Purdue University Football Media Conference
Monday August 27, 2018
Jeff Brohm Press Conference
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Good morning. We are excited to get things underway this week. I know our team has worked hard in the off-season and summer months and fall camp to get ready for this opportunity.
It’s a great opportunity for our team to open the season against a quality opponent that probably was playing as good as anybody in the country at the end of the year. They are well-coached, play hard, do all the small things right. They will definitely give us a great challenge in week one.
The great thing is it’s at home in front of our fans, and that’s what’s exciting, to get back on our home field and without question, we’re looking forward to Thursday night.
Q. You said in Chicago you felt this game was particularly important because of momentum your program has right now. How do you articulate that to your team?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, the way we articulate that is we pretty much speak what we think. I think our guys understand that this is not only an important game because it’s a conference game.
But this is a great opponent. They beat us pretty handily last year. Found a way to inch back in the end but it was a pretty dominating performance by them, and we have an opportunity to go out and compete against a calibre team, Northwestern, Game 1, and we can see where we stack and measure up right off the bat, and the great thing is, is you know, it’s an opportunity.
It’s a chance to see how we measure and what we can do, and it would be great if we could find a way to win. I know our guys are going to take the field that way like we should. In the end, every game is a one-game season for us, but this is an extremely important game. It’s the first game of the year. It’s at home. It’s a conference game and we need to try to find a way to win.
Q. Is there kind of a fine line as a coach to put a lot into a game, but also not put too much into a game, especially in week one when everybody is still feeling themselves out?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: We haven’t put too much in the game. Our guys understand it’s a great opponent and we are going to have to start the season the way we finished and be playing at a high level game one in order to win.
I think if we can find a way to do that and be in the game and stay in it and take it into the fourth quarter with the game on the line, hopefully we can be the tougher team and find a way to inch it out. That’s what the game is going to be about. It’s going to be a tough, physical football game. They are not going to give us anything. Like I said, they are extremely well-coached, they know how to win and they know what they are doing.
They are very disciplined in how they play the game, not only from a technique standpoint but in the effort they give each and every play, it’s really second to none. That’s one thing that stood out to me when I first got here, instead of the teams in the conference, Northwestern was the team that played the hardest and they did it every game, every play, and that’s what makes it difficult. Our guys I think understand that.
Now at the same time, when the game is over, win or lose, we move on to the next one, but this is a great opportunity that we have to make sure that we are ready to go and focused and locked in and at least give ourselves a chance.
Q. You said prior to camp that your plan with Rondale was to throw a lot at him and see what he does best and pare it down. How much paring have you had to do?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, he’s going to be in the mix and he’s going to play in the football game and we are going to make sure we definitely try to give him the ball and sometimes more so than others. All of our good players, whoever they are, whether they are seniors or freshmen, we have to try to make sure they get enough touches where they can showcase what they are all about and we should try to find a way to do that.
You know what, he’s practiced well. He’s gone through every rep of practice. He hasn’t missed one beat. He’s mentally as sharp as you can be for a true freshman. Is he going to make a mistake here and there? Sure, he is. Is he going to drop a ball or two? Maybe so.
But, he has exemplified in practice what we are looking for, as far as the ability to make plays, be consistent with it, and I think he’ll work through that. We’ve got to make sure that we’re patient with him as he continues to improve.
Q. What’s your expectation for Sparks on Thursday? Do you expect to have him?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, we are hopeful that we have him. I think that he had a great camp until he got nicked up, and he was probably our best receiver early on in camp as far as making plays, being explosive, playing hard. He’s got some physicality to him. So we would like to have him, if we can.
Q. Any injury issues on defense that that popped up with Markus Bailey or Jacob Thieneman?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: We have a few nicks here and there with some guys but I’m hopeful that on the defensive side of the ball, everyone should hopefully be ready to play for this game.
Q. Have you picked a kicker or what you’ll plan to do kickoff, field goal, all that sort of thing?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Yeah, I think we have — we probably won’t announce it, but we have, and like I said, it’s kind of like the quarterback position. We feel like we have got two really good kickers and we want to make sure that we do the best thing for the team the best thing for our players.
I think with some new rules this year, gives us a little flexibility and we have to make sure we utilize that and right now, I think we know who we are going to go with.
Q. In terms of the quarterback position, how does picking Eli or David effect how you game plan or script out how you want the opening drive to start or opening possession to do?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, both guys have had good camps and done a very good job. I think they are both going to be ready to play. While them many similarities, there are some differences. We’ll make sure that whoever is in there will utilize their talents and we’ll do things that they do well, but there are some subtle differences that we have to make sure that we play to their strengths and we do things they feel comfortable with.
I think if both happen to play, that they can step in and do a good job for us.
