Coach's Corner: Purdue confident in Plummer if he has to start Saturday
Ladies and gentlemen: Meet Jack Plummer.
Who is he? Plummer is Purdue’s No. 2 quarterback. And he could be making his debut this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. when the Boilermakers (1-1) play host to TCU (1-0).
The status of starting signal-caller Elijah Sindelar is murky after Jeff Brohm revealed in his Monday press conference that the fifth-year senior has a “slight concussion” suffered in Purdue's 42-24 victory vs. Vanderbilt on Saturday. Brohm offered no clarity on if Sindelar will play this week for the Boilermakers.
“Well, I think it was a concussion, a slight concussion that we'll monitor and see how he passes all the tests and go through the proper protocol and hopefully get him back if he's ready to go,” said Brohm.
During the time GoldandBlack.com was able to watch practice on Tuesday, Sindelar wasn't present. Plummer was running the No. 1 offense.
Sindelar appeared to get hurt on what was Purdue's final offensive play vs. Vanderbilt, when he apparently took a hit to the head while finishing a 7-yard run on a third-and-14 from Purdue’s 15-yard line. Brohm subsequently took a time out with 2:33 left in the game. Brohm said had Purdue gone back on offense, Plummer would have entered the game. But, the contest ended before the Boilermakers got the ball back.
Purdue didn’t make any of its quarterbacks available to the media on Tuesday. Also, neither co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard nor co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Brohm were made available to the media.
If Sindelar can’t play, it would be a blow to Purdue. He is one of the hottest signal-callers in the nation, ranking No. 1 in America in passing yards (466.0). And he has thrown (104) and completed (68) more passes than anyone in the nation. Sindelar also paces the country with nine touchdown tosses. He has three interceptions. As a team, the Boilermakers rank No. 3 in the nation in passing (466.0 ypg) behind Temple (507.0 ypg) and Washington State (494.0 ypg).
One of the most noteworthy recent times Purdue had to turn to a backup quarterback to make his first start because of injury to a starter was back on November 1, 2008, when Justin Siller started for injured Curtis Painter and delivered a memorable 48-42 win over Michigan.
The 6-5, 215-pound Plummer had offers from the likes of Oregon State, Arizona, Colorado State, Boise State, Hawaii and Cincinnati coming out of Gilbert (Arizona) High as a three-star rivals recruit. He has a brother, Will Plummer, who is a Class of 2020 commit with Arizona. Jack Plummer has shown a command of Brohm’s offense. And he arguably is the best athlete Purdue has under center.
“We're very confident in Jack," said Brohm. “He's had good weeks of practice. He's improved. He's got some moxie to him, some athleticism. I think he's gaining confidence because he's practiced well, and he has to always be ready to go. We tell him that all the time.”
How much of Purdue’s offense is Brohm comfortable with Plummer running?
“I think he can run it all,” said Brohm. “That's kind of one of his strengths. He's very smart, very cerebral. If anything, he's got some David Blough in him. He overthinks things a little bit, but that's not a bad quality, and he works hard at it. I think he has a very bright future here.”
Plummer arrived in West Lafayette as part of Purdue’s 2018 recruiting class. He redshirted last year and impressed. Even back in August, Brohm professed confidence in Plummer. And Plummer believes in himself, too.
“I think I know the offense well,” Plummer said in August during camp. “It feels good to get more reps, you start to get into a rhythm. I am getting better at completing the deep balls, the go routes. I think I can move around a lilt bit and extend plays. I think what I’m getting really good at is knowing what the defense is. I have been here a while and I can start to see trends of what the defense is gonna do. I am starting to pick up what the defense is gonna do before the snap.
“Yes, I feel confident to play. I came here to play, I want to play, that is the dream, that is the goal. I am excited to go in.”
Plummer may get his chance this Saturday. In case you are wondering: Plummer’s backup would be sophomore Aidan O’Connell, a walk-on.
Jack Plummer ... the teacher
Jack Plummer hasn’t played a snap, but he has had a big influence on freshman wideout David Bell.
“He was one of the main people to help me with the playbook over the summer,” said Bell. “About twice a week, we sat down and went over the playbook. Coming in over the summer, it was very hard to learn the playbook. We did passing routes three or four times a week. I felt like I was a little behind, so I asked him (for help) and he was very open to me. I didn't know what to expect from him, but he was a good guy and he helped me. I thank him for taking the time out of his day to help me.”
Bell looks to be coming on. He caught four passes for 82 yards vs. Vanderbilt after debuting at Nevada with one catch that went for 49 yards and a TD. And it came on a flea-flicker: Elijah Sindelar handed off to running back King Doerue who pitched it back to Sindelar, who threw it to Bell for the touchdown. Did Bell think his first college touchdown would come on a gadget play?
“I had no clue,” said Bell. “I thought it would be a deep pass. I thought I would have a defender on me. But I was wide open. Those are the best ones to catch.”
Now, Bell is ready for more. And he looks primed to break out after arriving as the No. 1 rated player in Indiana in the Class of 2019, according to rivals.com.
“I don’t show that I am nervous, but deep down inside I have a little bit of nerve wrack,” he said. “Last game, I wasn’t nervous at all because I played in the Nevada game and had some experience. And watching a ton of film, I felt real prepared for that game on Saturday.”
Now, perhaps, Bell will be catching passes from Plummer this Saturday.
“I saw him make some unbelievable throws over the summer,” said Bell. “He’s just trying to get used to it. If he has to play on Saturday, I think we’ll be fine.”
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Hold that line
Much has been made about Purdue’s lackluster rushing attack. How bad has it been? The Boilermakers rank No. 125 out of 130 FBS schools, averaging 65.5 yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry. Last week vs. Vanderbilt, the Boilermakers ran 18 times for 31 yards. But, they won, 42-24 … and that’s all that matters.
“I was hoping we could do more in the run game last week,” said offensive line coach Dale Williams. “But obviously, when you can drop back and get hot throwing and they were protecting it and giving him some time and the ball was going up field and guys were making plays ... OK, that's fine. We are gonna do what we have to do to win the game. I never said we're gonna have a 200-yard rusher or 600-yard passer, it’s whatever we have to do to win the game.”
The unit has done a good job protecting, yielding just one sack (at Nevada) in 104 pass attempts this season. No school has thrown more passes.
“I knew we didn’t give up any last week and I knew we gave up the one at Nevada,” said Williams. “But I didn't know we threw it 104 times. That’s a good complement for them to have.”
Things will get more difficult this week with TCU visiting. The Horned Frogs have an excellent defense and a tough line.
“This is a very good defensive front we are playing this week,” said Williams. “They angle slant. They move. They do a lot of movement. And obviously, when you have good players and those players move, their speed is what makes the difference in the game. This will be the fastest game our offensive line will see all year.”
Purdue’s task may be more difficult if fifth-year senior starting right guard Matt McCann can’t play. He got hurt in the first half of the Vanderbilt game and didn’t return.
“Matt McCann’s status is unclear at this time,” said Williams. “I wouldn’t know. That would be a training room question, so I know he wants to play. Can he play? That I do not know.”
If McCann can’t go, sophomore Mark Stickford probably would start. He acquitted himself well last Saturday when he filled in for McCann. Stickford played 43 snaps. Sophomore DJ Washington played 12 at right guard vs. Vandy.
“They put their best d-lineman on (Stickford), No. 10,” said Williams. “He fought, he fought, he competed … he has gotten a lot better this year. His intensity level is up.”
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