Coach's corner: Plummer and O'Connell both taking reps with No. 1 offense
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Moments before Jeff Brohm began his Monday press briefing, the media was hastily handed an updated depth chart for the Maryland game.
There were myriad changes, especially along the offensive line. But one of the most subtle--but significant--changes was the insertion of an "or" between quarterbacks Jack Plummer--the No. 1 signal-caller--and Aidan O'Connell--the backup.
At Tuesday's practice, co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard was asked if O'Connell got any first-team reps.
"Absolutely," said Shephard. "Coach Brohm mentioned that he wants it to be a competition at all positions. I believe that’s the case even at the quarterback position. I think we have a plan in place to see how that competition unfolds and then that plan will unfold on game day."
Could O'Connell--a sophomore who arrived on campus as a walk-on--play on Saturday when Purdue (1-4 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) welcomes Maryland (3-2, 1-1) for homecoming? O'Connell saw his first career action late last week at Penn State, hitting his lone pass attempt.
"As of right now, as I said, it’s a competition," said Shephard. "That would be the objective. If the competition unfolds in his favor, then he should be going into the game. It just depends on how everything goes in practice."
Plummer, a redshirt freshman who has made just two career starts, understands. He became the starter after Elijah Sindelar hurt his left clavicle in the Minnesota game.
"Nothing is given to you ever," Plummer said Tuesday. "Obviously, I haven’t won any games yet. Nothing is given. You have to earn everything. That’s a lot how college football works. That’s how life works. Nothing is going to be given to you. You have to earn it, and you have to earn it every day in practice. It’s a little motivation to go out, focus hard and compete every day in practice."
Added Brohm at his Monday press conference:
"I think Aidan O'Connell is a guy that could play or he may not play, depending on how this week goes," said Brohm. "You know, every position, we want all of our guys to know that we are going to need production, and I understand the circumstances, and I am proud of the effort Jack has given us and I think he's done some good things. But I do want to make sure that even at that position, we know there's competition."
Shorthanded at WR
When the season dawned, Purdue teemed with talent at receiver.
There was Rondale Moore, Jared Sparks, Jackson Anthrop, Amad Anderson, Jr., and four talented freshmen in David Bell, Milton Wright, TJ Sheffield and Mershawn Rice, among others. Now, injury has gutted the unit to the point where Purdue is relying on three primary options: Bell, Anthrop and Anderson.
"I feel confident having those guys out there," said co-OC/receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard. "As the other guys get healthy, they get back in the rotation. That’s how it typically operates around here. Next man up."
Bell has stepped up to play a big role amid the attrition despite dealing with hamstring and shoulder issues this season.
"He hasn’t griped or complained, said that that was an issue or anything," said Shephard. "When I ask him about it, he just goes full speed right through the questions: 'Hey, coach, what’s the next play?' "
Bell is No. 2 on the team in catches with 17 for 300 yards (17.6 ypc) and a TD.
Upon further review
Jack Plummer made just his second career start--and first on the road--on Saturday at Penn State. And, it was a tough circumstance, given the hostile environment and shorthanded receiving unit he had to work with. And the line struggled, too, as the redshirt freshman was sacked 10 times. What did he learn about his performance upon watching film?
"There are a couple of throws I left on the board," said Plummer, who lamented his lack of aggressiveness.
"... Played a little too conservative at times," he said. "When you are down by 21 points, sometimes you are gonna have to play a little bit more aggressive to try to get yourself back in the game. Left a few throws out there I could have pulled the trigger on."
Was he gun-shy, given the frequent duress he was under from the Penn State defense?
"I wouldn’t say gun-shy, I would say played a little too conservative," said Plummer. "There are throws I left out there that I know I can make ... more intermediate-type throws, not real deep throws, that I didn’t pull the trigger on
"As a quarterback, you have to trust things. Whenever you go out there and aren’t trusting it, you aren’t gonna play well. Part of it is you have to drop back, trust it and let it rip. Cut it loose is what Coach says. If you are out there worrying about stuff that’s out of your control, you aren't gonna play well."
Plummer is hitting 50 percent of his passes (49-of-97) for 545 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He has 29 rushes for minus 40 yards.
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