Purdue coach Jeff Brohm made his quarterback decision clear weeks ago.
Those who know won’t talk, and those who talk say they don’t really know who Brohm intends to start in Thursday night’s season opener at home against Northwestern.
Brohm wants to keep everyone, especially the Wildcats, guessing.
“Both guys have had good camps and have done a very good job,” Brohm said Monday. “I think they’re both going to be ready to play. While they have many similarities, there are some differences. We’ll make sure that whoever is in there will utilize their talents and we’ll do things that they do well.”
It’s as close as the second-year coach came to dropping even a smidgen of a hint about whether he’ll start Elijah Sindelar or David Blough.
Last year, Blough won the job out of preseason camp but wound up rotating with Sindelar until Blough suffered a dislocated right ankle against Illinois, ending his season. Sindelar finished the season by leading the Boilermakers to three straight wins and their first bowl victory since 2012 despite playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee for the final 3½ games.
Blough returned to limited work during spring practice while Sindelar recovered from offseason surgery, setting up yet another preseason battle between two of this year’s four offensive captains.
Sindelar seems to have a bigger arm, a possible advantage given Brohm’s hope of throwing deep more often this season. Last year against Northwestern, Sindelar threw for 376 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in a 23-13 loss, the game in which he injured the knee.
Blough, meanwhile, has more starting experience and has long been regarded as one of Purdue’s most natural leaders.
Both have been told who will start and what to expect Thursday night.
“Who’s going to start?” Sindelar said, eagerly anticipating a round of questions after Sunday’s practice.
“That’s our question for you,” a reporter said.
“Oh, that’s not a question for me, that’s a question for coach Brohm,” Sindelar said, playfully jabbing back.
Perhaps Brohm can’t go wrong with either one.
Both have experience in Brohm’s offense, have proven they can win and have the full confidence of teammates. The biggest lingering question might be who catches their passes.
Purdue has plenty of options at tight end with proven upperclassmen such as Cole Herdman and Brycen Hopkins, and a solid intermediate threat in receiver Jackson Anthrop, but who will stretch the field on a consistent basis is unclear.
Converted quarterback Jordan Sparks played well throughout camp before spending the past week trying to work his way back from an undisclosed injury. A year ago, he was Sindelar’s favorite target against the Wildcats, finishing with 11 receptions for 130 yards, both career bests.
“We are hopeful that we have him (Sparks),” Brohm said. “I think he had a great camp until he got nicked up, and he was probably our best receiver early on in camp as far as making plays, being explosive, playing hard. He’s got some physicality to him.”
Beyond Sparks, there is potential and plenty of questions, a combination that makes Brohm’s decision to stay quiet a bit easier to understand.
“They’ve talked to us,” Blough said. “We know what coach Brohm is thinking, the plays he wants to call and how he wants it to be different if I’m in, if Elijah’s in. Coach Brohm has done a good job communicating it and we’ll be ready to go whether it’s him, whether it’s me, whether it’s (Jack) Plummer.”
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