Press Conference

JEFF BROHM: We’re looking forward to having a great week of practice. We’ve got a great opportunity this week to play a playoff football team that’s 2-0 at their place that I know our fans and players and coaches are excited about. It’s a great opportunity.

I think our guys are looking forward to hopefully having a good week of practice, going out there and improving on some of the things that we need to get better at and going out there Saturday and cutting loose against a proven veteran playoff football team.

Q. After a weekend of watching film, just wanted to get your final assessment of the team’s play against UConn; specifically what did you like from your starters in the first half?

JEFF BROHM: I definitely feel like we did what we needed to do, which was great to see. We wanted to go out there and improve from week one, play the brand of football and style of football that we know we can play and make improvements and execute.

I feel like going into halftime 35-0 we did that, and was able to play quite a few guys in the second half. All of our reserves basically got in the game and got a chance to play and still won the second half 14-0. Obviously we weren’t probably trying to score as much and as aggressively, but a lot of guys got to play, and that’s always good to get young guys on the field so they can kind of see where they stand and see where they’re at and what improvements they need to make moving forward, which normally is more than they previously had thought. But to get live action from all those guys was a great day for us.

It’s on to now the meat of our schedule. A lot of good football teams, and we’re looking forward to this opportunity on Saturday.

Q. Is there any update you can provide on Zander’s status? Is there any sort of timetable for him getting back on the field?

JEFF BROHM: Zander will have surgery tomorrow on a broken fibula and be out four to eight weeks.

Q. I guess with him going down, obviously another thing that we ask every week is is there any sort of status on Sampson James’ potential getting on the field for your team?

JEFF BROHM: We’re working on that. We have not gotten an answer back yet.

We’re hopeful, with a lot of other transfers that have been granted immediate eligibility throughout the course of the last month or so. But you never know what’s going to happen, but we’re hopeful that that maybe can happen.

Q. Getting into Notre Dame, as you mentioned, 2-0 to start the year. They’ve been in two close match-ups so far. What are the challenges that they can present to you both offensively and defensively?

JEFF BROHM: Well, Notre Dame is a veteran football team. They’ve proven they can win at a high level. They play one of the toughest schedules in the country every year against great competition. They’ve got a really good defensive front that’s big and active and athletic and shows quickness and twitch. They’ve got linebackers that play downhill and strike. They’ve got a veteran secondary.

Offensively they’ve got a proven quarterback who’s played well at two different spots, a really good running back and probably an all-pro tight end. They’ve got weapons; they’ve got skill; they’ve got really good players.

They’ve had to work for the last two wins, which actually from their standpoint really is a good thing because it gives them a chance to see the few things they need to work on to get better, but they found a way to win. That’s what winning football teams do. There have been a couple other top-10 teams in the country that haven’t been able to do that the last week or two, and they have, so give credit to them for pulling out victories.

Very talented team, and we’ve got our hands full.

Q. Any update on Garrett Miller and Jamari Brown?

JEFF BROHM: Garrett Miller is probably doubtful this week, and Jamari Brown, we’re optimistic he can get back.

Q. With Zander out here for a good deal of time, King Doerue, Dylan Downing, just talk about them and how you feel turning the reins over to those two guys to run the ball? And also talk a little bit about your use of the receivers as ball carriers, too.

JEFF BROHM: Well, it’s next man up for us at the running back position. King has played a lot of football for us, been a little injured here and there, but we want him to go out there and play his brand of football. Dylan Downing has come in and proven that he’ll run the ball hard, and he understands what we’re doing. He’s a tremendous worker and gives us everything he has.

Yes, we’re going to have to have other options at running back, so whether it’s a couple receivers, another young running back, there needs to be more than two. So we’ll have those options up and ready.

Right now King and Dylan will be the top two.

Q. Ja’Quez Cross, are you going to get him ready do you think?

JEFF BROHM: Yeah, we’re going to get him ready. He’s had a good camp. Like every freshman at that position, physically he’s got to continue to get strength and mass over the course of the next couple years, so he’s a little behind there, but you know what, he’s got good quickness and good speed. He’s got to get ready to go.

Q. Will we see more of Kyle Bilodeau as the No. 2 tight end?

JEFF BROHM: Well, we’ve got a bunch of options at tight end that have played a little bit for us. Kyle played some for us.

Q. Paul played quite a bit.

JEFF BROHM: Paul played quite a bit for us. I’m going blank. Jack Cravaack, those three guys are the next guys up at the tight end position, and they all will probably get playing time this week and we’ll see how that unfolds.

Q. Do you think Cam Craig is ready to become a starter?

JEFF BROHM: Well, Cam has done a good job. Right now we feel like the six-man rotation, those are our top six guys. So he’s in the top six, and we want him to continue to improve and get better. He’s got ability, he’s got athleticism, and he’ll play quite a bit, and as the season goes on, he’ll play even more.

Q. Talk a little bit, too, I’ve spoken to you about you being recruited by Notre Dame. You’re a Trinity High School guy, Catholic guy, maybe what that experience was like and what it’s going to be like for you to go up and play a football team and coach a team up in that environment there.

JEFF BROHM: You know, I respect the tradition of Notre Dame just like everyone across the country. They’ve played a lot of big football games, a lot of great players, a lot of great coaches. It’s a unique place to go and visit. They’re playing at a high level right now and they’ve had a good run over the last couple years and they’ve been able to recruit well and they’ve got a lot of talent on their team. It’s a special place to play for a lot of people.

So we’re excited to get that opportunity and so am I and our coaches. I’m sure our fans are.