Q. You’ve answered a lot of questions about your quarterback situation. At Northwestern, they are answering a lot of similar question. How do you approach things when you don’t necessarily know if Clayton is going to play or not?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: I think it’s important you prepare for everything, so for us, really, whether we are playing Northwestern or not, we’ll have a game plan for their best quarterback, which is Clayton, who played outstanding last year. He’s a thrower, stands in the pocket, he delivers it and he’s accurate and he’s very productive.
With that, that’s who we are going to plan on playing against, and you know, the next guy, whoever it may be, we always prepare for an athletic quarterback or some wildcat runs or the ability to do things outside the pocket with some athletes at that position.
We do that pretty much every day in practice, so I think we just have to be aware who is in there from a play-calling standpoint but also who is in there so that our guys know on defense, you know, how to corral them and how to make sure that we do the things to stop what they are trying to get accomplished.
Q. On the right side of your offensive line, what did you like that caused you to go the way you did with Matt McCann at right guard and Swingler at tackle?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, the goal is to get the best five guys on the field and to go from there. Now with us, we still want to play eight-plus guys, if we can. Some guys will play more than the others.
But you know, Eric Swingler has had a good camp. He’s been healthy the entire camp. He loves football. He’s done a good job.
Matt McCann has had a very good camp. A little bit nicked up here and there, but he’s coming back from that.
And some other guys, Shane Evans started for us last year, but he missed a lot of camp due to injury and he’s kind of still coming back from that; and I don’t think he’s in tiptop shape so we have to make sure we are smart with him.
At this point, we feel like how that depth chart is, our five best guys as of today, but that can always change.
Q. Your corner position, there was a battle between the young and old guys. Seems like the old guys got the nod here. What did you like from them during camp?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, that position in the secondary, really corners and safeties, have played at a high level in my opinion. They have been probably the strength of our defense to this point in camp. I think that we have multiple guys that can play. Tim Cason, Blackmon at the corner position, they have the most experience. They have done a good job.
And then with the two youngsters in Kamal Hardy, those guy also all have an opportunity to get in there in certain situations and I think we’ll utilize them all, and hopefully — you know, you’re always a little leery to play true freshmen or redshirt freshmen that haven’t played much in game one, or at least be careful of how much you give them, because you want to make sure they continue to have confidence and play at a high level.
I know last year, I think myself and us, made a little bit of a mistake playing Keyron Catlett early on. He had a few miscues and he lost his confidence the rest of the year. The other guys we played handled it well, but we want to make sure that we are at least smart, think things through and we put those guys in a position to succeed.
Q. I know we asked you this question a couple times throughout camp but now with the game looming just a couple days away, are there any guys you expect to play early, maybe take advantage of that redshirt role?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, when it comes to playing early, I think you’ll see Rondale Moore at receiver. I think Evan Anderson enrolled early, because he’s helped him, he’ll be in the mix and could play early for us, possibly, some, really on the offensive side of the ball. Those would be the main ones.
On the defensive side of the ball, I think Jaylan Alexander, you’ll probably see on the field. Jeff Marks, who came in and went through spring practice, he’ll be on the field and probably not this game. But eventually Elijah Ball will probably be the next one in.
Q. When you look towards Northwester, if you look back to last season, you started the game more running the football, and the second half you were throwing it all over the place. Will you look at what was successful last year?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, we always would like to do that to a certain degree. This team, you know what, not only were we down but we couldn’t run the ball. We went back at numerous third and shorts and fourth and shorts and we couldn’t get anything.
So they are very stout against the run. They are big up front. Their defensive ends both weigh 280 pounds plus, and we are going to have a hard time running the ball against them. We have to make sure we pick and choose when we are going to run and how we are going to run and be very careful with what we do.
With that said, if we need to throw the ball, we are going to do that. It’s important to get Elijah in a rhythm and it’s important to do what we think will help us win the game and I know based on last year, running the ball was not our strength. Hopefully, we’d like to be a little more balanced and find a way to get that done, so we may have some different ways to run this year than in this game particularly, because they did a great job of knocking us back and not giving us many yards.
Q. Do you expect all your running backs to be available on Thursday?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Probably not.
Q. Who won’t be available?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: You know what, I think D.J. Knox will be available and Markell Jones, Alexander Horvath, Tario Fuller. We’ll see.
Q. With last year’s game, what about their defense stood out to you, Northwestern’s defense, and especially the linebacker, Paddy Fisher, and just how do you try to deal with him this year?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I think they are very good on defense. They are stout up front. They are big. They are strong. They don’t do a whole lot of different things but what they do, they do it well and they know exactly where to be and what gaps and they get penetration and they come off the ball; the linebackers play downhill; they can tackle.
They do a great job at keeping their eyes on the quarterback; and all the zone defenses they play, they eyes are locked on the quarterback, and they are going to go where he goes. It’s important that we understand that. They do a great job on the perimeter. They don’t play nickel hardly at all unless it’s a passing situation, third down, they are going to put big guys out there and they are going to stop the run.
