For the past month, the Purdue football team has put in an immense amount of hard work preparing for the 2021 college football season.
In anticipation of their Saturday matchup versus Oregon State, offensive players reflected on their training camp experience and how they have improved in the offseason Tuesday evening.
“I feel pretty confident, not just in the offense, but as a team,” junior wide receiver David Bell said.
Winning the QB battle
For the second time in his Purdue career, junior quarterback Jack Plummer came out the victor of a tight quarterback competition. He was named the starter against the Beavers Thursday.
He first took the starting job when then-senior quarterback Elijah Sindelar sat out of a game against TCU under the concussion protocol in 2019. Plummer would go on to complete 13 of his 29 passes while throwing for one touchdown and two interceptions against a lightning-quick TCU secondary.
Head coach Jeff Brohm bestowed Plummer with another chance against the Minnesota Golden Gophers when Sindelar and then-sophomore receiver Rondale Moore were injured on the very same play. Purdue came just short of a miracle comeback against the Gophers behind the improved play of Plummer, who ended the game with two touchdowns and 23 completions on 41 pass attempts.
After five straight and six overall starts, Plummer would suffer a leg injury of his own, allowing then-sophomore walk-on Aidan O’Connell to step up and complete two clutch drives against Nebraska and Northwestern. O’Connell would finish the season with a 2-2 record as a starter, while Plummer went 1-4 in games he finished.
O’Connell’s clutch performances in the four games allowed him to maintain the starting job in 2020. Though he played well in his first three games, throwing for an average of 305 yards and two touchdowns per game, Brohm once again gave Plummer the chance at a starting job in week four against Minnesota.
He would hold the spot for the rest of the season.
Coming into this season, co-offensive coordinator Brian Brohm said the competition between O’Connell and Plummer was once again very close.
Though both players fought hard for the starting spot, Brian Brohm said Plummer’s end-of-season success gave him the edge as the engine of the offense. In his starts, Plummer averaged 312 yards and three touchdowns per game.
Plummer said he worked on “processing information” during the offseason, improving his ability to read the defense in order to figure out what the defense is doing.
“Seeing the game slow down for me is the biggest thing,” Plummer said.
“I can go through the reads quicker and relax out there.”
No. 1 receiver
Bell enters this season as the top wide receiver on Purdue’s roster and a potential Day One NFL draft pick.
Bell has had tremendous success in his first two seasons as a Boilermaker. In 18 games, he caught 139 passes for 1,660 yards and 15 touchdowns.
He is a physically gifted receiver with the athleticism to make big time catches, as shown by his highlight reel. This offseason, Bell said he spent time honing in on the mental side of the game in order to challenge himself. He too wants to understand defenses like his quarterback.
“(I’ve been) talking to Jack and Aidan to learn how to read defenses properly,” he said. “I’m just trying to see what those guys on the field are doing so I can possibly see it myself.”
Bell said he still keeps in contact with Moore, who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in April. Bell said Moore gave him some more pointers and told Bell to “do what he can do.”
Bell said he was excited to match up and show off the team’s abilities against another team’s defense.
“We’ve been going against each other for a long, long time so we’re just excited to compete against another university,” Bell said.
One last ride
Saturday night will be fifth year wideout Jackson Anthrop’s final opening game in a Purdue uniform.
After a shoulder injury derailed his potential playing time last season, Anthrop said he is ready to play again.
“Our coaching staff and training staff is keeping everybody in shape,” Anthrop said. “I’m looking forward to staying healthy and getting ready to go on Saturday.”
Although he is listed as a wide receiver, Anthrop said his role on the team will be much wider. He said he will participate in “a little bit of everything,” playing snaps on special teams and occasionally taking snaps in the backfield.
Anthrop will be easy to spot on punt returns, since he will stand around 50 yards away from the line of scrimmage as the returner.
Purdue’s season kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium against Oregon State. The game will air on Fox Sports 1.