Purdue University Football Media Conference
Monday August 28, 2017
THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Welcome to week one of Purdue football. The Boilermakers will be taking on the Louisville Cardinals this Saturday at 7:30 in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. We’ll get an opening statement from Coach, and then we’ll open it up to questions.
JEFF BROHM: Good morning, everyone. Definitely excited to be up here today. I think that, as everyone, like myself and team, are ready for the football season. I know our team is excited to get the season under way. Any time you play an opponent like Louisville very first game of the year, it’s a great opportunity to showcase yourself on the national scene against a big-time opponent that’s extremely well coached and has outstanding players and for the last few years has been absolutely outstanding.
We’re looking forward to the challenge. Our guys have worked extremely hard. We’ve had a good fall camp. I think, as we get closer to Game 1, our guys are starting to get that itch and that feel that it’s time to get out there on the field and showcase what we’re all about, put all the talk behind us. Really it’s about displaying all the hard work that you put in and really putting it to use and seeing if you can put a better product on the field.
But I know our guys are very confident in their ability. They’ve seen improvement, and we want to go out there and try to compete and fight, try to win a football game against an outstanding opponent.
I know University of Louisville has had a lot of success. Obviously, I’m very familiar with them. Coach Petrino is an outstanding coach, knows how to win, knows how to motivate his players. Has a very experienced crew coming back not only on the defensive line, in the secondary, and at quarterback, which is very important.
So a lot of challenges for us to try to match up against those guys, but that’s why you play the game. I know we’re looking forward to Saturday night.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open up for questions.
Q. Hey, Coach Jeff. How are you going to contain Lamar Jackson? Last year a lot of people in the ACC and other schools had a hard time containing him, except for Houston at the end of the year. What do you guys have to do Saturday to contain him at the line of scrimmage?
JEFF BROHM: Well, that’s the top question for sure. That’s going to really decide whether we have a chance to win or not, if we can somehow contain him. I think Lamar is an unbelievable talent. He deserved to win the Heisman last year, and he should be the front-runner for it this year. He’s a guy that can really change the outcome of the game in one play. He’s extremely dynamic. He works extremely hard as a team player. He’s gotten better at the quarterback position, but where he’s really a danger is with his feet.
So we’ve got to find a way to make sure it happens. To answer your question, we think we have a good plan together. Of course, we’ve watched a lot of video. We’ve seen the teams where he’s ran all over and seen a few other teams that maybe have corralled him to a certain degree, and I think we have to do that.
So I think we need to give him different looks. You have to make sure you don’t rush past the quarterback in a passing situation. You’ve got to make sure, when your quarterback is doing all the quarterback runs, which they do a heavy dose of it, you’ve got to know that he has a chance to have the ball. You’ve got to contain him. Your eyes always have to be on him. And while you want to take away the dive some, you’ve got to make sure that that quarterback cannot run wild.
With that said, the plan is always — you think it’s a good plan, but our defense has to have a relentless pursuit for the football the entire game, and it’s going to take more than one guy to tackle him. Even if you have one guy there in the hole ready to make a tackle, he’s probably going to have a good chance to make that guy miss because he’s so talented, and other guys have to really be playing with tremendous effort and flying over there to help and rally to help make tackles, and it has to be more than one guy.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions here in the room.
Q. Hi, Jeff. Can you, obviously, update us. David was hurt on August 12th, and he’s listed as the starter. What right now is your plan? Is he the go guy, or is Sindelar in a position, if David’s still sore?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we haven’t made a final decision on that. I think David was having a great camp. Unfortunately, he missed slightly over two weeks of camp with his shoulder. Yesterday was his first day back out. I thought he did a very good job.
In the meantime, Elijah has practiced well. I think he’s got a good grasp of what he’s doing. But both guys we feel very good about. We probably want to see one more day of practice before we make a final decision internally. Whether we announce it or not, that remains to be seen. We’ll have to decide here in the next day or two who’s probably going to be the starter.
With that said, even before David’s injury, we had a plan to play more than one quarterback at times and to make sure that, if certain guys were ready to play, that we gave them an opportunity. And also with Jared Sparks and his ability to do a few different things, we’re going to carry a package for him every game. Whether we get to it or not remains to be seen, but he definitely gives us a different element.
So, I know it doesn’t really answer your question fully, but we’re going to continue to evaluate it one more day and then probably make a decision internally.
