Jeff Brohm realizes he can’t rebuild Purdue overnight, but the new Boilermakers head coach is up for the challenge as he heads into his first season in West Lafayette.
Calling a job with a program that has won nine combined games over the last four years “appealing” seems crazier than any Purdue fan who believes Big Ten championships are just over the horizon of heaping mess left by the previous coaching staff.
But Jeff Brohm isn’t making blind promises. He knows the first season or two as head coach of the floundering Boilermakers won’t bring him the success he experienced during three seasons at Western Kentucky.
Brohm also realizes that when – not if – things do get better, Purdue again can be one of the premier programs in the Big Ten. It just won’t happen overnight.
“When it’s all said and done, the challenge of not necessarily trying to build a program but get it back to where they want it to be is what stood out to me,” Brohm said during this week’s Big Ten spring football coaches teleconference. “The ability to go to a program that needs direction, that needs some visible help, that needs some energy and excitement and something to spice it up and try and help it win, the challenge of it was appealing to me.”
The Boilermakers’ 3-30 Big Ten record over the last four years? Not so appealing. It’s downright nauseating, in fact. The 1-8 mark last season was part of a 3-9 campaign that resulted in former coach Darrell Hazell losing his job during the middle of it, opening the door for Brohm to get his first Power 5 head-coaching job.
It’s been widely considered one of the best hires of the offseason after Brohm went 30-10 with two Conference USA titles and a bowl game appearance in each of his three seasons at Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers played in one bowl over their previous seven FBS seasons prior to Brohm’s arrival, and now he’s expected to oversee an even more daunting turnaround in West Lafayette.
The first major task this upcoming season for the 46-year-old is getting better production at quarterback. Brohm played the position at Louisville from 1989-93 and spent some time in the NFL as well. He’ll try to pass his experience onto David Blough, who led the nation with 21 interceptions last season. Western Kentucky’s 360.8 passing yards per game over the last three seasons ranked fourth in the nation during that span.
But Blough also won’t have many familiar receivers to target. DeAngelo Yancey, Bilal Marshall and Cameron Posey are all gone, leaving Brohm with little to work with. He expressed his concern about that prior to spring practice, and things have yet to change.
“We need to find some playmakers and we need to be comfortable utilizing them,” Brohm said. “It is an area that definitely still needs plenty of improvement.”
Without saying it directly, Brohm understands this likely will be a difficult season. The Boilermakers open Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis against Louisville, his former school coached by mentor Bobby Petrino, who had Brohm on his staff during his first stint with the Cardinals from 2003-06.
Petrino has guided Louisville back onto the national scene with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, and beating the Cardinals would certainly get Brohm’s Purdue tenure off to a rousing start.
Few expect that, though, and Brohm understands he – and the fan base – need to exercise patience as he begins rebuilding the program.
“This program is hungry for change,” Brohm said. “The people and the town and this campus are hungry for success.
“Trying to get Purdue back in the mix of things where we’re competitive and trying to win a few big games here and there, but also just trying to build that history and tradition back, is appealing.”