Purdue University Football Media Conference
Monday, November 2, 2020
Coach Jeff Brohm Press Conference
- Just any update on the status of your game Saturday and when you might find out?
JEFF BROHM: I would assume by tomorrow we’ll have an answer, but even with that, I’m not for sure exactly truly how it works.
But we’re preparing full speed ahead as of right now.
- Based on everything that kind of has transpired between Wisconsin and Illinois, are you aware of any positive tests coming out of your program since Saturday’s game?
JEFF BROHM: Not to this point. Now, it is a little concerning sometimes. You know, Illinois was a little concerned that maybe they got some things through their game at Wisconsin. I really don’t know exactly truly how this virus works, so there’s always a concern that we want to continue to do everything we can to stay safe and get our guys to the game and keep everybody free from the virus.
Every precaution we can think of we’re going to take, because there has been some pop-ups on the team we’re getting ready to play and the team we played this past week, so that is a concern.
- Just an update on George Karlaftis?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we’ll have a little more information tomorrow on some of these situations, so I’ll have a little bit more tomorrow to be able to give you on some of those.
We’re still getting certain guys evaluated thoroughly.
- Is that the same with Sam?
JEFF BROHM: Yes.
- Any idea if you know if you might have him Saturday, if he’ll actually play?
JEFF BROHM: We’ll know more — I don’t want to — sometimes they’ve got to get looked at by the doctor and test run and all those things, so I want to make sure I get full analysis before I make a statement.
But we’ll know more information tomorrow hopefully.
- In George’s absence, was it more Jack Sullivan or Robert McWilliams, or a combination of both that kind of filled in?
JEFF BROHM: Well, when George went out Jack Sullivan was the one that stepped in, and I thought he played hard and gave everything he could. We want to continue to get that position better. We want to continue to add depth there, as well.
But Jack Sullivan is the one that stepped in for George’s spot.
- After looking at the tape, just how you evaluate how Gus Hartwig held up after replacing Sam.
JEFF BROHM: We’re very proud of Gus. To come in as a true freshman in the second game of the year, to have to step in after the third play and play the entire game at center, that’s not easy to do.
You’ve got to be able to, A, play the offensive line position at a high level against big, physical, strong guys that are developed, and you’ve got to be able to make all the calls and be intelligent and be able to communicate and make adjustments and identify fronts and looks.
And he works extremely hard. He’ll continue to get better. There are a lot of things that we want to continue to work at with him. We want to make sure that we continue to rep quite a few people at center to make sure that we have other options to spell guys.
I think we’re always going to be better when we can spell guys at times with certain people and feel comfortable doing that.
But Gus stepped in and did as good as any true freshman has done for us since we’ve been here at the offensive line position.
- How many offensive linemen did you end up playing on Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think we ended up playing nine or ten again. Maybe the rotation wasn’t as much at tackle, but I know Will Bramel played quite a bit in the rotation, Eric Miller played some.
I think we’re going to try to get Eric Miller in more this next game. And then at the guard position, DJ Washington and Kyle Jornigan rotated at that position, and really Spencer pretty much played the entire game at left guard.
So we want to make sure we’re spelling guys, but those guys play hard and they’ll continue hopefully to get better, and we’ve got to continue to be aggressive but yet do things on offense to take care of them, as well.
- When you went back and looked at Zander’s fumbles, is there any trend there? Is it the way he’s holding the ball? Or just one of those unlucky days for him from a ball security standpoint?
JEFF BROHM: Well, looking at the first fumble in the open field, you know, even though the ball came out it looked to me like his knee was down, so I don’t know why that wasn’t overturned.
But we still want to make sure we get up with the ball and we hand it to the official. The one on the goal line was one that we’d love to have back. Really just got knocked out by a quick little punch by a D-lineman that I don’t even know if he was intending to do that.
So that’s one that shouldn’t happen. But my hat’s off to Zander. He’s carried the load. We haven’t been able to rotate at that position like we need to and like to, so for him to have to play the entire game two weeks in a row at the running back position doesn’t happen a lot in college football.
You’ve got to be in shape. You’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to be disciplined. So yes, we want to continue to work on the ball security. We worked it all week at every position. It was something we knew Illinois was good at, stripping the ball, getting it out. They knocked it out of our quarterback’s hand one time.
We were fortunate to get on the ball, backed up. They pulled it away from our tight end one time. We were fortunate enough to kind of have the whistle blown, so we had a little luck on our side, and it’s something we’ve got to just continue to harp on. Really it’s critical that we don’t have those turnovers to give us a chance to win.