Q. Maybe as much as anybody, you — I mean, with the shoulder, you understand probably that injury and can evaluate how he looks throwing the ball. You saw him yesterday. One day’s not a very good evaluation. But knowing what you know about shoulders, how did he look?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I thought he had a good practice. You know, to try to take care of David, I do want to make sure he’s healthy, and any quarterback that’s a competitor will tell you that they’re feeling great. So you want to kind of make sure you really find out how is he feeling? Can he get back to being fully feeling comfortable in his abilities? And also, where he can — we can make sure that that injury does not happen again. We need to make sure that everything — we do our research, we ask enough questions, and we make sure, when we put him on the field, he’s healthy and ready to go.
Now, with that said, if he’s healthy and ready to go, David’s going to be in there and playing for us. But like I said, I think we want to make sure that we feel comfortable with that, and to this point, Elijah’s done a very good job.
Q. Last thing, along those lines, you said you may make a decision internally and not announce it. Would it be, in terms of us, a game-time decision? For the media, I mean.
JEFF BROHM: I think we’ve gotten to the point now with it that sometimes you just don’t want to alert the opponent of which guy you’re playing. And we really don’t know for sure either. We want to kind of give it a little more time, and for practice purposes, you kind of have to have an idea of which way you’re leaning, and I think we’ll definitely do that.
But I’m hopeful that he gets healthy and he gets ready to play and he makes the decision hard on us.
Q. Just for clarification, he is fully cleared to practice?
JEFF BROHM: He practiced fully yesterday. Was it limited reps? Probably. But, no, he is cleared to practice, which for a quarterback, we’re not hitting him. So as long as he can throw and function. Did we have to make sure we take care of his reps a little bit? Yes. But I think he’s going to be good to go here very soon, if not now if you ask him probably.
Q. You’ve talked a lot about how Howard Schnellenberger had this quality to be able to instill belief in his players, and that was something you really took from him. I guess what were some of the tactics, for lack of a better term, that he used? And how do you try to do that kind of with your team?
JEFF BROHM: Well, you’ve heard the line collision course with the National Championship. I don’t think I’m going to use that one. But I think, as a coach, you have to make sure that your players believe in you, and you have to make sure that you get your players to believe that they can conquer anything and they can take on any challenge and find a way to get it done, and really you can.
So while it is a little bit of talk, really you can. And I think the mindset of our guys, they’ve got to start to believe that they can find a way to win. Sometimes it doesn’t just happen automatically, it doesn’t just — people aren’t going to roll over in the second quarter and the game’s over. It’s got to be a constant competitive fire to want to fight the entire game regardless of the score, fight to the end, and whether you see a change in the first game, the second, the fifth, the seventh, I don’t know. But it has to be a constant thing that your players, all of them on the team, have in them and that they’re willing to fight regardless of who they’re going against and what the score is.
I think it’s easier said than done. I think that we have made tremendous strides in practice in scrimmage settings. We have made some strides, not as much as I would like, but that’s all part of it. It’s about getting in game settings, getting in big-time venues against great opponents, seeing how you measure up and where you have to go.
But really we want to see a fight in our team. We want to see guys that compete, that finish and give great effort, and I want it to be visible. I know I don’t talk about it a lot, but I’m telling you, the little things that you can control, you have to find a way to control, and we want our team to do that. They can. They should believe in themselves, and they should believe that they can get better every game as the season goes on.
And we’re excited to take on all the opponents on our schedule, but this first one is an outstanding opponent with great talent, and we need to come ready to play.
Q. Do you remember what you said to your team at Western Kentucky before you played Alabama? Was there a big speech before that? I don’t know if I saw that anywhere.
JEFF BROHM: Well, I remember the street fight between the whistles. That was that game. It didn’t work very well. We got beat pretty good.
But you know what, I think every player has a different mentality, but when it comes game time, they have to have the same mentality, and it has to be an attacking, aggressive mentality that you’re going to fight to the very end to get it done. I think that you try to bring that in your players, and sometimes in pregame warmups you can kind of see and feel how it’s going, and other times, you know what, this thing needs to be cranked up, and people need to really start to realize what it’s going to take in order to play this game at a high level.
Sometimes it’s a feel thing, but the first game, it shouldn’t be hard to motivate your guys to go out and play hard. They should be looking forward to it. There’s no reason, when young men at this age put in work year round — now, I mean year round. They’re dedicated to their craft. They try to improve — that when you take the game, you’re not ready to play.
