Craig Has The Scout - Purdue 2019
Who: Purdue Boilermakers
When: 11:00 am - October 26th, 2019
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm. Brohm was the recipient of a very mature defensive-minded team when he took over the Boilers. He took the opportunity to install his high flying offense on the core and brought in grad transfers to stabilize the roster. Brohm had a couple of banner years in West Lafayette, but the drop off has hit this year, and the injury bug has popped up as well. Brohm has a good core of freshmen and a few upperclassmen, but lack the meaningful depth the Boilers need to compete.
Offensive Style: Passing Spread with Petrino offense roots. Brian Brohm and JaMarcus Shephard share the OC title, and Shephard's title is mainly due to his recruiting prowess. Brohm is well versed in the Petrino offense and Shephard was on Brohm's original staff at WKU before spending some time with Mike Leach in Pullman. I'm still 92% convinced that Brohm calls every play.
Defensive Style: A 3-3-5 with a Cover 2 Shell. Nick Holt and Anthony Poindexter share the title of DC, but this is Holt's defense. Now that he has lost all of Hazell's players, Holt is starting to struggle. They have some impressive talent in the freshman class, including George Karlaftis who is a West Lafayette native. Holt likes to blitz and be aggressive, but this year aggressive play has put players on islands. This is not working out so well for the Boilers.
Specialists: With Rondale Moore out, Jackson Anthrop has taken over the duties as the primary returner. Moore will probably play this week, but he won't be returning kicks quite yet.
Three Things to Watch
Brandon Peters against a SOFT secondary. Teams are shredding the Purdue for more than 275 yards per game in the air. The secondary struggles in tight coverage and leaves holes for QBs to throw into. Minnesota threw for about 400 yards against the Boilers. TCU ran the ball at will and only had 75 passing yards.
Illinois Pass Defense. The Illini are going to be facing the most pass-happy team they have played this year. The Boilers are more pass prone than even the Gophers. Brohm will be sure to use play-action passing to confuse the Illini LBs this game.
The Turnover Fairy. Illinois has been one of the luckiest turnover teams this year. Purdue is on the opposite side of that. The Boilermakers will be hoping the Turnover Fairy finally plays nice this weekend. A game like this is one that will turn on a bad turnover either way.
Scouting Review - Offense
Brohm continues to take big risks playcalling to break big plays. Similar to Paul Petrino's Illinois offense, Brohm runs a very base set of plays, and he has a mantra of feeding the studs. Last year, Rondale Moore was the cool toy in the Brohm offense. Prior to his injury, Moore was back on the same path. Since his injury, Brohm has been relying on David Bell to fill the freshman sensation role.
Variety is the keyword for the Purdue offense. Brohm and company will work through the play sheet until they hit on something that is working, then they will work that look, along with two or three counters utilizing the same action. Brohm's offense relies on the defense being on their back foot. When defenses can control the tempo and pace, the Boilers flail away.
The interesting part of the match up Saturday is Illinois struggles to deal with a read-option attack. Purdue...doesn't do the read-option attack well. The Boilers will want to throw the ball all day, but I suspect Brohm will attempt to establish the run against the Illini. The tempo of the game will be much slower than one would presume with these two teams. I'd bet the under.
In an effort to establish the run, the inside zone is the most basic play to run.
If the Illini DTs give 25% of the effort they had against Wisconsin, Purdue will struggle to get this going. The Boilers will run it though to keep the defense honest and open up other facets of the playbook.
The Boilers will run the RPO look out of this as well.
Sindelar is reading the Nickel in this case. If the Safety breaks on the run, it is a quick hitter to the outside. If the Nickel or corner jumps the Bubble screen, the Boilers will leak the blocker out down the sideline for a big gain. The Illini will need to be assignment sound to stop this, but the Purdue OL are not good enough to force their will on the Illini in the pure zone.
To assist the OL in blocking, the Boilers will run opposite the zone blocks. One way to achieve this is the Wham play. I would take advantage of the Wham to create better angles for the OL to block the front seven and will take advantage of DTs over penetrating.
This is an RPO, and Sindelar makes a nice read. With Plummer running the offense, the reads are not as sharp.
The play that Purdue would like to establish more than others though is the Power. The Power is a staple of running attacks, and provides the same advantages as the Wham, while also getting a numbers advantage on the play side.
The OLB for Nevada crashed down, so the guard pinned him down. The Purdue rushing attack is nothing special, but they will get some yards on this look Saturday.
