Coordinator's Corner: Passing game coordinator JaMarcus Shephard
Purdue had production on Saturday in its passing game, with 376 yards of offense, including 195 by its starting outside receivers.
But the offense scored only 13 points in a loss at Northwestern, due — in part — to a lack of plays. Tuesday, we talked to passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard about the Boilermakers.
GoldandBlack.com: Do you like the production from the wide receivers?
Shephard: "It was good production. It's just frustrating because I felt like I saw more out there that we could have accomplished in the game. There was some big opportunities to really help the team really win the game. It's not just the wideouts, it's across the boards. We have to make sure when the opportunities come for us to win the football game, it's not just making a play or two, it's about helping the team win the game. When those opportunities come, we have to make the plays."
GoldandBlack.com: Anything specific you're talking about?
Shephard: "What we're harping on them about is staying up after you catch the ball. I want to see you run after you catch football. (Jarrett) Burgess across the middle of the field, catches that ball and goes to the ground, there's no one within five yards of him. He probably should have run upfield and got another 30 yards. It was a tremendous catch by Jared Sparks on the sideline, on the go ball, but I wish he stays on his feet and continues to run after the catch and goes and scores a touchdown.
"Like I said, there's opportunities for there to be a lot more. They felt it on Sunday after the game. They see the film. Like I tell them all the time, the film doesn't lie. So when they see it on film, and it's exactly what I'm talking about, they know, 'Hey, there's a lot more we have to do. We have to get better.'"
GoldandBlack.com: Is there a certain percentage of yards you're looking for after a catch? For example, if you throw for 400 yards, is a certain number supposed to be after the catch?
Shephard: "It's a hard number to really kind of define because certain routes you're running (are) ones that require you to be stopped or ones that you're going to be running, so it's sometimes hard to define that. I look at it as the percentage of yards that we (receivers) caught, how many yards were after the catch? That's what I put a lot of my emphasis on. It wasn't as much as I wanted it to be. I don't have the exact number in front of me at this moment, but it needs to be more."
GoldandBlack.com: Do you know the high number this year?
Shephard: "I don't recall that, but (this) was probably our best game right now, as far as statistically, as far as yardage. But again, that's not my concern. My concern is plays that help us win games.
"Burgess did a good job on the post, that's a play to help us win a game. (Anthony) Mahoungou after he runs the speed out, runs and gets to the pylon, that's a play to help us win the game. I'm worried about those plays."
GoldandBlack.com: Sparks had a big day, numbers-wise. What has he done to develop?
Shephard: "He's young and sometimes I forget that, that he's only a redshirt freshman. I'm harder on him sometimes than some of the others. I guess that kind of goes with him and (Jackson) Anthrop, I go on those guys pretty hard, but I just expect him to grow up early. At the end of the day, you're in a Big Ten football game, so I expect you to go ahead and make the plays you're making in practice every day. But all in all, I think the quarterback just found him more, he found ways to get open a couple times and was determined to make the play. There was only one I really got on him pretty hard about, it was the post route at the beginning of the game. He's got to learn how to run through the ball. If he runs through that ball and doesn't worry about the safety that's sitting there, he probably catches it and runs right into the end zone.
"He's learning to play the position. He is by no means close to being a finished product, he's just a competitor. I get on him hard and he responds, that's the best part about him."
Q: If I would have said that Anthrop would be leading your teams in receptions going into Week 11, you would have said ... ?
Shephard: "There's no way that's going to happen (laughing). However, I shouldn't have felt that way because of the young man that he is. It means something to him, with his brother having played here. This place is special to him. Purdue University is a special place. He's going to go out there and give it his all. He gave it his all, saw it in spring ball and the spring game, he's always making plays. I shouldn't have ever doubted him for a moment, although I never really doubted him, but I didn't think he'd be our leading receiver right now and he is."
GoldandBlack.com: In what ways did Burgess show you enough in practice to get on the field? And what have you seen from him?
Shephard: "Burgess in fall camp was sitting there really in the two-deep. Some injuries, but at the end of the day, he was showing some things in fall camp that at that point we were walking the halls and I told him, 'All I need you to do is get in the two-deep and you're going to be ready to go.' And he said, 'Coach, I'm there,' but then he got hurt the next practice.
"That's the way it was. But now, he's shown some consistency in terms of being able to stay healthy. He came to me and we had a good long talk and he says he thinks he figured it out, what was going on with him, and now he's where he needs to be at."
GoldandBlack.com: Iowa has a really good corner in Josh Jackson. What does he do well?
Shephard: "He's tall, long, fast. He has great instincts and ball skills. He's physical. Shoot, is that enough to tell you what makes him so great? All those things combined make him a great corner. When you start to look at him, you start to see guys like Richard Sherman, that's literally what I see when I see him out there, he has a knack for playing the football. You make some of those plays once or twice, or maybe three times, and everybody says, '(Yeah, well),' but when you're consistently making those plays then that says a lot about what kind of player you are. Certainly a challenge for our guys. I told them better bring your A game, because I don't want to see you guys on his draft highlight."
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