Blough can move. Illinois is struggling to generate pressure, which may mean more blitzing this week. If the Illini cannot contain Blough on the blitz, the middle of the field will be exposed. Illinois needs to improve the pressure in the backfield while maintaining lanes.
The Illini OL vs the Boiler DL. The Illini looked really good last week in the run game. Kendrick Green is still a freshman, but the ceiling is visible multiple times a game. If the Illini can consistently generate a push in the middle of the line, the read option with Bush becomes very effective. Illinois needs to create running lanes with consistency, and take what Purdue will give them.
The Illini secondary vs. Rondale Moore. Purdue will do everything they can to get Rondale Moore in space. Illinois might be smart to spy Moore all game with Nate Hobbs and work out from there. Moore is an explosive athlete, and Illinois needs to contain him in space.
Scouting Review - Offense
Rondale Moore is a perfect Jeff Brohm recruit. Moore is a player that is elusive and hard to contain. His ability to make big plays has been fully on display so far this season. Brohm is taking advantage, using his scheme to spread teams out and create mismatches, then leverage the natural advantage his players have.
The Brohm playbook is fairly simple. The offense utilizes motion, play action, and a bevy of formations to confuse defenses. Brohm then provides reads for his offense to take advantage of any defensive cue missed. When Brohm finds a chink in the armor, he will continually exploit it until the opponent adjusts. Brohm believes with equal talent, he can win by creating an advantage for his team on the field.
Teams that slow down Purdue are those that are disciplined and limit Brohm's playbook. While at Western Kentucky, Brohm struggled against physical teams that ran man coverage on his receivers. Last year against Michigan, Purdue killed Michigan on the perimeter with the screen game (another staple of the Brohm offense), and Michigan finally eliminated the play with a disciplined safety and an alignment change. Once Brohm lost his advantage, he was playing a base offense and Michigan put them away.
What can Illinois expect to see against Purdue? The Boilers should absolutely run the ball all day against the Illini. Brohm being Brohm though, they will mix in a healthy amount of passing. Brohm likes to be balanced, but typically runs a 60-40 pass to run mix. So far this year the Boilers are running 45% of the time. Garbage time has the last few weeks meant Purdue ran the ball in the 4th quarter heavily. With a bye week to prepare for this vaunted Illini offense, Brohm might throw a few trick plays in early, but he will try and establish the run early and force Illinois to stop it.
The first play I think Purdue is going to run will expose the interior of the Illini defense. Milan made some decent plays last week, and in order to slow down the Illini DTs from trying to bring penetration, Purdue will using a pulling line to open up the middle.
They may only run this once or twice, and expect to see it when the Illini DTs start generating penetration. This play was against Northwestern after about three straight plays of DT penetration.
The next run play Purdue will try and run is an off tackle play and their best version is the Power. The Lovie Smith defense has never successfully slowed this down, and the formation will dictate how it looks. I would assume they go heavy and pound the Illini. Here is the Power against Nebraska
The Boilers like to run inside zone blocking when possible and will run some inside zone. The Boilers are not dominant up front though, and will utilize pulling lineman and down blocking when possible. Here is an H back lead play.
This play requires the center of the line to hold and prevent massive penetration. The good news for Purdue is that they can allow penetration and still make this play work. The defensive ends need to hold the line to slow down the Boilers, and that is something Illinois has not done much of this season. Purdue will probably run 75 plays on Saturday, and about 35 will be run plays. An inside zone, or a lead play like this will be run about 20 times. Get used to seeing the Illini being pounded on the edges with similar plays to this.
If Illinois slows the inside zone, the Boilers will use the Counter to change the look for the Illini defenders. Here against the Cornhuskers the DE is pinned and Purdue breaks it.
Purdue is not a great run team, but with all the motion and misdirection they create advantages at the point of attack. Against the Huskers, they stuck with the run game though to keep the offense multidimensional.
Illinois has struggled to adjust to this counter look, Western Illinois was very successful early using a similar strategy. USF and Kent State both used a similar play look and gashed Illinois.
Again, Purdue really likes to pull the OL to create angles and create running lanes. And occasionally they show Blough in a read option look.
By pulling the T and using him clearing the lane, the T chips and gets to the second level quickly. This will get 4-5 yards consistently unless the Illini scheme away from its base set.
Once the Illini safeties start coming up to help in the run game, Purdue has a few trick plays up their sleeve. Brohm is probably best known for the fleaflicker. They have run it in every game I watched this year.
Blough underthrew this pretty badly, that should have been 6. If the OL gets penetration, there is a natural check down for Blough.