One method to present confusion to a defense on the Power is to incorporate a Slot Motion action to the play.
Rondale Moore is the motion man on this play, and even if he plays Saturday they will avoid putting him in the slot on the hand off. The Boilers can also have a Pro set with the RBs and create a numbers difference on the point of attack.
One thing the Gophers did in the game was to pinch the DTs. Both had inside technique on the guards to pinch the middle of the Boilers OL. The alignment had the Boilers pull the OT as the lead. The can run this same play with the obvious RPO attached as well.
The Illini LBs have struggled to read RPOs and play-action consistently this season, so I'm curious to see what Lovie's adjustment is to this part of the Boiler offense.
The Illinois DL had a pretty disruptive day last Saturday, and the guards of Wisconsin were exposed. The Boiler guards would not start for the Badgers, so the Illini have the change to be disruptive again. Aside from the Wham, another way to slow down a penetrating DL is a trap.
The play side tackle has a free release on the LB on the play, and the pulling guard just has to muck up the DT. The tackle will follow the guard on the play if the Boilers establish the zone blocking so he can maintain gap integrity. This play, when run correctly, will isolate the RB on the safety. Illinois needs to play assignment sound and snuff this out. The play could break big plays if the front seven are out of their gaps.
Using a combination of the trap blocking and a wham block, the Boilers also have some plays in their arsenal one does not see very often.
This play has all the markings of eye candy galore for the LBs. I'm unsure I've seen anyone run this outside of high school, but it falls definitively in the Brohm camp of zany.
The pulling blockers are a hallmark of Brohm, more so this season as the OL has struggled. The Illini defensive line has struggled with this action all year long.
The Illini DTs are going to have an interesting game Saturday.
The offensive playbook includes all the basic plays, they run a sweep as well. The run game though is there to open up the passing game.
The key to the Boilers passing attack is attacking the width of the field. Brohm and Matt Campbell both subscribe to this offensive strategy. The Purdue attack tries to punish teams for getting aggressive stopping their methodical movement of the ball downfield.
The first Boiler attack is a Bubble screen off of RPO action. This play is more of a play-action pass, as the QB is not reading on the play.
Once the defense begins aggressively attacking the bubble screen action, the Boilers will slip the bubble play and leak the blockers downfield for a chunk play.
The Illini LBs should be occupied by the run action, and the Illini safeties have been overly aggressive against this look this year.
If the Illini slow this in a zone look, the Boilers will begin adding motion to overload the zone.
Once again, this was done to give Rondale Moore a chance to make a big play. The look will be used, the personnel will change.
The Boilers will use clear out routes as well to open up the horizontal passing game as well. The running backs will be challenging the Illini LBs in the perimeter in plays like this, and the fact the Boilers will run this will force the Illini to run Nickel a vast majority of the game.
At least I hope they go Nickel...
The Petrino offense is synonymous with the crossing route. The Boilers utilize it as well.
Hopkins sets one hell of a pick on the play, springing the WR. Bell has been running this the last few weeks in lieu of Moore.
Once the defense gets lackadaisical defending the route, the Boilers will stretch the high safeties with another leaked receiver.
Hopkins is set up like he is blocking on the play, then leaks into the flat. The WR on the play side, Bell, attacks the seam to pull the corner and freeze the safety.
Illinois ran a lot of man last week against the Badgers but will move back to a primary zone defense this week. The Illini DBs don't match up great with the Boiler receivers. The way to protect them from being isolated by Brohm is the zone with two high safeties. Once Illinois establishes this, the Boilers will attack with the zone busting routes.
This is a pretty pure and clean read for Plummer.
The OL struggles has led the Boilers to roll the QB more recently. The rolling pocket protects the OL, but cuts off half of the field for the QB to read.
Purdue will run levels of routes and put the DBs in conflict to open up a receiver. The Badgers pretty successfully picked on the Illini DBs last week with this look, and if I noticed, Brohm did as well.
The Boilers are going to attack trying to the width of the field. They do some of their best work picking on corners. The first attack on this is simply a sideline hitch route. Once the Illini establish their primary defense, the Boilers will establish who has the sideline flat. If it is a linebacker, they will run a Hitch route.
The nuance to these plays are routes attacking the deep middle of the field. This gives the Purdue offense the chance to take the top of the Illini D if the safeties cheat, but also isolates the corners on the sideline.