We talk all the time about getting better and improving every day, but in the end, there’s certain days you have to take the test, and when you take the test, you’ve got to show up, and you’ve got to try to dominate the test. You can’t just think that, because you practice well, it’s going to happen. No, you have to try to continue to dominate the test, and this is going to be a great test, Game 1.
Q. So you’ll just kind of feel it out to see what you’re going to say, or will you script something?
JEFF BROHM: Well, there will always be some things we script and write down, but I think you try to get a good pulse of what the pregame atmosphere is like and how much it needs to be cranked up or how much it doesn’t. You like for your team and your leaders to be able to step forward and get the team going, but I think sometimes also the players just need to see that the coaches are ready to go as well. So it’s just kind of a feel thing.
But I like the makeup of our team. I think we’ve got good leaders, good captains. I think they’ll come ready to play.
Q. Along those same lines, do you have a pretty good idea of the pulse of your team yet, or do you need to see them in game-like situations to really judge what they might be about?
JEFF BROHM: That’s a good question. I like where we’re at right now. I think I’ve seen improvement. Every day I’ve seen improvement. I think we’ve had good practices. We try to amp it up at times and really bring out the competitive fire and spirit in them, and I’ve seen that get better.
Progress is being made on the practice field now. Progress is being made everywhere on the practice field across the country probably. So that needs to happen. It’s just a matter of translating to the game, making sure that the belief is always there, that you’re playing hard, but I have seen improvement, and I’m looking forward to seeing it on game day against a great opponent and seeing our guys rally behind it and seeing them gain confidence and playing the game like they should with full belief in themselves that they can accomplish anything.
Q. You said last week the offense was behind probably where you wanted it to be. The factors in that? Is that just injuries or some other things?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we’ve got a lot of youth on offense. We’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t played a whole lot at every position. I don’t see us with the experience that we have on the other side of the ball.
So we go against our defense quite a bit. I think our guys have worked hard. I think we have improved. You’ve got to get as much experience as you can in practice where you’re simulating the game repetitions. They’re putting themselves mentally and physically and making everything a game-like situation when you’re going 11-on-11 and you’re in team situations against your own team in practice.
And I’ve seen us get better. Now, when it’s not live tackle times and your quarterback’s not getting hit and when you miss a guy and you let the play go and really he’s going to be down, that’s where you don’t get a true feel. But I think we’ve made improvement, and I think that we’ve tried to simulate numerous drills in practice, whether it was the scramble drill or team pass or pass under pressure or run-play action. Whatever we have, I think we’ve seen improvement, and I think our guys are getting a better grasp on offense.
On offense, it takes all 11. On defense, you want all 11, but sometimes one guy can make the play. But on offense, all 11 have got to do their job, and if there’s one weak link, normally it doesn’t matter what the other 10 do. So that’s where it’s a little different on the offensive side of the ball. Everybody has to be playing together. Everybody has to be doing their job. And if you do, then it can look really good, but it takes all 11 on offense.
Q. Understanding that Lamar makes them go and he’s the centerpiece of them, but what other players or units on that Louisville team has really caught your attention in preparing for this game?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think on offense, without question, it goes through the quarterback, and he’s dynamic where at any time he can make a play, even if it was blocked perfectly or even if there’s one or two guys there. That’s the scary part. You’ve got to find a way to corral him and not let him break out and just be dominant. So we’ve got to do that.
With that said, I think they’ve improved on the offensive line. They have big, tall receivers that can give us a problem. They have a senior tight end who’s done very well. They have a senior running back who’s done very well, and he’s a former quarterback, so he can throw it.
And then on defense, really the last three years, their defense has been very, very good, and they’ve got a lot of experience coming back. Their front four are all seniors, all very good players. Their secondary, three of the four are seniors, and the one that’s a junior is their best player in Jaire Alexander.
So they have good football players, and that’s the issue we’re going to have to worry about is how do we match up against those guys? Can we find a way to block them? Can we find a way to make plays? Can we find a way to get open? So we have our hands full, but really Louisville has experience. They play a very good schedule. They’ve won a lot of big games. They’re well coached. They play hard. So it will present a challenge for us, but this is what you want to play in.
Q. It’s always a little bit of a chess match in football games, but is there an added wrinkle to that considering your staff knows their staff pretty well and vice versa?
JEFF BROHM: Well, for this game, there’s challenges on both sides. I think we’re very familiar, at least to a certain degree, with what we’re doing. You’ve got to make sure signals of communication are presented in a way that our guys know what they’re doing, but the other team doesn’t. Those are somewhat challenges because the staffs are very familiar.