- Zander didn’t have as many spin moves Saturday as he did in the first game. Is that something you guys are trying to eliminate from his game or at least pare down a little bit?
JEFF BROHM: Well, you know, Zander is more of your Mike Alstott type of back who’s got power and he’s good running downhill. While we want him to have creativity and do what he needs to do to get yards, I thought, and we all thought, he spun too much the first game. When he lowers his pads and tries to run through tackles and takes an angle and picks a side of the body and tries to exploit that instead of trying to spin, in our opinion, he’s much more effective.
Now, there may be times it has to happen. There may be times he has to jump over a defender. We want to give him his creativity, but he’s better going downhill and picking a side and not dancing in the hole. Really I’ve been around the Bronco teams of Alex Gibbs, and really there you’re allowed one cut and nothing more.
So while we don’t want to be too stringent, really you get one cut. Let’s go downhill and get yards.
- How do you feel about King Doerue’s status going into this week?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I’m hopeful to get everyone back. I don’t like when guys are injured and miss time and miss games. We’re going to work extremely hard to get him back for this game.
- Is there any update — did Maliq Carr play Saturday, and what’s Mershawn Rice’s status, too?
JEFF BROHM: No, both those guys are out because of injury, so they’re two guys that we’d like to get back. Mershawn was having the best camp that he’s had. Unfortunately I don’t know if he’s been healthy for one game since he’s been here, so he’s got to do his part.
I thought he was making improvements and he showed up in fall camp and in scrimmages and had another setback injury-wise. So yes, we’d like to get him back.
And of course Maliq Carr was having a good camp, as well, and unfortunately got injured in the Iowa game and wasn’t able to play the past game.
- Of course Da’Joun Hewitt, you guys aren’t ready to put him back at running back at all, huh?
JEFF BROHM: Well, Da’Joun is working hard and he had an injury for a while that set him back, so he’s just getting back from that. We want him to continue to improve, and we want to make sure that he’s ready to do all the things that need to happen for us to put him in the game. We want to feel confident with it.
We want to make sure that we continue to improve that position, and right now Zander has shown that he’s ahead of the others. But yes, we would like to gain confidence, and I think the more Da’Joun practices healthy and improves, hopefully we can get him in there and let him do his thing.
- Talk about the punting, Jeff; is the job open this week, or what’s going to go on there?
JEFF BROHM: Job is wide open. Yes, it is. You know, as I told Coach Biagi, every position on our team is wide open. I told them, I said, look, the quarterback position is always wide open. Our guys know if we’re not performing we have other guys on the team that are ready to play.
So I want to make sure that we have competition at the punter position. Brooks has improved and he got more consistent. Did a good job the first game. He just kind of got in a slump here the second game. And yes, we’re going to have another punter ready and be able to rotate guys in there and make sure that there’s competition.
If someone is playing well and he’s hot, that’s great. We’ll ride with it. If someone is not, someone else is going to go in. So yes, that is an open position just like all of our positions on the team. The backup, the next guy in, needs to be ready to go and we need to be not scared to put them in.
- We’re 11 minutes in and we haven’t said Rondale Moore’s name yet. I’ve got to ask about Rondale and his status and his hope of playing if there’s a game Saturday.
JEFF BROHM: As you know, we’re always hopeful to get Rondale back. As soon as that happens, we’ll all be excited, and we’re looking forward to it. I don’t have any more information than that as of right now.
- And tomorrow, talk about voting. The team doesn’t have any activities planned. Just talk about the initiative to give the players that day off so they can go out and do their civic duty.
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think it’s important that they represent our country and go out and put their vote in. We’ve talked about it a lot. We’ve done a lot of things to make sure that everyone is getting out and voting and making a difference.
I think quite a few of our guys have already voted to this point. But with Coach P we have a time set aside tomorrow that whoever hasn’t we’re going to provide them an opportunity to go over there and vote and it’s important that everyone learns at an early age that we all can make a difference and we all need to do our part.
- There were a lot of penalties on both sides on Saturday. Six of Purdue’s penalties resulted in Illinois 1st downs. What is being done to prevent that against Wisconsin?
JEFF BROHM: It’s a very good point, and it was something that hurt us. Every game turnovers and penalties are going to be critical that we try to do our best to win that battle, and some games it comes easy and you have a little luck on your side; other games it doesn’t.
