Nathan Baird covers Purdue for the Lafayette Journal & Courier (@nbairdjc). We swapped e-mails this week, previewing Saturday’s game between the Gophers and Boilermakers. Here's my Q&A on the Gophers, and here’s the one he did on Purdue:
1. What has been the immediate impact of the coaching change on this year’s team?
Interim coach Gerad Parker, formerly the receivers coach, almost immediately infused new energy into the program. The players like him and he’s more exuberant than Darrell Hazell. There have been some minor depth chart and schematic tweaks. However, Purdue’s injury situation has thinned an already spotty roster. Options to shake things up are limited.
2. If you had to guess three people who could get the job, who would they be?
Purdue’s administrators are saying the right things regarding the resources they’ll commit to football. But what they need more than a splashy name is someone with a vision for establishing an identity. The program hasn’t had one since Joe Tiller left. That being said, I would expect them to take a look at Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck and possibly Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm – two offensive-minded coaches with upward mobility. I’m also intrigued by Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, previously of Rutgers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
3. How has David Blough progressed since last year’s game against the Gophers?
Blough has shown some of the improvements one expects from a second-year starter, yet also still looks like a sophomore. I’ve been impressed with his improved arm strength and his mobile accuracy. He’s also used his check-downs more to help supplement a running game that’s largely gone stagnant in Big Ten Conference play. However, his decision-making must improve, as evidenced by his 12 interceptions.
4. How have Purdue fans reacted to seeing what Danny Etling’s done at LSU and Austin Appleby at Florida?
To some, it’s been a sign that Purdue’s coaching staff (especially the now-departed Hazell and former offensive coordinator/QB coach John Shoop) failed to either recognize or develop quarterback talent. However, neither of those players performed well at Purdue. It’s difficult to say whether either one could have beaten out Blough this season as the starter. Etling and Appleby are general reminders of the recruiting setbacks – either in terms of the coaches or the athletic department as a whole -- that have held the program back.
5. Besides Blough, who are the two players to watch on offense and defense (one for each side of the ball)?
DeAngelo Yancey is Blough’s big-play target. The senior captain has touchdown receptions of 88 and 62 yards the past two weeks. Purdue needs to keep that connection going with the running game bogged down. … Defensive tackle Evan Panfil has brought pressure in the absence of tackle Jake Replogle, who is Purdue’s best football player but has missed three straight games with concussion symptoms.