But with that said, we have some different styles on different ways we do things. Really it will come down to the players playing on the field. It will come down to can we corral and contain to a certain degree their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who’s absolutely terrific? And then can we find a way to move the ball?
In these type of games, I think for us, we’re going to have to do the small things right. We’re going to have to take care of the football. We’re going to not have to have silly false starts and misalignments and jumping offsides and numerous holding calls. We’re going to have to try to be as error-free as we can while we’re playing hard and trying to make plays. If not, it’s going to be a long day.
So we’ve got to be focused and locked in in order to win against a good team. You’ve got to do the small things. We’ve worked extremely hard on the small things, especially this past week in a lot of different settings. So hopefully, we can do that. And then if you’re doing that and you find a way to make some plays, you never know what could happen.
Q. When it comes to Bobby Petrino, just what did you learn from him, either schematically or also just in terms of personality or how to lead a team?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think with Coach Petrino I have a lot of respect for him. He loves the game of football. He wants to win, and he’s going to find a way to try to win each and every game. He’s relentless in that. He’s got a great work ethic. He can motivate his players.
When I worked for him, the main respect I have for him is this guy is a football guy. Some guys will say one thing, and they’ll do something else. With Coach Petrino, he’s going to do what it takes to win the football game. He’s going to coach his guys, coach his guys hard, fight in order to win. That’s what you like to work under as a coach. That’s what you like to play for as a player.
So it’s going to be a challenge. They’ve got good talent, and they’re well coached, and they’ve had success. So we have to find a way to get in the mix and play competitive football, be able to look across the line and believe in ourselves and go out there and try to make plays. But I have a lot of respect for Coach Petrino and his program.
Q. The two deep here is out. The wide receivers who were here in the spring are at the top of the depth chart. What did they do to earn their place here? How much do you expect to stick to what we see here, and how much do you expect to kind of rotate the rest of the guys in?
JEFF BROHM: That’s a good question. I think the guys at the top of the depth chart, they understand what we’re doing more, and they don’t make the silly mistakes right now. The guys below them, at times have showed good play-making skills, but they’re just green as far as knowing everything and being consistent in that.
Would I like to think we’re going to continue to get better at that and feel more comfortable with them? Yes, and I think that will happen, but I’ve got to see it on the game field. I think in practice there’s been signs, but there’s been other days where, okay, we have to know more than what we know right here.
So there is more depth. We are going to be able to rotate guys in, and whoever’s hot and whoever is doing a good job may play a little bit more. But I think the fact that we have more possible weapons there will help us and will motivate all those guys to play hard, be into it, do their job. And even if we get to the point where they’re all doing a very good job, but you can keep them fresh, and you can keep them healthy, and that will be important.
Q. Are you undecided, as of now, on who your running back will be, your number one?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think right now Tario Fuller has had a very good camp, Markell Jones has had a very good camp. I feel very good about those guys. D.J. Knox can do some very good things for us. He plays hard. He runs hard. Richie Worship has been very consistent. He’s a good blocker. He’s a strong runner, short yardage goal line situations. Brian Lankford-Johnson is a guy that’s got some speed and breakaway ability that maybe some of the others don’t have to that degree. When you spread the field, he can do some things and give you an element.
So I think we kind of have an idea how we can utilize these guys. To a certain degree, I think all of them will play. We’ll see how it goes and see which ones are playing more.
Q. At nickelback, when you bring a fifth DB in, do you know who that will be as far as how you arrange those guys?
JEFF BROHM: I think that Navon Mosley has done a good job at the nickel position. I see him being the fifth guy in the game at this point. He’s had a very good camp, and he’s getting better. So he would be that guy.
Q. At nose tackle, or defensive tackle, you list Neal and Wilson as co-guys. We’ve probably been under the assumption that Eddy is your number one. Is he in good standing, or has Neal made a move to push in there?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we want to make sure we’re playing a lot of defensive linemen. I think you have to do that. You have to be at least two deep, if not more, in order to play competitive, physical football the entire game. So where they start really doesn’t matter to me. I’m sure it matters to them. I would like to see somewhat equal reps for the most part, but whoever’s hot and playing well and giving great effort may play a little bit more.