You know, this past game the two turnovers on offense hurt us. We had a couple penalties, as well. Defensively we had Jalen Graham, while he played well, he had three penalties, and a couple of them led to turnovers and one of them was after the whistle. So we’ve got to clean that up. We had the roughing the kicker on 4th and 8. We ran right through his body. That can’t happen.
We had some holding calls on 3rd down in our secondary, where if you look at the film we’re in great position. I think we had three of them and I think they were on third down, maybe one was on fourth. We were in great position, got our guys guarded if they would just trust their technique, and wanted to continue to grab when the ball was in the air. That can’t happen.
So yes, we have to clean those things up. We want our guys to be aggressive, but we’ve got to understand we’ve got to play within the rules and those were some very costly penalties that extended the drives for them and didn’t get us off the field, and like I said, the penalties after turnovers we can’t have, and anything after the whistle we can’t have, and of course the running into the kicker, we need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- What are you going to do to prevent any late-game comebacks, any late-game rallies, keep the momentum going into the second half?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we were going to ask if they could end the game after the third quarter if we have a lead. I don’t know if that’ll go over. But we had control of the game, and yes, we let it slip away. The momentum got to the other side.
This game is full of momentum, and you’ve got to be able to cash in when you have it and continue that. We had the fumble on the 1-yard line, we went for it on 4th and 1 and didn’t get it. We had numerous chances to extend the lead and put us more in control, and it didn’t happen.
But you know what, you’re playing good football teams. You’re not going to win every rep and every battle and score every time you get it and stop them every time they have it so you’ve got to hang in there and fight until the end. It’s always going to be a 60-minute, four-quarter game, and some quarters go your way, others will not.
You’ve got to be able to regroup, keep your composure and poise, and find a way to win. And when you’re playing conference games, at the end of the game you want to be up by one. If you can be up by more than that, that’s great. It’s a great feeling. But if you can be up by one then you can walk away with a W, so that’s going to be our goal.
There are a lot of things to improve on just like there are every week. We treat this as a one-game season, and right now we have a tremendous opponent that we’re going to go up against that we have not beat since I’ve been here. They really set the standard for the west side of the division. They play at a high level. The defense is aggressive and attacking, athletic. They’re extremely well-coached on offense.
They’re physical and big. Their offensive line is strong. They run the ball downhill and hit you with some play action off of it.
So this is the biggest challenge we’ve had to date, and we have to try to step up to the challenge and go on the road and see if we can find a way to hang in there and play tough and do those small things we talked about and win the turnover battle and the penalty battle and see if we can get a lead maybe and maybe get them out of their comfort zone, but this is a very, very good team and they’re extremely well-coached and we’ll have to play very, very well.
- Is there a backup plan for if the game doesn’t happen?
JEFF BROHM: No. I know no backup plan. I know in the Big Ten we’re playing every week, and if a game doesn’t happen, you move on to the next one.
- You mentioned that there’s going to be on Tuesday, tomorrow, you said there’s a time that the players who haven’t voted will get to vote. Is there one time when the players are all going to go together? How is that going to work?
JEFF BROHM: Well, most of our guys actually have voted, but Coach P, our director of player development, we have a time set aside late morning to take some guys over there that haven’t, and anybody else that can’t go then, we’ll provide an opportunity to escort them over there, as well, if need be.
It’s an important issue. It’s an important year. We want all of our guys to get the opportunity to vote.
- When are you going to vote?
JEFF BROHM: I’m actually going tomorrow, as well.
- Is there a time you have set out?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I was going to go early. Our players and Coach P may go at a later time, so whether I go with them or go early I haven’t figured it out yet.
- I just wondered if you’ve had any communication with Wisconsin or if it’s coming from the league or is Mike handling is that?
JEFF BROHM: Well, our athletic director Mike is handling that, and I don’t ask a whole lot of questions. At our end we’re going to prepare for the next game. We’ve got a great opponent that we’ve got to do everything in our power to get ready to play.
So when those decisions are made we’ll adjust, but as of right now, we’re going full speed ahead and we’re going to let Mike and those guys handle it. I think by tomorrow we may know an answer, and I know there’s concerns. There’s concerns on both ends, and we realize it. So we’re going to leave it to the smart, intelligent people to figure it out.
But we want to do everything in our power to take care of our guys, get them ready to play, but also keep them safe, as well.
- How do you think this is going overall, just with the — obviously there wasn’t any margin for error with this season, with it being delayed, the testing, the operation of things. I know it’s early, but how do you think it’s gone so far?
