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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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Page 18 of 81

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 19 Players know now how it works. Excuses aren't toler- ated. Passion is expected. Ridiculous effort is standard. Practice is an environment of intense focus. It'd be logical to assume all of those standards will be understood by the incoming class, considering this staff is the one that recruited it. Still, veteran leadership will be crucial in continuing to enforce the culture. That was such a critical, maybe underrated, piece to this season's suc- cess: Not only were there a whopping six captains — Eze- chukwu, one of them, said he couldn't recall seeing that many at any college — but there were another handful of upperclassmen who were untitled leaders, too. Having Ja'Whaun Bentley, Da'Wan Hunte and Ezechukwu to role model for the group in different ways — work ethic, mo- tor, passion, hype — mattered. But so did returning back D.J. Knox's never-relent style, Bailey's ultra-preparedness, outgoing senior Anthony Mahoungou's tireless work ethic and junior-to-be Sindelar's grit and courage while playing on a torn ACL for the final three-and-a-half games. Holt said after the season he could see players on his side of the ball puffed up a bit, feeling the pride that comes with success but, importantly, maintaining the humility that's required to not rest on it. That'll need to be the attitude by the offense next sea- son when Purdue will need players to rise and deliver an- swers. With Sindelar and Blough both coming off surgeries, though Sindelar's obviously is more extensive, it'll be interesting to see if true freshman Jack Plummer, whom the staff really likes, ultimately will make a move for the starting job. "Win now" still could mean "win with a freshman quarterback," even though Blough and Sindelar had impressive moments in 2017. That's the position that makes Brohm's offense roll, even if Purdue will have ample experience and talent at running back again with Knox, Markell Jones, Richie Worship (also coming off an ACL) and Tario Fuller (who had foot surgery). Someone, whether it's one of those JUCO transfers who struggled in Year 1 or a newcomer, must find a way to develop into a go-to receiver. The offensive line needs to gel with a new right tackle and with left tackle Grant Hermanns back from ACL surgery. If it can evolve into a gritty, physi- cal unit under Dale Williams, that'd be ideal. It'd be nice to see the offense develop an identity in 2018 — that was lacking in 2017, partly because Brohm kept changing the game plan and the focus to, again, scheme for victories. That's because Purdue couldn't simply pass to win, like he'd prefer, much of the year. But that may be too early an ask, until Brohm gets consistently solid re- ceivers and a quarterback he truly feels comfortable with. Perhaps that could be the next step in this program's progression. Maybe that'll happen sooner than expected. Even if it'd seem unlikely, it'd be hard to argue with the possibility of anything right now, considering what just happened. Considering how the staff managed to, somehow, coach up this roster to the peak of a winning season and a bowl victory. Considering the challenges that lie ahead with the next version of the roster and how much this staff cher- ishes such challenges. Considering the second recruiting class signed in December that seems ready to infuse more talent into the roster. Considering an imposing home schedule with six of seven opponents having played in the postseason. A better season, in terms of victories, in 2018? It could happen, even if it may not seem likely. j Tom Campbell Purdue returns many of its offensive weapons from 2017, including running back D.J. Knox (1), receiver Jackson Anthrop (33) and receiver Jared Sparks (12).

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