Gary Nord feels he has plenty of weapons to work with, from three quarterbacks with starting experience to versatile wide receivers to a deep tight end corps.
But there are concerns during training camp, as well. Following, Gold & Black talks to Nord, the fourth-year Purdue offensive coordinator.
Gold & Black: How do you assess your offense thus far?
Nord: "I'm still seeing some inconsistency, but I see a lot more playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. We'll get ourselves consistent and if we execute, we've got enough ability to win a lot of football games."
Gold & Black: You mentioned playmakers, do you like the versatility of the offense?
Nord: "I think when you use different personnel groupings that we use and can put them in unique alignments that the defense is not counting on you being in - putting your receiver at the running back spot and your running back at the wide out - you can get some personnel mismatches on the other side of the ball. I think we have enough speed at the wide receiver spot and running back spot that we can kind of dictate what their personnel is going to be, where they will stay in their three-linebacker scheme or go to a nickel scheme and we can get mismatches."
Gold & Black: The defense has been mentioned often as winning in these training camp scrimmages, which might not be all that uncommon for this time of year, but does the offense need to win more?
Nord: "I think we're winning some, but the good thing about it is that our defense is much improved. You look across the defensive front and the secondary and they have a lot of good football players over there. You're not going to win on a consistent basis. But I have been happy in this training camp with getting big plays, so we don't have to drive the ball 80 yards to score every time. We've had some guys break free and go the distance, so that's been good to see."
Gold & Black: Do those big plays need to be a bigger part of this offense?
Nord: "I think big plays, however you have to get them. If you get them with trick plays, with the vertical passing game, or you get them with screens, however you design them. But when they're there, you've got to have someone who can take it the distance and you can't get them all blocked every time. You have to be able to make someone miss in the open field. I think that's what we have out there, with the two or three kids who have exceptional speed, with Raheem Mostert and Antavian Edison and Gary Bush. I think those kids can take it the distance any time."
Gold & Black: Do you need more depth at receiver, a young guy or two to step up?
Nord: "Well, we do have to have some depth at the receiver spot. I feel really good about three or four of them, but after that there's another three or four of them that have to separate themselves from one another. I think Tommy Thomas has shown at times that he can be a guy to separate, then all the sudden Shane Mikesky steps up, the kid from Indiana here. I really like the kids we have in Danny Anthrop and Cameron Posey, those two young freshmen are going to be really good football players. One of those guys has got to separate themselves from the rest of the pack."
Gold & Black: How has the play of the offensive line been?
Nord: "I think it's been a little above average; we have to continue to get better up there. I've been pleased with them in the running game; our pass protection has to get a lot more solid for our to be able to increase our pass efficiency. We have to have a little bit more time to throw the football."
Gold & Black: Is continuity on that line important? You haven't had that recently.
Nord: "Yeah, last year at this time, we were sitting around waiting to see if a couple of guys were going to be healthy, or if they were going to be eligible, but we don't have that problem this year. We got everybody, health-wise, and everybody did well in school. So we've got some kids who have stayed in the same place the whole camp, so that makes a huge difference. We don't have tackles going to guard and guards going to tackle. We have tackles playing tackle, we've got guards playing guard and centers playing center."
Gold & Black: You have three quarterbacks who want to play significantly. Is it hard to get them each enough reps during camp, so that they can get into a rhythm?
Nord: "During camp, it's no problem, because at this time of the year you're very concerned about over-throwing your quarterbacks. It's kind of like a pitcher, so it's really been a luxury to be able to work two and rest one, work two and rest one. We've kind of been taking that approach here, and it's been very easy to get the amount of reps we need to get. Then, we've been able to recovery like we need to, as well."
Gold & Black: A couple days ago, Danny Hope said Rob Henry's a big enough weapon that you need to get him the ball at more than just quarterback. How do you see it?
Nord: "Yeah, you know I think that he's going to be a big weapon for us in a lot of different ways. Obviously, it'd be very difficult to even consider or think about playing three quarterbacks, that's probably too much to ask of a football team. But he's got big-play ability and one of the fastest kids on our team, one of the best athletes on our team, so he's not going to be standing somewhere on the sideline with me, that's for sure."
Gold & Black: Who's the fullback?
Nord: "That's (Brandon) Cottom. He showed flashes last year that he was going to be something special at that spot. He's a true fullback, a big-league full back and we're getting him in there more and more and he's been able to handle it. He's about eight months off his surgery and he looks very solid right now."
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