Once the Illini corners begin attacking the Hitch route, the Boiler receivers will run double moves along the sideline to beat the Illini deep.
Bell is quite good at establishing himself on this route.
Purdue will also run a play the Illini have seen a lot of the past couple of years, the tunnel screen.
If Moore plays, this is a play he will get. The play lays out like an extended handoff, and the Illini LBs will have to slip the OL blocks coming downfield.
Finally, no Purdue preview is complete without a trick play.
Brohm loves himself a good flea-flicker, and the Power sets up nicely to run the play. Green getting more reps at safety means he will be flying up in run support as well.
The Purdue offense is dependent on establishing come core pass and run plays, which allows the variations to bring explosiveness to the offense. TCU and Minnesota both dominated the LOS, and the Purdue offense sputtered. Iowa prevented the Boiler passing attack from getting deep, and the Boilers were unable to sustain drives. The main question on Saturday; was the Illini defensive performance last week an aberration or the new normal?
Scouting Review - Defense
Nick Holt is struggling in his third year in West Lafayette. Holt was able to get the most out of the Boilers left behind by Darrell Hazell, and the defense carried the Boilers in their first year. Last year, the defense regressed as the experience dropped. They were still a solid unit though. As Holt has more of his own players, the results are slipping. Holt is also known to be difficult to work with, so it will be interesting to see if he has a fourth year at Purdue.
The base defense is a 3-4 Nickel or a 3-3-5 look. The Boilers roll between a Cover 3 Robber and a Cover 2 shell look.
The Boilers will blitz, but nothing compared to the last two opponents. The Illini OL also will have fewer stunts to deal with.
The biggest issue Holt has is his LBs are not gap sound. Teams have exploited the Boilers in the run game by getting the LBs to overpursue.
Corbin has a chance to break something based on this over pursuit.
The Boilers will move the DL around. In obvious passing downs, the Boilers will twist the tackles to collapse the front of the pocket. Against Robinson, it would be dangerous with his legs. Peters gets flustered by the pressure to his face which means Purdue will utilize this in long situations.
The defense is pretty weak and struggles to stop two simple plays. The first is the Power
The Boiler defensive middle gets pushed around at times. Holt took a page out of the Lovie Smith playbook and was slanting his DL against the Hawkeyes to try to generate pressure. The Illini OL actually handles this pretty well. If Illinois can pull Pettibon and run behind Green, they could break some big runs on this look.
The other play that Purdue struggles to stop is the crossing route. The LBs don't pass off the receivers well and leave openings.
I'm really surprised by the struggles of the Boiler D against these two plays. As I mentioned in the offensive portion, Purdue loves to run both of these plays offensively. Apparently, they do so because they work so well in practice.
What does it mean?
Is the new Illini defense for real? The Purdue offense has been very prone to falling behind the chains this year, and become very one dimensional quickly. The Boilers also struggle to get the ball in the end zone once they hit the red zone.
The Illini have been carved up by read-option teams, and the passing attacks of teams that run the ball have been very successful. Should Illinois stymie the rushing attack of the Boilers, they have a very good chance to bottle up the Boiler offense.
The Illini offense sings a similar tune to Purdue. Both are boom and bust offenses, although Illinois is much better at punching the ball in the end zone when they get the chance. The game could get pointsy if the defenses fall apart. I think both teams will slow the tempo though and bet on big plays to win the day.
For Illinois to Win:
The Illini defense needs to bottle up the Boiler run attack, and make the Boilers one dimensional. While Purdue has some tricks up their sleeves in the passing attack, losing the threat of the run game eliminates a large number of reads for the Illini. Illinois needs to control the inside of the lines, and keep the top on in the back end.
Offensively, the Illini need to establish the run game between the tackles. If Illinois can stay ahead of the chains on early downs, they will give Peters the opportunity to settle in and keep the Boilers off balance.
For Purdue to Win:
The Boilers have to protect the football, and spook Peters in the pocket. If Peters gets into a rhythm anywhere close to that he had in the 4th quarter, he can pick apart this Boiler Secondary. Holt will need to mix up the blitzes and stunts. This will keep Peters jumpy in the pocket. Offensively, the Boilers need to find ways to get Bell in space and let the playmakers make plays.
With everything being equal, this is a good line. An Illinois victory will be a single possession victory. A Purdue victory could vary from between 1 point and 24 points. With a gap that wide, I'll vote for CHAOS and pick Purdue to cover.
YTD Against the Spread: