Milton Wright catching on as Purdue's No. 2 pass-catching option
The definition of luck is when opportunity and preparation meet. Knowing that, Milton Wright is one lucky guy.
With Rondale Moore still on the shelf, the sophomore wideout has seized his chance in 2020 to emerge as the complement to David Bell.
“... Everyone wants to make a point, to make their mark,” said Wright. “At the same time, I'm really just wanting our team to be successful and if that means me having seven catches for 85 yards every game or one catch and two yards that gives us a first down for a big play for David to make or Payne (Durham) to make and win the game, that’s what I have to do. So, whatever it takes, honestly.”
Those seven grabs for 85 yards came in Purdue’s season-opening 24-20 victory vs. Iowa. Wright followed that by making six catches for 101 yards and a TD in a 31-24 victory at Illinois. No doubt, Wright is showing he can be Robin to Bell's Batman.
Through two games, Wright is No. 2 on the team in receptions with 13 (on 16 targets) for 185 yards (14.2 ypc) with a touchdown. Bell has a team-high 22 grabs for 243 and four scores, giving the tandem a combined 35 catches for 428 yards and five touchdowns. Bell is No. 1 in the Big Ten in catches per game (11.0), while Wright is No. 6 (6.5).
“I do think the emergence of Milton Wright in the (Iowa) game was great to see,” said Jeff Brohm, who missed that game while in isolation with COVID-19. “To me, it was noticeable on TV that, hey, this guy is a very good player. He had great get-off and got open on routes and made strong catches and got the ball and got north and south, took a couple big hits, came back and played.
“I think without having Rondale, having Milton Wright step up and make plays was crucial and critical to spread the wealth a little bit.”
Wright’s play has been a big reason why the Boilermakers rank No. 6 in the Big Ten in total offense (421.0 ypg) and boast the No. 1 passing attack (326.5 ypg). And the 6-3, 195-pound Louisville, Ky., native will likely need to shine on Saturday if the Boilermakers want to take down No. 23 Northwestern in a battle of unbeatens at 5 p.m. ET on BTN.
Wright got his feet wet last season as a true freshman, making 13 receptions for 186 yards and a TD. But the touted four-star recruit often was inconsistent when it came to catching the ball. To that end, Wright watched his drops from last season, when he had three according to Pro Football Focus. But a few were crucial.
“Every single one of them,” he said. “Every single one, especially in Wisconsin. You know, all of my drops, I looked at them. I want to be better than I was last year and I want to emphasize that for this year.”
This year, Wright has no drops. Recievers coach JaMarcus Shephard appreciated the self-analysis.
“There are two drops that really kind of stuck with him,” said Shephard. “I believe the one at Wisconsin is one that really stuck with him heavily. A great opportunity to make a big play and make a statement on the first drive of the game with a post route in the end zone and unfortunately didn't come down with it.
“And then in the Indiana game. The in-cut that probably would have given us an opportunity to potentially win the game towards the end of the game instead of going overtime. … inconsistencies off the field will create inconsistencies on the field. He's been extremely much more consistent off the field. So now he's extremely consistent on the field. So those things kind of go hand-in-hand, which is something that we preach to these young men from the day I got here.”
What is Shephard’s message to Wright?
“Stay focused, it's next play, next game, it’s time to go, it’s time to rock and roll,” said Wright. “(Shep), gave us a clap on the back right after the game but Sunday comes around, comes around, you correct what we did and we move on. That's kind of his mind-set and our mind-set that he's kind of ingrained in us that we got to keep moving forward."
Bell and Wright have been the bellwethers of this deep and talented wideout unit that perhaps could welcome back Moore on Saturday. Brohm said this week he'll be a game-time decision. Stay tuned. Regardless, the Boilermakers have many good pass-catching options.
“If we can continue to get other guys to step up in the mix, which I think we have some other good young receivers,” said Brohm. “But they've got to prove it during a game, whether it's Amad Anderson, TJ Sheffield, Maliq Carr, down the line, Jared Sparks did a few good things coming back from injury.
"The more weapons we have, the better we're going to be. Still, with that, we've got to get the running back corps healthy and we have to run the football and find ways to get positive yards and control the ball that way because it's critical for our success. If we want to win running the football successfully, it has to happen."
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