clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Purdue Football - Can the Boilermakers improve from Jeff Brohm?

Will Ryan Walters address the issues under the former head coach’s reign?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 27 Big Ten Conference Media Days Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Yesterday, we closed the door on the Jeff Brohm era by thanking him for bringing joy to the Purdue fanbase. As the dozens of Boilermaker fans informed the Walmart Wolverines taunting them before the Big Ten championship game, we were “just happy to be here.”

For those of you who remember the dark days of the Hazell era or just recall that Purdue is the second poorest athletic department in the Big Ten, what Jeff Brohm accomplished at his tenure at the Boilermaker head coach was remarkable. But despite that, there were areas for improvement. The Big Ten West division championship may have been the ceiling under Jeff Brohm, but there was still room for improvement. Today, we look at the flaws in the Boilermaker program under Jeff Brohm and whether Ryan Walters can fix them.

Play Calling Issues

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 28 Rutgers at Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images via Getty Images

End of Game Situations

As our OTE adversaries will no doubt remember heckling Purdue fans about, despite his offensive innovation Jeff Brohm could be a poor play caller at the end of games. In the early years, Brohm would become overly conservative with a lead resulting in an inability to run out the clock as three straight run plays up the gut failed to get a first down. In the later seasons, Brohm would overcompensate by refusing to ever run the ball in obvious running situations. This resulted in stopped clocks due to incomplete passes and once again an inability to run out the clock. With both approaches, Brohm lacked an effective four minute offense that could close out games.

Can Walters fix it?

Offensive coordinator Harrell doesn’t have a long track record of blowing a lot of late leads with poor offensive play calling (although it’s possible I’m just not paying attention), but he’s also been under head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Those coaches have been presumably heavily involved in decision making late in the game. Walters has obviously never been a head coach before so it remains to be seen how the tandem will fare in these situations. Verdict: File this one under wait and see.

Run/Pass Balance

Under Jeff Brohm, the Purdue offense overindulged with passing plays and the running back position was often ignored. Some of that was personnel related (Purdue lacked an effective run blocking line and running backs for many seasons), but Brohm also never made any changes to the RB or O-line coaching staffs. This imbalance allowed opposing defensive ends to ignore the rushing threat and attack the passing pocket with reckless abandon.

Can Walters fix it?

By hiring Graham Harrell as his OC, Walters would appear to be seeking a more balanced offense. Harrell’s offense is an Air Raid scheme, but unlike most Air Raids his play calling has typically been closer to a 50/50 split between passes and runs than Mike Leach’s 75% passing plays. Verdict: Yes

Program Management

Nebraska v Iowa
I couldn’t find a picture of Greg Brohm, so here’s a photo of a different nepotism hire
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images


Jeff Brohm hired his younger brother Brian as offensive coordinator/QB coach. I don’t actually have a huge issue with this one as by most accounts Brian was an effective assistant. But since Brian wasn’t calling the plays on offense (and Jeff was doing a lot of the teaching at the QB spot anyway), did Jeff really need to hire his brother for the spot?

The bigger issue was Jeff’s other brother Greg and his cushy job in the Purdue athletic department. Greg was hired as director of football operations. Things like making sure players’ grades were in line and cost of attendance stipends were meeting Big Ten peer standards were his responsibility. Unfortunately, Purdue was below average in these categories with Greg running the ship. Player grades were a common concern (and starting wide receiver Milton Wright had to drop out of school as a result).

Can Walters fix it?

Upon Walters taking over and installing a new program director, Purdue players began receiving increased stipends more in line with what Illinois was giving and bringing them back within conference averages. Walters has also not hired any family members to the Purdue coaching staff. These are small changes, but they add up. Verdict: Walters has already fixed it.

Recruiting Effort

After his first couple of recruiting classes, Brohm’s recruiting ranks fell off. This isn’t uncommon among head coaches (program optimism is always highest before you start playing games and losing), but even after a 9-4 2021 season, Purdue’s recruiting didn’t pick back up as much as might be expected. That appears to be somewhat due to a lack of effort of the part of the head coach - perhaps Jeff knew he wouldn’t be around to coach these players for most of their careers.

Brohm’s top recruits were local (George Karlaftis played high school ball in West Lafayette, David Bell played in Indianapolis, and Rondale Moore was from Brohm’s hometown of Louisville) and after the departure of top assistants, recruiting elsewhere seemed to fall off.

Can Walters fix it?

