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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 5

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 5 18 the course of the spring. After the game, Brohm said some of those backups had a "hard time thinking and reacting and other times just got beat." "The backups need to improve and get better, and that's a concern," Brohm said after the spring. It's especially imperative the O-line holds up because Brohm likes to open up the offense in the passing game. Though there certainly is a quick-game element, Brohm also wants to take shots down the field consistently. Without sound protection, that could be difficult. But it also could be difficult if the receivers don't improve this offseason. That may be the group Brohm was most disappointed in throughout the spring. Other than senior Gregory Phillips, who came on during the last week and showed some play- making ability, and redshirt freshman slot Jackson Anthrop, Brohm didn't appear to have many solid options based strict- ly on spring performance. "I'd like our receiver position to be stronger, from top to bottom. I have concerns there, to be nice about it," Brohm said. "We've got to work hard at improving that area. There were some strides toward the end of spring practice but (there's) a long way to go." 'Strength' in backfield With Markell Jones nursing a back injury and missing an- other practice because of class obligations, Purdue's project- ed starting running back coming into the spring participated in only nine practices and not always fully because he was what Brohm called "banged up." That meant Brohm, the play-caller, and running backs coach Chris Barclay focused their attention and gave the most reps to other players, namely a top three that emerged of Tario Fuller, D.J. Knox and Richie Worship, as sophomore Brian Lankford-Johnson also spent half of the practices out with a hamstring injury. And the performance of those three had Brohm feeling good about the potential of the backfield, so much so he called it the "strength" of the offense at one point during the spring. "We've got some guys who are elusive, can run hard (and) certain guys have been out here every day busting their butt and getting better," Brohm said during the spring. "I feel good they're going to do their part." Neither Worship nor Fuller missed a practice all spring. Knox, coming off ACL surgery, sat out an early-spring scrim- mage after appearing to tweak his knee the practice before but was back the next week. Each of those players worked at full speed during individual drills and team periods, respond- ing to Barclay's pleas to "finish" runs. Knox consistently low- ered his shoulder to deliver blows at the end of runs in team periods. Worship, the biggest back in the room, used the second scrimmage to crush a couple defenders, including one on his way into the end zone. Fuller doesn't quite have that kind of power, but his body type and speed lends itself to being more elusive in the open field. All three were rewarded for their work: Fuller got the first snap in the spring game with the No. 1 unit and had a pro- ductive day, especially in turning a fake flea flicker into a big run. Knox was with the first-team group in the scrimmage the week before, and Worship's 47 yards and two TDs led the group in that same April 1 scrimmage. "I like the versatility. I feel like we have a lot of different tools in that toolbox, a lot of different types of players," Bar- clay said late in the spring. "I tell these guys I don't need 117 backs. I just need a few guys who are ready to go to work and be soldiers for me, and I'm so excited about the group that we have." Making moves In an effort to fill holes and find the best fits, Purdue's coaches made several position moves this spring, though not all may be permanent. Exiting spring, at least, it looks like Robinson's move to defensive tackle from a starting defensive end position could be set. The assumption on Robinson's part to start spring ball was he was moved inside only because sophomore Lo- renzo Neal was out while rehabbing from offseason surgery. But by the close of spring ball, Holt said Robinson could stick in that interior role in the fall. "Because he can move at 280, he can hold the weight, we need to be faster on defense and he's physical enough to play inside, he needs to be initially a D-tackle for us," Holt said in mid-April. "When we play big teams, the Michigans, Wiscon- sins, then he can definitely be a defensive end for us if we need to get big on the edge." Robinson had a breakthrough year as a junior last sea- son, registering a team-high-tying five sacks while unoffi- cially playing more snaps than any other defensive player. By

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