I was a little late to the open practice today but I made it in time to see most of the scrimmage. It was a simulated scrimmage with the staff rotating groups for most of the time but we did get a good look at some different offensive and defensive looks.
One thing I’ve pointed out is that these practices have been boring in a good way but I was expecting to see a few guys stand out after two weeks of practice. At this point, you want to see a receiver, tight end, secondary player, or pass rusher really show out in practice and give you the feeling that they could be a key player this fall. It’s not a bad thing that there are no evident weaknesses, but you also want to see the strengths of the team. It’s something I’ll be looking for next weekend.
- Jack Plummer continued to look the part today but he also made a couple of plays with his legs that were impressive. He had a 20-yard touchdown run in the red zone after escaping the pocket. He also extended plays with his legs where he created space for himself to work.
- Pierce Clarkson was on the field today though he is still in the sandal-type thing while recovering from a broken toe. Every time I looked over, he was in Plummer’s ear and I would assume he was looking for pointers or asking questions. I haven’t noticed him on the field up until today but there’s obviously a chance that I’ve just not seen him.
- Maurice Turner had the best day among the backs. He scored on a long handoff as well as a long screen pass. His speed is still the feature of his game but he did bounce off a tackle or two on his long run.
- Jahwar Jordan and Isaac Guerundo both dropped passes today and neither did much else to stand out. I think the Cards have a comfortable three-man group as of now and each guy should be able to contribute.
- Today was a very “meh” day for the receivers. Elijah Downing stood out by making a handful of nice catches and he had one play where he broke a tackle and got some yards after the catch. Outside of that, I didn’t see anything from a receiver that was worthy of praise.
- Jeff Brohm had to correct a couple of tight ends again today when it came to lining up correctly. I don’t know that I would say that this is a real issue, but two weeks in a row is at least notable.
- The tight ends did have a good day of getting open and making themselves available down the field. I don’t believe anyone had a catch today but it was obvious that they did their part to make the play work.
- Offensive line play is never going to be easy to evaluate in a practice but it did seem like there was some improvement from the first two practices. The quarterbacks had a bit more time and the backs had room to run. I did feel that the screen plays that they ran today had a lot of success with runners having guys out in front to help.
- Luke Burgess and Madden Sanker ran with the second group a good amount at left tackle and left guard, respectively. Sam Secrest was at center with Austin Collins at right guard as well. I’m not certain, but I do think that Collins had been the backup center last week.
- The defensive line had a strong day with Dez Tell and Rhyeem Craig being the standouts to me. Tell had a very nice play where he whipped Bryan Hudson and stoned Jordan for a run stuff. Craig got a sack on Evan Conley and really got under the skin of the offense on the next play which led to him and Izaih Reed having to run sprints.
- Inside linebacker is still an area of concern due to the lack of experience. For the third straight practice, a different player lined up next to KJ Cloyd with the first group. While that is likely a positive when it comes to depth, it is not a great sign for a key position on the defense. I’d imagine that the staff would like to know who their starters are here by the spring game.
- Ben Perry actually had a moment that stood out to me in a not-so-great way. During special teams drills, Mark Ivey had to get on him for not attacking the tackle as opposed to sitting back and letting the runner come to him. At another point, he seemed to just have a lax approach to the practice. He made plays like normal but he’s a guy that coaches should never have to speak to. Not a major thing but it stood out to me.
- I liked what I saw from Antonio Watts today who will likely back up Perry. He plays extremely hard and he had a massive hit on one of the slot receivers on a quick screen. Not only did he make strong contact, but he wrapped up the receiver, picked him up, and dumped him for a loss. If they can get him to the point of totally understanding the defense, he will be an asset this year.
- Ron English called a handful of corner blitzes today and he called at least two safety blitzes. I have to say that I did not see this often in the Purdue games I have watched so far. I would love to see this type of aggression when the season starts as it is a genuine concern of mine that the defense will rely too much on the four-man rush of the defensive line.
- The secondary mirrored the wide receivers today with no real standouts. Trey Franklin had an interception when Jamari Thrash slipped on a route but I didn’t see much else from the group.
- I did like what I saw from a tackling and aggression standpoint. MJ Griffin ran through a running back in blitz pickup as if the back wasn’t even there. The group as a whole chased down screen passes and swing passes very well. The offense didn’t push the ball down the field at all and the defense was ready to make the tackle every time they checked it down.
- At one point in practice, only three quarterbacks were getting reps. Khalib Johnson was the odd man out.
- I think defensive tackle depth could end up being a big plus for the defense. Jermayne Lole and Tawfiq Thomas ran with the second group today. That’s a good problem to have.
- The wind was so bad today that equipment was being blown around the field. I’d imagine that factored into the passing game being more focused on short passes and screens.
- The team didn’t kick or punt today as well but they did spend a good amount of time on kick returns without a live kickoff.
- Seeing Popeye Williams, Lole, Gilbert Frierson, and others being pushed down to the second or third teams is a positive in my view. Competition is always good and the coaches should reward good play.
- Though I was late, this was the first time I had to look for a parking spot. With the weather warming up a bit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a great turnout for the spring game. The interest is definitely there and I think it was a really good idea to open a few practices to feed that interest.