Jeff Brohm will open his second fall camp at Purdue on Wednesday at the Bimel Practice Complex. The first six practices will be open to the public on Aug. 1, 2, 3 and 5 from 2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. and on Aug. 6 and 7 from 9:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Here are five burning questions the Boilers will work to answer over the next few weeks:
1. Who will win the starting quarterback job?
The most obvious question is one that’s been asked in Purdue circles for more than a year now. Who is going to play quarterback?
David Blough and Elijah Sindelar will once again compete for the starting job. Each brings something a little bit different. Sindelar is a prototypical drop-back passer with a strong arm and 6-foot-4 frame. Blough, meanwhile, can create a few more plays with his feet and has earned respect in the locker room as a vocal team leader.
Brohm said he plans to let the quarterback battle play out. He won’t settle on a starter until about a week-and-a-half before the first game when the Boilers begin team-specific game planning for Northwestern. While Brohm would prefer one quarterback separate himself, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see both quarterbacks play Aug. 30.
2. How quickly can Rondale Moore make an impact?
Brohm pulled off what he called a recruiting “coup” by landing four-star receiver Rondale Moore. The U.S. Army All-American was originally committed to Texas and held offers from numerous blue-bloods, including Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State. He’s the highest-rated player Purdue has landed in the 247 Sports era.
Purdue is desperate for playmakers at wide receiver, opening the door for Moore to get on the field early. Already, Moore has made an impact on teammates and coaches, including when he squatted 600 pounds. With the speed and explosiveness, Moore should be a big factor. The question is, how soon?
3. Can the defense replicate last year’s success with so many new faces?
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt sparked a dramatic transformation in his first year at Purdue. The Boilermakers jumped from the 117th scoring defense in 2016 to 24th in 2017. Impressive turnaround. The only problem is that improved defense is almost all gone. Just four starters return, and 12 of the top 24 defensive two-deep left the program.
The only returning starters are linebacker Markus Bailey, defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal and safeties Jacob Thieneman and Navon Mosley. That means there will be competitive position battles for starting spots on the defensive line, an outside linebacker spot and both corner positions.
4. Will a feature back emerge?
Markell Jones led the Boilermakers in carries (113) and yards (556) last year. However, that was largely because he was the only running back standing after a rugged Big Ten season, picking up 52 of those carries and 303 of those yards in the last two games alone.
The Boilermakers leaned on a running back-by-committee approach last year. With four veteran running backs who all do something a little bit different, the Boilers will likely let the circumstances dictate which back is in the game. Still, there will be some questions about which back gets the bulk of the carries.
5. How do the Boilers handle last year’s success and increased expectations?
Expectations were modest when Brohm arrived at Purdue, inheriting a team that had won just nine games over the previous four seasons. But with a three-game winning streak to close out the year — including a winner-leaves-town victory to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket and a thrilling bowl victory — what was supposed to be a rebuilding season became the first winning season since 2011.
Expectations, both internally and externally, have naturally risen. Vegas doubled Purdue's expected win total from three wins last year to six this season. Fans are expecting even more. Win seven games last year and they are taking about eight, nine or even 10 wins this year. Even the Boilermakers themselves broke each huddle in the spring with “Big Ten Champs.”
Everyone wants Purdue to build on its success. But, in many ways, last year’s victories were fueled by previous failures. The seniors on last year’s team won just eight games in their first three seasons. There was a sense the players hated losing more than they enjoyed winning and wanted desperately to change the narrative in their final season.
Now, defensive leaders like three-time team captain Ja'Whaun Bentley are gone, and Purdue is no longer an underdog — at least not nearly as big of one. The Boilers will need new leaders to emerge and new motivations to stay hungry even after they’ve tasted success.