EDITOR'S NOTE: In Jeff Brohm's first season at Purdue, the coach took what was supposed to be a rebuilding year and turned it into a winning one. The Boilermakers posted their best season since 2011 with a bowl victory and a 7-6 record. As we count down to fall camp and Season 2, we’ll be previewing the Boilermakers position-by-position. This is the final installment of a multi-part series.
Purdue’s quarterback competition continues into its 13th month when the Boilermakers open fall camp Wednesday.
David Blough and Elijah Sindelar battled in a unique quarterback rotation last year. Both earned a turn to start. Both played in almost every game they were healthy. And now, when camp opens, both will return from major offseason surgery to compete for the starting job once again.
Blough was briefly named QB1 last year. But a dislocated ankle ended his season just one game later. He handed the season off to Sindelar, who led the Boilermakers to a three-game winning streak and a bowl victory all on a torn ACL.
Both will be fully healthy when camp opens and ready to battle for the starting spot.
“I do think that competition brings out the best of both of them,” Brohm said. “I do think that the competition that they have lets the other positions know that that's what we're looking for and they need to raise their level of play.”
Key returners: Blough (senior), Sindelar (junior)
Notable newcomers: Nick Sipe (RS freshman), Jack Plummer (freshman)
Greatest strength: Two good options
There’s an old saying in football: If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.
That doesn’t seem to be the case at Purdue. Both have proven they are capable of leading an offense. There’s a strong case each one should be the starter in Game 1.
It helps Purdue that their skillsets are slightly different. Blough earned the slight edge last year because of his veteran savvy, scrambling ability and confidence in the huddle. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,103 yards and nine touchdowns against four interceptions. He also rushed for 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“David is very cerebral,” Brohm said. “He's an accurate passer. Played a lot of football games. I think all of our players respect him and know that if he's on the field, we have a chance to win.”
Sindelar, meanwhile, is a traditional drop-back passer. He has the ideal body type for a pro-style quarterback at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds and the strong arm of a former pitcher who threw mid-90s off the mound in high school. He completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 2,264 yards and 18 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
“He's got a big arm,” Brohm said. “Can throw the ball vertically, can fit it into tight windows. He's not bashful to do that.”
Biggest question: How much will each quarterback play?
Even though the quarterback rotation was unconventional, there was some method to the madness. The starter typically played the entire first quarter. The backup played most — if not all — of the second quarter. Then Brohm rode the hot hand the rest of the game.
Brohm was asked at Big Ten Media Days if he would use the same type of rotation. He remained somewhat noncommittal.
“We'll let this thing play out,” Brohm said. “Hopefully about a week-and-a-half before the first game when you start to concentrate on your first opponent, we'll maybe have a starter ready to go. The other guy will be on deck ready to step in when we need him.”
Position battles: Blough vs. Sindelar
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Worth considering: The players around the quarterback could decide who starts
Purdue struggled to find consistent playmakers at receiver last year, which ultimately impacted the play calling. The Boilermakers chose to be a more conservative, balanced offense. They called more zone-read runs and bootlegs off of play action, which fit Blough's skillset.
But when Sindelar tore his ACL, the Boilers put him in the shotgun and aired the ball out with a quick passing game. This kept Sindelar upright, healthy and in rhythm.
If new receivers emerge and Brohm chooses to pass a lot this season, that style seems to fit Sindelar’s strengths. But if Purdue again struggles to find consistent deep threats at receiver, the Boilers could choose to lean on their four running backs with a more balanced approach. Blough would be the logical choice in that case.
So while the competition seems like a clear-cut Sindelar vs. Blough matchup, the players around the quarterbacks could ultimately play a major role in determining which one starts.