WEST LAFAYETTE — David Blough refused to criticize, blame or in any way find the negative in Purdue's giant-sized football Achilles heel.
The offense line.
It struggled all spring, and certainly did in Saturday's spring game, when it allowed 11 sacks.
This is why coach Jeff Brohm is bringing in five offensive line newcomers — Mark Stickford, D.J. Washington, Vikor Beach, Jalen Jackson and Ethan Smart.
They will join with returning starting center Kirk Barron and right tackle Matt McCann (who missed the spring because of an ankle injury, plus seniors Johnny Daniels and Jalen Neal.
If the unit doesn't gel, the Boilers will have no chance next season, but you won't hear that from Blough, the returning starting quarterback looking to build on his Big Ten-leading 279.3-yard-per-game passing yards.
“'Inexperience' will be the title for that group going into fall camp,” he said. “They'll work incredibly hard. I'm confident in those guys.”
And then he invoked the spirit of former Purdue All-American and NFL All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
“I've been watching a lot of tape on Drew Brees. He trusts every guy on the field. He trusts that they're going to be in the right spot. It's trust and confidence with him.
“I trust those guys with my life — literally. I expect them to do the same for me.”
Brohm's line expectations aren't quite so robust. He's tempered by lack-of-depth reality that were painfully obvious on Saturday.
“On offense we were not very good up front in the second and third units,” Brohm said. “That's part of it.
“Some of our guys are trying. They're having a hard time thinking and reacting. Other times they just got beat. We've got to find ways to protect certain guys if we play them right now. We'll have to be creative. We'll keep working with them. We'll fight through it and find things they can do and do those.”
Brohm arrived from Western Kentucky with an offensive reputation. While no starting position is guaranteed, Blough will likely have the biggest burden in getting the offensive going. Despite the problems (the Boilers also need to develop more receivers), he likes what he's seen so far.
“I'm incredibly optimistic, and a lot of it is Coach Brohm and the football mind he has. It's amazing how special he is when it comes to drawing up plays, freeing people up and getting guys open.
“He'll do whatever we have to do to protect. We'll work harder than anybody else. That's the energy Coach Brohm is bringing to this program. It's awesome. It's encouraging.”
As far as the new offense, which needs to be ready for the Sept. 2 season opener against Louisville at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, Blough said, “We put a lot in this spring. The coaches overwhelmed us quite a bit. They wanted to see who would survive and who would thrive. They forced you to learn it or get embarrassed in practice.
“We've got a long way to go. This summer be huge for us. We have to be ready so we can take advantage of what we see on tape (about Louisville). We'll know Louisville as well as anybody. (Coach Brohm) knows (Louisville coach Bobby Petrino).”
Did Brohm get what he had hoped from the spring?
“I wanted to see guys compete. For the most part, I did. There are some young guys who have to understand that it will take more. Not getting it done is unacceptable.
“I'd like to see them challenge themselves more. We have room to improve there. We're trying to get it out of them. I think they're willing. They have to know how far down they have to dig. We have to help tell them how to do that. They're willing. We have to stick with them and find a few more playmakers.”
Meanwhile, Purdue's program was jolted hard when sophomore safety Andy Chelf was shot early Sunday morning. According to West Lafayette police reports, he had a single gunshot wound in his torso, the wound came from a shooter and was not self-inflicted, and that Chelf was taken to the hospital. The wound does not appear to be life threatening. Chelf later tweeted that, “Blessed to see another day... don't take things for granted.”
Purdue later released a statement, saying, “First and foremost, we are thankful that Andy is on the road to recovery, and we are appreciative of the hospital staff. Our Office of the Dean of Students, as it does in any such case, has been in touch with Andy and his family to offer its assistance.
“A number of our coaches and players spent Sunday at the hospital. We certainly will do whatever we can to assist the West Lafayette Police Department in its investigation of the incident.”
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