JEFF BROHM: I actually think the testing has been great. All of our Big Ten teams being tested every day of the week or six out of seven days with the daily testing has been tremendous. You know, yes, we’d like to possibly have back where we had some open weeks to be able to make some adjustments. Yes, the contact tracing, it’s still part of play.
At first at least in my mind I thought the daily testing was going to help eliminate that, but there are still contact tracing issues when they’re away from the field and they’re not at the building, and making sure everyone does that properly I think is very important, because you don’t want teams to spread the virus and you don’t want teams to spread it to other teams.
So that’s something that — I’m not a scientist and I can’t figure it all out, but we definitely want to do our part. We’re hopeful that every team does their part to put safety first and that we have everyone clean that enters the field on game day especially.
- What areas have you seen the defense grow the most or change the most here in the first couple of games with Coach Diaco?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I’m excited about our future on defense. I think we’ve made improvements. I think Coach Diaco and his staff have worked hard to get our guys to understand the plan, know exactly what we’re trying to do, get lined up, not give up a lot of easy plays.
We’ve worked hard at not giving up the big play, which I think we’ve done a good job. Getting off the field on 3rd down is critical, and we’ve had some good moments there and some others that aren’t.
But I think our guys understand what we’re trying to do. I think we’re doing the small things better. Have we given up some yards? Yes. So there’s some times where maybe we need to tighten some things up and challenge some things, which we always look at.
But I feel like our guys are prepared every week and we’ve got to continue — and we’re able to play two deep at a lot of positions there and rotate guys and keep them in fresh. But we’ve got to continue to improve. We’re getting to one of the — getting to play one of the best teams in the country that’s going to challenge us in every aspect and then we’re going to get into the meat of our schedule.
We’ve got to just take weekly steps and eliminate the setbacks, and if we have some struggles or things that happen, be able to hang in there and fight through it and find ways to win.
Every week, whether we win or lose, we’ve got to be able to come back and improve and have our coaches and our players understand that that’s football. It’s up to us to go as hard as we can for eight straight weeks, and when those are over, we’ll see what our record is at the end.
- I know you touched upon Wisconsin and how talented they are, but can you talk about the team that they have and the challenges they present even with some of the guys out because of COVID and other contact tracing?
JEFF BROHM: Well, you know, they’ve got all kinds of talent. They’re big and physical up front on both sides of the ball. They’re very aggressive on defense. They challenge you. They make you earn everything you get. They’re athletic. They run through blocks, they run around blocks, they play downhill, they get turnovers. They’ve been known for their defense for years. With Coach Leonard running it, it somehow gets better every year, so my hat’s off to them and their coaching staff. They do a great job and those guys play hard.
On offense every year they’re going to be big and physical up front. They’re going to run downhill with whoever they want to hand it off to and the quarterback is going to be efficient with play action off of it, and it’s a solid plan. Great, great defense and solid running game, a little play action, and then they do well on special teams.
You know, that’s a formula where they’re either going to win the game, or if they lose to a great team it’s going to be by just a little bit. We’ve got our hands full. This is an outstanding team. They are every year. They’re right there with Ohio State every year. They go to the best bowl game every year. They’ve been to numerous Rose Bowls.
They’re the cream of the west side of the division every year. They’re the team that you have a find a way to beat, and they’re well-coached. We understand that. We have great respect for their program and what they’ve accomplished, and we’re trying to inch our way up the ladder.
- A lot of coaches lock into their best 22, keep those guys on the field for the most part. Is there something about your approach as a coach that gives you the trust and faith in your guys to play as many guys as you are at pretty much every position it seems like?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think when you look across the country at the best teams in college football, you’ve got depth and you’ve got depth at every position. Just because you have a couple really good players at one spot, if you don’t have guys behind them and guys are out, it really doesn’t take a difference.
This is a team sport. It takes all 11. At the same time throughout the course of the year, whether it’s COVID or injuries, you’re going to have guys have to step up. So the more depth you have, the better you’re going to be. And without question, the best teams in the country have depth, so we’re trying to develop that depth.
I think we have more bodies that we can put in there. We’ve got to continue to improve those guys. We’ve got to continue to improve and make sure the second-level players are right there with the first and there’s not a big dropoff and we’ve got to make sure if there’s even another level it’s right there, as well, and that’s where we’ve got a ways to go.
But we are making improvement and we want to try to play as many guys as we can, and if we can get to where we can do that, we’ll become a better team.
- Does it sharpen preparation in your experience when everybody knows that they might play, ready or not?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it does. I mean, everybody wants an opportunity to play, but are you going to put in the work and prepare and realize what it truly takes to play at a high level, and sometimes young guys don’t quite get that.