So I think at that position we have the ability to rotate, and I feel good about both guys. I think that it is important that they understand that it’s about the team, it’s about playing your tail off every play, every single week, and making plays, and that’s what we want to see from all of them. I think that we’ve made progress, but we just want to make sure everybody understands that it’s going to take all of them, and the better their teammate looks, the better they’re going to look. And I think that we have made progress, and I like both Eddy and Lorenzo.
Q. Good morning, Coach. You played at Louisville during one of the pinnacles of Louisville football, early ’90s, and then you coached there in the mid to late 2000s, another pinnacle of Louisville’s, and now you’re playing against them. That’s got to be an interesting dynamic for you.
JEFF BROHM: Well, I have tremendous respect for the program. It did a lot for me. I loved playing there and coaching there and living there. There’s some great people. It’s a great university. I think that, from a distance, I admire all the accomplishments that they’ve achieved, and I look — I cheer them on when we’re not playing against them, just like everyone else from that area that’s played there.
But you know what, this is football, and this is a game. It’s a great opportunity for us. I think that Purdue is where I’m at. It’s where I want to be. And we need to try to build this program and build a good football team. I think, when you’re playing good opponents, it’s going to help you build a good football team. This game will measure us right off the bat and show us where we’re at and how far we have to come.
I’m looking forward to the game and then being able to see what we need to go and how we need to go from after the game when it’s over.
But we want to try to win. I think every game you play, you have to believe you can win. I think every time you play a top team, you never know what can happen. If you come ready to play, if you worked hard, if you lay it on the line, if you compete to the end, anything can happen, and I think our players need to understand that. I think our coaches do, but our players need to understand anything can happen when you play a football game, and we want to try to play to win.
Q. We talked a lot about shutting down Lamar Jackson defensively for you guys, but offensively, you talked about the receivers and how there could be several different guys used as running backs. What kind of offense can we expect this week?
JEFF BROHM: From us?
Q. From you guys, yeah. What’s your approach to this game?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we’re going to try to move the chains and score points. I think that we have an idea of where our strengths are. I think things that maybe aren’t our strengths are getting better. We do want to be a balanced team. We want to be able to throw the football and run the football. We want to be physical in what we do. We want to have misdirection. We want to take a few shots. So I think we feel confident we have numerous ways to do that, and now it’s going to be about knowing the play called and executing the play, and can 11 guys get on the same page and do their job in order to execute it?
But we want to be able to do it all, and I think that we’ll start off doing what we’re good at, what we feel comfortable with, but we’ve got to take chances. I think you have to be aggressive in everything you do on the offensive side of the ball. You can’t play not to lose. You have to play to win, and I think we’re going to try to play to win every snap.
Q. What were your first impressions of the building?
JEFF BROHM: It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s great. It’s an unbelievable asset for our football team. We’re very thankful to all the people that were involved in helping build the new Performance Center because it’s off the charts, and I think our players were excited to get in there, as some of you guys saw on Twitter. It’s something that means a lot to them.
Like I said, we’re very appreciative to now have a great resource to use in order to try to get this program back to where it belongs. I think we’ve talked, as coaches and players, that now we have to do our part. We have a great Performance Center now that we can work out in and get our work done and feel good coming over and working and getting extra work. Now we have to do our part. Yes, it is the hard part, but we’ve got to work hard in order to make the fans and the people of Purdue proud.
And it’s not just wins and losses, and I tell them all the time, it’s about — the next thing you don’t want to do is say, hey, you know what, we don’t have as many fans in the stands as you want. You know what, that’s our job. That’s our job to get them to come out. It’s our job to play a brand of football and a style and play in a manner that fans want to see you play. It has little to do with wins and losses. It has a great deal to do with the effort you give, the competitive fire you have on the field, the fight you show the entire game in order to lay it all on the line for 60 minutes.
So that’s the part we need to control, and we’ve talked about it numerous times. We talked about it again last night after we really had our first practice in the Performance Center, where it’s time to do our part.
While we’re doing it on the practice field, no, we’ve got to do it on the game field, and it has to be everybody. It can’t just be a select few. It has to be everybody. It has to be everybody in the game. It needs to be those who aren’t in the game. You need to be into the game if you’re not, if you’re on the sideline. If your number’s called, you need to be ready.
So a lot of those little things have been addressed, but it’s just an unbelievable place to come over and work every day now.
Q. Last thing from me. Any other freshmen in the mix to play other than Catlett and Pittman?
JEFF BROHM: Right now I would see those two guys playing, and I would plan on, unless something crazy happens injury-wise, that’s how we would start it, those two.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.
JEFF BROHM: Thanks, guys.