As you can see here, Blough gave a single quick look downfield, then checked it down to the TE. The OL is blocking for the dual nature on this play. On the first fleaflicker against Nebraska the options were the deep seam or a sideline route.
The linebackers are going to be exposed individually in the pass game as well. Brohm loves to work in a great deal of play action passing against teams. The first type of play is simply a quick hitter to freeze the middle of the field defenders and put a receiver in space.
The RB action here holds the LBs for a moment, and Blough has the option of taking the stop route on the sideline or one of the two TEs running a seam route. If the LBs bail out, the TE is the pass option. One thing about Blough, he is extremely efficient when passing over the middle of the field.
Brohm also is going to mix in some RPOs as well. They like to use the eye candy of a pulling lineman to keep the defense honest.
The lineman here pulls and is immediately to the second level. Blough looks like he decided to throw this before the ball was snapped.
While Brohm takes a lot of shots, he gives Blough plenty of options to keep himself clean. When Blough has no pressure, he is deadly. Here is a play action pass where Blough is trying to hit the seam, but it is covered.
The motion was used to even up the numbers for the two wide receivers. The play has two players running down the hash and then splitting putting one of the receivers in single coverage. Neither had separation, and since Blough had the time he checked down. Illinois not getting a pass rush means Brohm will be more than happy to try and break these deep, and the extra time will allow Blough to check it down.
One of Brohm's favorite plays is to run a QB bootleg to one side (I've only seen him run it to the right this season), and running the TE on a crossing route away from the bootleg after initially showing pass pro.
This is a "trick" style play, but part of the Brohm base package. The play is going be used as a homerun play, Illinois needs to limit it to a single or at worst a double.
Brohm has a real difference maker in Moore, and in the Petrino mindset of Feed the Studs, Moore is getting about twice as many touches as the next highest utilized player on the team. So, look for a series of plays where Moore moves around to prevent the defense from layering coverage on him, and to create a mismatch in coverage. Once the mismatch is set up, the Boilers will run a small package of set plays for Moore. The first is a Brohm staple, an arrow route.
Boston College has a 3 vs. 2 on Moore's side, but the arrow with a post route stacked freezes the safety and isolates a LB on Moore. Illinois' LBs are going to struggle with this if they get isolated.
Brohm ran this again later against Boston College after the safety started to cheat up on Moore.
As you can see in this play, the safety is reading Moore from the snap, and the outside receiver sets up like he is running a WR screen. It allows the receiver to get behind the corner with absolutely no safety help. Homerun play for the Boilers.
If Illinois does run press man, Purdue will work the sidelines extensively. Against BC, when they saw a single high safety look they worked the sidelines hard. BC did it to help neutralize Moore, but it made everything a man on man matchup.
A nice Peanut Punch at the end made this a turnover, but Purdue sniffed out the blitz and the receiver ran a great route down the sideline to create space.
Another concept the Boilers run is the dual WR screen game. The idea is to get the ball out quick and have the OL moving downfield quickly.
While this is basically a long handoff, if you watch the OL they had a nicely set up screen on the bottom of the play.
When teams start to sneak up on the screen game there is another counter.
Here the action shows Rondale Moore on a crossing route, and the safeties are tracking Moore directly. The safety and nickel (14 & 24) both bite hard on the Moore action, and the TE is assignment for one of them. Purdue ran a pick route and it frees the TE down the sideline. Brohm at Purdue consistently is at the top of the charts for plays over 20 yards. They are a top 10 offense for explosiveness nationally.
For some reason I have not showed as much motion as Purdue will run. They will use a lot of Jet motion to show Blough the coverage. Once identified, they will put the defensive secondary into a bind and exploit the gaps.
This is a Art Briles / Mike Leach play, but done so out of a double tight set. The set screams run, then they run an Air Raid 4 Vert staple behind it with options for all the receivers based on what the defense did.
I've now gone on way too long without showing the most prolific Petrino play. Crossing routes with a deep shot.
Blough is trying to set up the RB Wheel route which is well covered. Meanwhile, the TE runs the crossing route. They will run the AJ Jenkins double crossing pattern all the time as well, especially against the Illini LB corps.
The final thing that will haunt me Saturday is Blough using his legs. Blough is not a great runner, but he extremely proficient. First, the pure QB draw/lead.
If Illinois runs bracket coverage for Moore, Purdue will counter with this. Then, when Illinois gets a pass rush they need to maintain rush lanes or Blough will do this.
