CHICAGO — Big Ten trophies were appropriately positioned next to the podium during 2019’s B1G Media Day on Friday.
The gleaming black-and-silver rewards for the upcoming football season were reminders to each coach as he took the stage to talk about changes and goals and prognostications.
Purdue Head Coach Jeff Brohm and players Markus Bailey, Lorenzo Neal and Rondale Moore joined their Big Ten counterparts as they discussed all things football during the annual media press conferences at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the day and what to look forward to this season.
For Brohm, consistency is the key this year, he said on the podium, while last season Brohm felt as though “we beat ourselves a few times.”
“We have to develop more consistency,” Brohm said. “I think we beat ourselves a few times last year. But I do think with the mixture of some youth and the eight seniors on our team, we’ll be in the mix. Our guys are excited to get things going.”
Big man is bigger
One of the first questions thrown Brohm’s way was over sophomore wide receiver Rondale Moore. One of the first things Brohm said about Moore was a reference to his size: He’s gained weight and is even stronger from last year’s freshman who ran 170 yards and scored twice in the 49-20 upset against Ohio State.
Moore had a breakout freshman year with over 1,200 yards receiving, 12 touchdowns and an average of 11 yards per reception. He was quickly thrust into the spotlight.
But “I think staying grounded is the easiest part of all,” Moore said.
This year, with a new class of freshmen, including three wide receivers, Brohm hopes to see the sophomore step up as a leader, especially when he expects to see the younger players getting time this season.
Rondale’s energy is there, Brohm said, the way “he approaches each and every practice, I think our guys feed off that. He needs to become a little more of a vocal leader.”
Moore echoed those comments later. Even in terms of non-football goals, he wants to “become a leader, just more of a vocal leader and taking that charge, you know, with me being a sophomore and some of the older guys being gone, I’m almost an older guys now … so just taking that role and running with it,” Moore said, as more than 20 reporters crowded his table.
Brohm expects to move him around even more this year and create more space for him on short pass and jet sweep plays. Moore mentioned Kansas City Tyreek Hill or Dallas’ Tavon Austin as a couple of players he watches to improve his play, noting that he’s even spoken with Austin about his moves.
Sindelar is the starter; Plummer ‘getting better each week’
“Elijah Sindelar right now is our starting quarterback,” Brohm said.
During last year’s season opener against Northwestern, Sindelar was given the start but was subsequently benched for Blough after throwing three interceptions. This time around there is no veteran quarterback in the backup slot to rely on, but Brohm is optimistic.
“He’s gotten better, he works hard, he’s a good leader,” Brohm said of Sindelar, who was not at Media Day.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Plummer is the backup.
And while Brohm is confident in Sindelar, “You’ve always got to have backups ready. Jack Plummer is a guy who is getting better each week.”
Lorenzo Neal says he’s ready for final season
In the final regular-season game against Indiana University, the defensive tackle went down with a torn ACL, causing him to miss the bowl game and ultimately not enter the NFL draft.
Now, the projected first-rounder says he’s making progress.
“I’m just working on taking it one day at a time, and I don’t want to overload myself too much. Too much work is not good for anybody because then, you know, long-term residual effects … so a lot of it is just me doing as much as I can, but also managing that so that come season time I feel comfortable and I feel competent,” Neal said.
Going into his last season, Neal is still a projected first-round pick for the NFL draft. But while Neal said it feels good to see those projections, it’s more about doing the right things to get there.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh I’m a first-round guy,’ it was more like you see what the possibilities are, but you still got to do the things to get there,” Neal said. “So that’s kind of the way I feel about it is like it’s good to know but at the same time that means I have to work twice as hard, be 10 times better.”
Neal’s persuaded some of his teammates to start doing yoga with him.
“I think that’s helped me recovering wise, flexibility wise, body-wise,” he said. “I do acupuncture weekly and I’m a big fan of that.”
The Boilers will start the season away against Nevada on Aug. 30 and will face Vanderbilt in their first home game. Brohm said the team will travel to Nevada two days before the game, as opposed to the standard one day before, to better acclimate the team to the 4,500 feet of elevation, a near 4,000-foot difference from West Lafayette’s 600-foot elevation.