They’re used to in high school rolling the ball out there and just going out there and playing and they’re the best guy. We’ve got to preach that. We’ve got to work at it. We’ve got to have competition in practice. We’ve got to let them see when they get on the field, this is how you were able to produce and this is where you struggled and this is why.
With this year being different, with not only injuries but the COVID situation, we’ve tried to stress, Hey, anybody can play, okay? You got young guys that think they’re good enough to play, guess what? You’re probably going to get an opportunity.
So anybody can play. You’ve got to make sure you’re getting yourself ready, and even though maybe at the beginning of the year you’re not getting as many reps as you want or maybe you’re on the scout squad. Guess what? At any point you can be a player, and I’ve had numerous guys that have started on the scout squad in my years of coaching that they took it serious and they gave it everything they had, whether it was a couple weeks, a month, a year or two.
When their time came they’re ready to play, and that’s what our guys got to understand, is everybody has got to be ready. In today’s college football a lot of first-year players play, but you’ve got to put in the work. We want to stress that to our guys and hope that we can improve upon that.
- Just in terms of a plan here in this reboot, do you guys have a plan in place if you would have a week open up where you wouldn’t have a game? Would you treat it like a bye week? How hard would you go with your team if there is a week where you don’t have a game?
JEFF BROHM: Yeah, it wouldn’t be more than — if you find out you’re not playing, you treat it like a bye week. Every year you’ve got some injuries, got some guys that you need to get healed up, some young players you need to develop, give you a little extra time to prepare for the next opponent.
So we would do the same thing, I’m sure like every other team would, and adjust on the fly. But, you know, until that happens, we’re full speed ahead.
- In terms of David Bell, in Indy here we saw how special he was coming out of Warren Central, and no secret how good he was coming to Purdue. How impressed have you been with him, five straight 100-yard games? I don’t need to tell you the history he’s making here at Purdue. How impressed have you been with David and what he’s been able to do so far in his career?
JEFF BROHM: David has been outstanding, and really he’s been outstanding in every facet of the game, not only his production on the field, not only his ability to make contested catches, not only his ability to find a way to make the play in a clutch situation. That’s remarkable in itself.
But one of the main reasons he does those things is he puts in the work. He does it every day in practice. He doesn’t miss reps. He doesn’t miss practice. He doesn’t take time off.
You know, he’s not one of those guys, as well, that comes to the sideline and says, Hey, I need the ball, I haven’t got any catches in a little while. No, the guy just does his part. He’s a tremendous teammate. He understands how team sports work, and there’s not one bad attribute that he has.
When someone has the character that David has and the work ethic and the ability to be a team guy to the full extent like David, normally great things happen. It just takes care of itself. And that’s what we try to tell our guys. If you’re doing everything right in preparation and your work ethic and handling constructive criticism and improving upon your weaknesses and doing things right off the field and in the classroom, normally good things will happen. You don’t need to stress out about it.
But if you’re so worried about it and you’re worried about all the small things on the side, normally it affects your play. Well, David has been perfect at everything he’s done to this point.
- And then when you were coming back on Saturday night or maybe you didn’t watch it until yesterday, when you saw that catch, game on the line, makes the play to seal it, what were you thinking when you saw what he was able to do to win that game there?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it doesn’t surprise me. We kind of know where David is on every play. Really the last play was kind of a copy off the play Brian called to beat Iowa, just a different formation and different way of running it. We told Aidan, hey, if we get one-on-one right here, of course this is where we want to go.
If not we’ve got to read this thing out. There’s multiple guys going vertically up the field, and luckily for us, they wanted to press David and try not to give up an easy completion, and Aidan knew right away where he was going by their alignment. Made a great throw, David made a great catch, and that helped us seal the game.
- Assuming the game is played Saturday, how many Wisconsin quarterbacks are you preparing for, and which one do you think will start for them?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we need to — I need to dive into that deeper. We know that there’s going to be some guys out for them, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re preparing for the next guy up. We’ve got to make sure that we’re preparing for multiple guys.
Now, with that said, for the most part, they’re going to run the football and they’re going to pound it at you and they’re going to mix in the play action off of it.
You know, that’s what they’re going to do. But at the same time, we’ve got to research who the starter is going to be, the backup is going to be, and see what they’ve done in their past or see what they’ve done in their past at Wisconsin or where they were even in high school before.
We’re working hard at that, and we’ll make sure we’re ready to go.