Walters 2024 class is currently ranked higher than any of Brohm’s classes (or was when I wrote this line a week ago). He has built a staff with strong connections in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Texas. The wider recruiting base and the youth of Walters staff should benefit recruiting (assuming the team’s record doesn’t fall off). Verdict: Yes. Ultimately recruiting rankings will align somewhat with success on the playing field, but the new staff is putting in the effort.

What is Defense?

Let’s be honest. Jeff Brohm did not give the defense nearly as much attention as the offense. It often felt like Purdue was an offense competing with the opposing teams offense. Which is entertaining, but not the best way to build a strong football program. The stronger DCs under Brohm (we miss you Brad Lambert) were able to fill the gaps successfully, but Brohm’s focus was on the QBs and the offensive play calling not running the full program.

Can Walters fix it?

Walters will not be calling plays for the offense or the defense. He appears to be overseeing the entirety of the program not just the portion of it he is interested in. Verdict: Yes, Walters is at least giving lip service to being involved in all aspects of the program while still giving coordinators and assistants responsibility to do their thing.


Syndication: LafayetteIN
Nikos Frazier | Journal & Courier, Journal & Courier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Assistant choices

Jeff Brohm had some really good assistants on his Purdue staffs, especially in the early seasons. I was particularly impressed by Mark Hagen, Brad Lambert, JaMarcus Shephard, Anthony Poindexter, and Tony Levine. But by the end of year 6, despite the success of last season’s team, I was only really sad to see one of the assistants go: Mark Hagen.

Brohm tended to be overly loyal to his assistants when they weren’t performing. Inexperienced guys and those with a poor track were both brought in. It all was a bit baffling especially when you consider the next issue.

Can Walters fix it?

Walter’s staff (more on that later today) appears to be better balanced. There isn’t anyone that I’m extremely skeptical on before the games start which is better than the last three seasons. The two inexperienced guys are inexperienced because they are young but they’ve worked with this staff and are backstopped by other assistants that have been in their current roles before. Verdict: Yes

Assistant Salary Pool

Despite asking for (and getting) an increased assistant salary pool, Jeff Brohm did not utilize it. Sure the aforementioned Greg Brohm received $325k as the director of football operations (and that came out of the assistant salary pool). But actual on field assistants for the O-line, linebackers, special teams, wide receivers, and secondary all made less than $300k last year. As a whole, the assistant coach/support staff earned $3.64M out of an allotted $4.35M available. Sure seems like some upgrades could have been made if Jeff had just spent the money available.

Can Walters fix it?

Walters’s staff pool was increased to $5.5M at the cost of Walters himself not receiving as high of a salary as Brohm. Excluding strength coach Kiero Small (whose salary I have not been able to find), the assistants for the upcoming year will earn a combined $4.365M. Since Small likely isn’t the highest paid strength coach in college football (he’s probably somewhere around $300-400k), there is still room left over in the assistant pool. That’s okay for a completely new staff that will expect raises in the next few years as they prove themselves.

Even without utilizing the full salary pool, the increased pay program wide should result in better assistants that are more capable of developing Purdue’s players and putting them in the right spots to succeed. Verdict: Sort of. Walters is using more money on the assistants than Brohm did. He didn’t spend it all, but part of that can be attributed to bringing in guys that are new to roles that Walters and Harrell trust to be able to succeed.

Defensive Coordinator #2 and #4

Bob Diaco is part of the reason I’m here writing for you now. His terrible coaching inspired me to start writing fanposts about coaches that should be fired which led to our OTE leader asking me to join the “writers” team. I still know little about football, but I’ve been able to muddle through it to get to basketball season without major issues so far. If you don’t being subjected to the writing of me, then blame Bob Diaco.

Back to the topic at hand. Brohm’s choice for defensive coordinator #2 and #4 were poor. Like what the hell are you doing bad decisions. Anyone who looked at the recent resumes of Bob Diaco and Ron English could tell you that things were unlikely to end well. But rather than hiring a coordinator on the opposite side of the ball that was well respected as a capable coordinator in the industry, these were the people Brohm hired. 2020 Purdue gave up 37 points to Rutgers. Despite winning the Big Ten West last season, the defense gave up 27.4 points/game - while playing Iowa, Illinois, Indiana State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Indiana (all extremely offensively challenged teams).

Can Walters fix it?

When Walters needed to fill the coordinator position on the side of the ball he isn’t familiar with, he went and made a splash hire. Not a guy he has a connection to (despite both spending time at North Texas, Harrell’s and Walters’ paths didn’t cross there), but a well qualified coach. Verdict: Yes.

Where does that leave Purdue in the post Jeff Brohm era? Can they really improve on back to back 8+ win seasons? There are things to be fixed, but how much room for improvement is really still there? I guess that’s why they play the games.