Purdue Football: Citrus Bowl Opt Outs – Offense

Purdue’s offense in the Citrus Bowl will be totally different than the offense that helped win the Big 10 West. Opt outs and transfers have taken a toll on key positions, and removed key contributors from the program.

I can assure you, LSU does not care.

If the Boilermakers want a shot to win the game, guys who have been waiting in line must show they’re ready for the big time, otherwise, this thing could get ugly. I’m trying to take a positive view on the situation, until that position is no longer tenable.

Offensive Opt Outs and Transfers

Aidan O’Connell

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Stats

Aidan O’Connell – 2022

Games Completions Attempts Comp Percentage Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rate
Games Completions Attempts Comp Percentage Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rate
12 320 499 64.1 3490 22 13 132.2

Assessment

O’Connell opting out is a devastating blow to the offense. Quarterback is the most important position in football, and going into LSU without AOC is brutal. At the same time, I watched senior Cole Stoudt step in for Deshaun Watson in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl and play the game of his life, putting up 319 yards and 3 touchdowns, in a 40-7 beat down of the Oklahoma Sooners. I’m hoping for a similar response from Austin Burton on Monday.

Enter Austin Burton

NCAA Football: Florida Atlantic at Purdue

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Stats

Austin Burton – 2022

Games Completions Attempts Comp Percentage Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rate
Games Completions Attempts Comp Percentage Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rate
5 24 32 75 199 3 1 151.9

Assessment

Burton changes the entire offense. The Boilermakers go from a gunslinger who delivers from the pocket, to a mobile quarterback known for his running ability. Burton was efficient, but not explosive in his start against Florida Atlantic. Brian Brohm needs an explosive and efficient Burton, both in the run and pass game against LSU.

Charlie Jones

Syndication: Detroit Free Press

Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Stats

Charlie Jones – 2022

Games Receptions Yards Yards / Rec Touchdowns
Games Receptions Yards Yards / Rec Touchdowns
13 110 1361 12.4 12

Assessment

It’s folly to think you can replace a 1st team All-Big10, 2nd team All-American. Jones set the Purdue record for receiving yards in a season, and came up with 11 receptions and 4 touchdowns short of two other single season records. There’s no positive in Jones opting out, in terms of the Citrus Bowl, but O’Connell did tend to force the ball to Jones, to the exclusion of other talented receivers on the roster. Those guys get a chance to show what they have without Jones on the field.

Enter Deion Burks

NCAA Football: Purdue at Illinois

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Stats

Deion Burks – 2022

Games Receptions Yards Yards / Rec Touchdowns
Games Receptions Yards Yards / Rec Touchdowns
13 15 149 9.9 0

Assessment

Burks should get the first chance at “replacing” Jones. He’s a fast, shifty and returns kicks. His best game this season was Syracuse, where he hauled in 3 catches for 38 yards. Players say all they want is “an opportunity”, well, here is an opportunity for Burks. Coach Harrell and Wallace are evaluating every position, and Burks can put down a marker for the 2023 season on Monday.

Payne Durham

NCAA Football: Purdue at Illinois

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Stats

Payne Durham – 2022

Games Receptions Yards Yards / Rec Touchdowns
Games Receptions Yards Yards / Rec Touchdowns
13 56 560 10 8

Assessment

Another singularly irreplaceable player. Durham, a second team All Big10 player, was O’Connell’s second favorite target. If the ball wasn’t going to Charlie Jones, it was heading to Payne most of the time. Making things more difficult, his natural replacement on the roster, Garrett Miller, went down in fall camp. Oh, and Durham was also a key part of Purdue’s running game. That’s going to be hard to replace as well.

Enter Paul Piferi

Syndication: Journal-Courier

Noah Padilla/Journal and Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK

Stats

Paul Piferi – 2022

Games Receptions Yards Yards / Rec Touchdowns
Games Receptions Yards Yards / Rec Touchdowns
13 9 132 14.7 1

Assessment

Payne Durham monopolized playing time at tight end this season. Purdue didn’t run many two tight end sets under Jeff Brohm, keeping former quarterback Piferi on the bench most games. When he was on the field, he was productive. He didn’t catch many passes this season, but with the exception of the Syracuse game, they all went over 10 yards, including 3 20+ yard receptions. He has similar, if not better speed than Durham and could be a viable downfield threat for Austin Burton. Blocking is another problem all together. If he wants a shot at the starting job next season, he’s going to need to show the ability to get physical in the running game.

Transfer – Spencer Holstege

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Purdue

Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Assessment

Another blow for the offense. Holstege was Honorable Mention All Big10, and has started 31 games for the Boilermakers over his career. Pro Football Focus considered him the best pass blocking guard in the Big10, and the 6th best in the nation. Purdue doesn’t have that type of player in reserve, and LSU has a vicious front 4 loaded with top end talent that will eventually play in the NFL.

Enter Sione Finau

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Purdue at Indiana

Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Assessment

I expected Sione to play more than he did this season, but M’Bow and Holstege ended up as the first choice at the guard spots. The FIU grad transfer has the most experience off the bench, and should get the first chance to replace Holstege. It’s possible that Jared Bycznski gets a look as well, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see both play in the game. The good news is that, in theory, Sione is a better run blocker than Holstege, and the run game will be emphasized on Monday.

Other Transfers / Opt Outs

Kobe Lewis – The Central Michigan transfer never seemed to get his legs under him after missing the previous season with an ACL injury. He was passed on the depth chart by Mockobee and Downining on the depth chart, but started getting some short yardage carries towards the end of the season.

Overall

Not sure what to say. Purdue’s offense on Monday will be fundamentally changed. This is going to take a “sum of the parts” effort, because individually, the missing guys are irreplaceable on a one-for-one basis.

Best case scenario is Mockobee and Burton feature in an explosive running game and Burton finds enough open receivers on the field to put up 30+ points, because it’s going to take that to knock off LSU.

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