This is a danger of running man coverage with a pass rush. No one is spying the QB and the spacing of the Boiler offense leaves gaping holes in the defense.
Based on the bevy of plays I showed above you can see that I am very concerned about the Illini D doing anything to stop or even slow up this offense. The main challenge to watch is the dichotomy of the Illini trying to stop big plays against an offense that is designed to generate them. Purdue is top 10 on their end. Illinois is top 60. Advantage Boilers.
Scouting Review - Defense
There is one thing I think is going to hold up Jeff Brohm in his career, and that is Nick Holt as his DC. Holt is the kind of DC that TV cameras love, as do opposing offensive coordinators. Holt's defenses are pretty vanilla and don't do any one thing well. The result is that Holt calls for activity by his defense to try and generate a better result. Holt's defense is not particularly sound, but his gambling mentality makes up for the shortcomings.
Illinois really can't pass and as a result the Boilers are going to gear up to stop the Illini rushing attack. Purdue saw a very similar scheme in their last game against Nebraska. Nebraska had a great deal of success in running the ball and broke quite a few big plays. The Illini should be able to replicate the success, but will need to avoid the self inflicted errors of the Huskers.
When Holt was struggling to stop the rush, he did some line shifts against Boston College. By moving the DL, he was trying to mess up the zone scheme and the blocking assignments.
This shift appears to have checked BC out of a run play and move to a pass play. This was a win for Holt.
Holt will also bring LB blitzes. The Illini OL are pretty capable in the run blocking game, and the guards are doing a great job of getting to the second level. To combat this, the Boilers will move the LBs and prevent the Illini getting clean looks on the second level.
With the RPO pass game, Holt will try to disrupt this with edge pressure. Holt blitzes CB often, and it is done to disrupt the timing of the RPOs.
Bush gets happy feet during with pressure like this, he needs to be calm and take what is available and not try to do too much.
On pure pass downs, the Boilers will try to confuse the opposing OL. The Illini will need to be used to blitzing LBs and a stunting DL. It will happen pretty much every play.
Illinois needs to dictate the pace of the game, and to take what is available to them. Bush tried too hard against Western Illinois and struggled to move the ball. Last week against Rutgers, he played within his limits. This week, Purdue will attempt to disrupt Bush. If Bush can play within himself and the Illini OL manages the defensive movement, Illinois can put up boatload of yards Saturday (Nebraska put up around 600).
What does it mean?
Illinois is 3-2 this year, with losses to two top 25 teams. Purdue is 2-3 this year with two losses to P5 schools and a head scratcher against Eastern MIchigan. On quality of opponents alone, Illinois holds the advantage.
Any advantage Illinois holds is skin deep though. The Illini's strongest win this year might be Western Illinois. Purdue has a solid victory over Boston College. Illinois took a 39 point loss to top 25 Penn State, while Purdue's worst loss is a 4 points to Northwestern. Purdue has put up similar statistical numbers against Illinois, while playing a schedule 50% harder than Illinois'. Purdue has been penalized at times by opponents who have made great plays, Illinois has yet to show they can make those plays against a Top 60 caliber team.
For Illinois to Win:
Illinois has to run the ball consistently, and stay out of 3rd down with long distances. AJ Bush is an excellent runner, but teams starting this week will sell out completely to stop the run and WR screen game of Illinois with AJ Bush. Illinois needs to keep Purdue honest and move the ball with consistency. Additionally, they cannot have turnovers.
Conversely, on defense Illinois has to force turnovers. Purdue is +3 in turnover margin in wins, -4 in losses. If the Illini can be +2 in the game they give the offense a chance to score with Purdue. The Illini front 4 need to be very disruptive as well, they need to vastly improve the rush defense generate a pass rush.
For Purdue to Win:
Purdue needs to get the offense moving. David Blough is a QB in the mold of Blake Barnett from South Florida. He would prefer not to run, but is very efficient moving around and will make plays with his feet. Purdue needs Blough to negate any pressure Illinois can generate and make good throws.
The Boilers also have struggled in the red zone converting touchdowns. Much like Illinois against South Florida, they cannot settle for field goals and allow the Illini to explode on big plays to stay within striking distance.
David Blough is the question mark for this game. When QBs get mobile against Illinois, the Illini give up massive amounts of yards on the ground. When QBs sit in the pocket, Illinois is picking off passes at a high clip. Blough is just a little too mobile for my likes. Although Illinois will probably score 20+, I think Purdue scores at least 35. I'll take the Boilers to cover on the Illini homecoming.
YTD Against the Spread: