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Brohm on o-line shake-up, injuries, Maryland RPO and more

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Purdue’s struggles along the offensive line are well-documented.

Youth and injury have hampered the group. And the struggles were on full display in last week’s 35-7 loss at Penn State. Time and again, Nittany Lions were in the face of Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer, who was sacked 10 times. And the Boilermakers had minus-19 yards rushing. No shock to see that Purdue ranks second-to-last in the nation in rushing (50.8 ypg).

Purdue has mixed and matched personnel all season, looking for a configuration that clicks. The past two games, the staff has used nine different linemen. And the tinkering continues this week with some radical changes.

“Well, you know, we want to try to still have some competition but definitely try to maybe start to settle on some guys we feel good about,” said Jeff Brohm at his Monday press conference.

The changes: 1. Left guard Mark Stickford for Alex Criddle; 2. Center Sam Garvin for Viktor Beach; 3. Right tackle Eric Miller for Will Bramel.

“I think Will Bramel is going to be a good player,” said Brohm. “We want to create some competition there. Eric Miller played a little bit. Those guys will both play at that position. I think at the left guard position, Mark Stickford as of right now will get the nod, depending how practice goes, and Alex Criddle will play, as well. Those guys will rotate. You saw Jimmy McKenna at the very end (of the Penn State game). We'll see how he practices this week at the center position.”

Turns out, Beach hasn’t been 100 percent. He missed most of spring ball with a back issue.

“Viktor has been injured all year,” said Brohm. “He hasn't practiced hardly at all, and I think he gives us his all during the game, but he can't function the way he normally would if he was healthy, and it's hurt us.

“So we're going to let Sam go out there and play as hard as he can and see how that goes and he'll be backed up by Bramel and Victor, and wouldn't surprise me if you see those guys play but we're going to give Sam a shot to go out there healthy.”

Unchanged: Grant Hermanns remains at left tackle and Matt McCann at right guard, though he started the Penn State game at right tackle before flipping back to right guard after two series. Bramel started at right guard vs. Penn State before sliding back to tackle.

“I think Grant Hermanns has the most experience up front, him and Matt McCann,” said Brohm. “Those two guys have to play well for us in order for us to do well.”

M-A-S-H unit

Purdue will limp long with myriad plays hurt.

The Boilermakers have toiled without quarterback Elijah Sindelar, linebacker Markus Bailey, running backs Tario Fuller and Richie Worship, defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal and wideout Rondale Moore, among others. Brohm remains hopeful on Worhsip and Fuller, neither of whom has played this season.

“We're working hard to get (Worship) back,” said Brohm. “I wouldn't count on it, but we're working hard to get him and Tario back. They have both been able to practice a little bit. I am hopeful at some point, but no, I would doubt this week.”

In addition to those names, Brohm said the following players won’t be available on Saturday.

CB Jordan Rucker

DT Anthony Watts

WR TJ Sheffield

WR Milton Wright

Brohm said it was “too early to tell” if wideouts Jared Sparks (ankle) and Mershawn Rice would be out. Sparks has missed the last three games (ankle), while Rice missed last week’s game (hamstring). The situation is so dire at wideout that the depth chart lists no back-up for Jackson Anthrop at the slot.

Rucker was slated to start last week but got hurt on the opening kickoff.

As for Watts, who like Rucker got hurt at Penn State: “It's at least going to be a while,” said Brohm. “We'll know more after an MRI today.”

An interesting "or" in the depth chart

The revised depth chart revealed another interesting nugget: There is an “or” between quarterbacks Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell. Does that mean we could see O’Connell this week?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Brohm thought Plummer, a redshirt freshman, gave great effort at Penn State and did some good things. But the “or” is about making sure everyone knows there is competition at every position. O'Connell, a sophomore walk-on, got his first career action last week, hitting his only pass.

“So 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.”

Maryland's dangerous RPO

Maryland (3-2 overall; 1-1 Big Ten) has shown an ability to be explosive on offense this season, beating Howard, 79-0, and Syracuse, 63-20. And the Terrapins will arrive in West Lafayette with some mojo, coming off a 48-7 win at Rutgers. The key to Maryland’s offensive success: The RPO.

“That's kind of what they like to do,” said Brohm of the run-pass option element that is the base of first-year coach Mike Locksley's scheme. “They are going to continue to run the run-pass and have an athletic quarterback.

“That's kind of how they beat Syracuse very badly. They crushed them in the run-pass game and created huge hole openings and got big plays. In the Minnesota game, that's where we got gashed, as well. We have to work hard on that. That's what their strength is, and having speed at the skill positions ... "

Purdue got an up-close look at the RPO when it played Minnesota two weeks ago in Ross-Ade Stadium. And it wasn't pretty. The Boilermaker defense struggled in a 38-31 loss. The Golden Gophers notched 488 yards, with quarterback Tanner Morgan hitting 21-of-22 passes for 398 yards and four touchdowns. Time and again, Minnesota hit big plays off the RPO.

“Against Minnesota, gave us a lot of problems,” said Brohm. “We're going to have work hard to defend it, and that means being in position. That doesn't mean everyone just suck up for the run every time they do it and leave huge openings in the secondary. We have to be smart in our design and our approach and also how we attack and fit what they are doing. But that's what they are trying to do, to suck up and create big lanes to throw the football, which is much easier in the run-pass game than dropping back.”

Maryland may have a question as to who will be quarterback, as starter Josh Jackson suffered a high ankle sprain last week at Rutgers. But the Terrapins have a good backup in Tyrrell Pigrome, as well as a fleet of good running backs led by Anthony McFarland.

“Offensively, they try to spread you out ... go to work and create plays.,” said Brohm. “I think when you look, the Syracuse game was a statement game they made, and you know, they had a big -- they bounced back last week and had a big win against Rutgers where they dominated the game.”

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