In my opinion, it’s not easy to run on them. You have to figure out ways to, you know, do that, which we think we have an idea of what could possibly give us an advantage. But they are very good and they know exactly where to be, and they understand landmarks on the field and they understand spacing and they understand what leverage they need to have.
So they are tough, physical, they play smart and they know exactly what to do. I think you can see as they have gone through the year, we have watched all their games again. They got better as the year went on and they started to do things that they were good at and they didn’t do the things that didn’t work.
You know what, they know the system, they are well-coached, they are tough, they are physical and if you do traditional things all the time, they will have a great answer for it.
So you have to have a little bit of change-up in there to just throw them off and get them on their heels, but if they are not on their heels and they are coming downhill, it will be a long night.
Q. Back to the question at the beginning about the momentum. Is there anyway that you can judge the pulse of your team these last couple days or weeks, whether you feel that momentum from the end of last year has carried over into this or is this — you won’t know that until you get out there on Thursday night?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, you never know for sure until game time. I know we’ve had a good camp. Our guys have worked hard. I think they understand what we have to do to win. We have to make sure we do all the small things right.
Is there concern about some inexperience at certain positions? Yes, there is. Because when the lights go on, and you’ve got to see how they respond. I think we have done a decent job of putting pressure on our guys to perform on the game field and scrimmages and as many move-the-ball periods where we are calling things up, and they are not necessarily knowing exactly what’s going to come about.
So you hope that you prepared your guys enough that they can handle a tough football game, Game 1. And you know what, the mentality we need to have is aggressive. We’ve got to be confident. We’ve got to attack and hopefully our guys respond to that. I’m confident that they will, and there’s always going to be a little anxiety on everybody’s end, but that’s a good thing, and hopefully we use it to our advantage.
Q. Last year at this time, you were getting ready to play Louisville, and I think the goal was, okay, you wanted your team to go out and play hard, smart, all the things you talked about last year and then whatever the results were. Can you just — the difference between last year and now this year where the expectations are, not only to go out and play smart but the expectations now are to win and the difference the year has made with your program and how you approach things?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, it’s a good thing. Expectations are good. You have got to make sure you handle it in the right way, and that means, yeah, we want to win. It’s important that we try to win. It’s important that if we don’t, we are upset about it, we’re angry about it and we figure out a way to fix it.
I guess the best thing we did last year is took the field with some confidence; but if we didn’t win, we found a way to fix it. And that’s going to happen this year.
Everybody thinks they can win every game. It’s not going to happen. You’ve just got to go all-out every game that you have and put it on the line and be aggressive and play to win. When it’s over, you learn from it and move on.
So I think we’ll still keep the same approach. This is a big game but in the end, it’s one game. So yes, we are going to play to win and I think our guys understand that there’s no reason to hold back. They are going to hit us in the mouth a few times. They are going to make plays on us. We just have to find a way to make a few more and score more points when it’s all said and done, but I think our guys will respond and be ready to go.
Q. Is there any update on Richie Worship as far as whether you’re going to have him this year?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: He won’t be in this game and then we just kind of — he’s still a ways off.
Q. You mentioned Eric Swingler has had a good camp, talking about a kid that grew up an hour from Northwestern’s camp and was told, don’t bother walking on, you’re not good enough. Can you talk about what he’s meant to your offensive line and what he’s brought to this camp as a senior?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: The good thing about Eric is he loves to play the game. When he takes the field, he has a little bit of nastiness to him. He’s aggressive. He’s got some toughness and it means something to him, and those are the main things.
I think he’s got the lineman mentality that you want and we’re happy he’s on our team. He’s gotten better each and every year. It’s important from last year to this year that he got stronger, and he worked. He needs to work hard on finishing blocks and staying on blocks longer. I think he’s done that.
I think that he’s, you know, listened and tried to get better at his weaknesses right now, just his mentality when he takes the field is what we want to see and I think he’ll compete and do a good job.
Q. One quick one about Tobias Larry. You said he said he had a lot to prove to you. Has he proven that, and where in the depth chart now is he? Has he done enough?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, Tobias is a guy that last year, we had high hopes for in the off-season. You know, wasn’t quite the off-season we wanted. I think he has gotten over the hump to a certain degree. He really is very instinctive. He can be a very good football player. Just have to make sure he’s committed to it, and he’ll eventually get in the game for us I think.
It’s important that he just does all the small things right. I think he’s a guy that, you know, needs somebody to just motivate him a little bit and make sure that we’re not only staying on him but staying with him and that he knows that we’re here to help him but we want him to improve, each and every week. We want him to be a player for us. We want him to have high expectations and big goals and try to achieve them and hopefully we can get him to that point.