What To Watch For: Michigan vs. Purdue

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Michigan’s Freshman Receivers

  Despite the losses of Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson to the NFL, Michigan’s young receiving corps was hyped entering the season, and for the most part they impressed. Frosh, Tarik Black proved to be arguably the most exciting new receiver. Now, he’s out for most of, if not all of, this season. While largely unproven, the Wolverines have several options to receive the extra snaps left in Black’s wake.

  For starters, several established players will see expanded roles. Fellow frosh, Donovan Peoples-Jones has looked sharp in the passing game on top of his already impressive return skills, highlighted by his return touchdown against Air Force. Look for Peoples-Jones to steal the spotlight in Black’s absence. True sophomore dual threat weapon Eddie McDoom is also in for an increase in production after a quiet start to the year.

  Additionally, two other freshmen Nico Collins and Oliver Martin have been rumored to see time. Neither have seen time this year, but were both highly touted recruits. Collins, a 6’5 red-zone threat could help Michigan’s woes within the 20-yard line. Grant Perry and Eddie McDoom will see most of the looks in the slot, however Martin brings an unusual combo of polished route-running skills and deep receiving ability at 6’1.

 

 Purdue’s Run Defense

  Offense is the clear catalyst of this Purdue team, however the defense has been feisty early this year. The run defense in particular has been a strength. While not amazing, they have been improved and currently sit at 53rd nationally, 15 spots higher than their pass defense, entering week four. While the secondary, primarily the safeties have struggled, a few front seven players have looked stout vs. the run.

  Defensive lineman, Gelen Robinson—brother of former Michigan basketball star, Glenn Robinson III—is only 6’1, 280lbs, but jumps off the screen as he often bullies his way through multiple offensive lineman before stopping runs behind the line of scrimmage. Just behind Robinson, stands 6’2, 260lb Ja’Whaun Bentley, a hulk-like linebacker. What Bentley lacks against the pass, he makes up for defending the ground game as he leads the team in tackles. In addition, he has recorded two forced fumbles in three games.

 

Lavert Hill, Tyree Kinnel and The Secondary

  Michigan’s young secondary faces its biggest challenge of the year as they head into West Lafayette this Saturday. Purdue’s offense is scary, and not just because of their go-for-broke playcalling. Quarterbacks, David Blough and Elijah Sindelar have run this spread-style offense extremely efficiently this year and are surrounded by several top-shelf playmakers.

  Running back, Tario Fuller has become a lead back for the Boilermakers on top of their several receiving options. Their tight end group may be one of the top duos in the nation as both Cole Herdman and Brycen Hopkins have shown elite receiving skills. Hopkins isn’t even a starter and he’s third on the team in catches, meanwhile Herdman racked up 200 yards through the air vs. Ohio in week two. Kinnel and Metellus’ man cover skills will be tested this week along with the linebackers.

  Finally, slot receiver, Jackson Anthrop has been dicing up defenses with his sharp routes and quick moves. What he lacks in height his ability to caught tough balls. Depending on which Michigan defensive back is matched up on him, we could see Anthrop have a big game vs the Wolverine secondary. It will be no doubt a challenge for these youthful defenders.

 

Offensive Play Calling

  Three games in, Michigan and Purdue are almost polar opposites. On one side you have Michigan, a team who has heavily leaned on their shutdown defense to cover up the woes of their struggling pro-style offense. On the other, you have Purdue. The Boilermakers lack a shutdown defense, but have outperformed expectations due to their exotic, spread-style offense.

  First year head coach, Jeff Brohm has transformed this Purdue team with his inventive and gutsy play-calling. Purdue runs a up-tempo spread offense which terrorizes defenses with their depth of weapons. With Brohm, there’s no trick play he doesn’t like and he’s willing to try anything to get a win.

  On the other hand, Michigan’s offense has looked sluggish. While there are several youngsters they are working hard to implement into the offense, the play-calling has been simplistic, to a fault. Hopefully Harbaugh’s genius will shine through again if it turns out he’s been waiting to open up the playbook until Big Ten season.

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