Really we cherish getting that game back going over the course of the next five or seven years because it’s a great opportunity for our kids to play in that type of game.

I think our guys will prepare hard, and they look at this as a golden opportunity against a recent top-four program in the country. You know what, these are the measuring sticks that you dream for when you play and coach to get an opportunity to do, and we get a chance to do it this Saturday. So I know our guys are jacked up about playing against a great high-caliber team.

Q. Just to follow up on that, Purdue and Notre Dame haven’t played since 2014, but did you quickly learn this was an important series to fans when you first got here, even though they were not on the schedule, that there was a passion for Purdue to play Notre Dame?

JEFF BROHM: Well, even growing up and playing football and watching football, to me I thought it was somewhat of a rivalry game and a great game to watch, of two in-state opponents playing against each other. There have been some good history of that in the past. I’ve admired it from a distance.

Yes, when I got here, you look at the different important games against IU, Illinois and Notre Dame and the past history, and you hope that you can get that back going.

Fortunately for us we get that opportunity to do that, and yes, I know our fans — I’ve heard it for the last six months, that they’re looking forward to this game and getting a chance to go up there and watch Purdue play at Notre Dame.

You know, I’m happy that we get that opportunity, and hopefully we can take advantage of it.

Q. What have you seen out of Dylan Downing these first two games and in practice that gives you the confidence level in him to carry part of this load?

JEFF BROHM: Well, Dylan came in here from day one, he works extremely hard. He’s a student of the game. He runs hard. He’s got some physicality. He cares. He’s from in state in Indianapolis, so I think he wants to prove to people that he can play this level of football, and he’s put in a lot of hard work to get that done. He’s taking care of the ball, does a good job on special teams for us.

Really he’s played above the level that we thought from day one when he got here, even though we were hopeful and optimistic he could do a really good job, so he’s exceeded our expectations, and I think he can play football and do a good job for us.

He’s going to get that opportunity now, and you always need more than one running back, and normally two or three, so right now he’s going to get a lot of action. I think he’ll take advantage of it and he’ll work hard this week and be a good leader and go out there and perform the best he can.

Q. What do you need to see out of the offensive line this week?

JEFF BROHM: Well, this is going to be a big challenge for us. We’re facing a real front four, a real front seven. First thing you do when you watch them, they’ve got some twitch, and they can come off the ball and they can get off blocks and they play hard and they get penetration, so we’ll have our hands full. This will be a huge test for us to see how we stack up, and we’re going to have to figure out ways to get it done in the trenches and have a little creativity in case we’re not getting as many yards as we want, and all those things are going to have to come into play, but it’ll be a great chance for our offensive line to play against a really good front.

Q. You mentioned earlier about getting young guys on the field Saturday so they could kind of get their play on tape and show case what they’re all about. Were there some guys that maybe stood out that would move up in your mind to get an opportunity to play, whether it’s this week or the next couple weeks?

JEFF BROHM: Well, I think a lot of guys got action as far as guys that would move up the chain. Now, I think we have them kind of where we see them, but validation on where they’re at and where they need to come was out there. I do think Jamari Brown can play good football for us. He got in the game before he got injured and did a really good job, so it was good to see that because he was kind of the next man up.

On the offensive line we had some young offensive linemen get in there, Moussa at left tackle from here in state did a really good job and actually somebody that came in here and about 265 pounds and now he’s up close to 300 and he’s got some moxie and some talent.

Marcus Mbow has talent. He was a little all over the place in mentally knowing what to do, but he has some athleticism, so it was good to see that.

Then Mershawn Rice, great to see him make some catches and make some plays. He needs to become a player for us and be in the mix. So those are probably the main ones that stood out as far as young guys that didn’t get a chance to play and did some good things.

Q. Have you ever coached up at South Bend in any of your past stops, or if not when was the last time you were up at that stadium or have you ever been to the stadium?

JEFF BROHM: I have not coached at the stadium but I’ve been able to go up to a game or two throughout the course of my life. I think when my brother, younger brother Brad was being recruited I think I went up to maybe a game when he was up there unofficially one time. Yeah, it’s a fun place to watch a game. A lot of tailgating and a lot of history.

We had fun.

Q. Your thoughts on the offense right now? You don’t really have a turnover that is on the offense. You’re in a pretty good rhythm on 3rd down. What do you like right now, and where does upside remain?

JEFF BROHM: Well, we’ve got a lot to prove still, but I do think we were able to execute the pass game. We were able to come through when we needed to the week before, creating that balance and making sure that both the run game and the passing game is up to par and being efficient at it is very important for us. Always creating big plays is always going to be a big part of it. It’s hard to drive the ball 10 plus plays a lot of times up the field. You’ve got to create some big plays, and whether that’s throwing up over the top or getting some cheap screen or maybe even a run that we pop, those are what we’re trying to get done.

But this will be a real test to see how we stack up. I thought our quarterback play has been pretty good, but we want to make sure that it’s not a put it all on the quarterback to win the game for us. We need to have all our guys doing their part, offensive line and tight ends and running backs and receivers. But I think they’ve worked hard and they understand the package and the plan, and it’s just about executing.

The fact that we’ve not turned the ball over in two games is great. We work hard at it. But it’s going to happen at some point, and you hope that it doesn’t, but we’ve done a good job of doing the small things, I think, to help get us to move the ball a little bit.

Q. Any update on guys like Antonio Stevens or Kpaka or Dontay Hunter, guys who came into the year hurt?

JEFF BROHM: All three of those guys had off-season surgery. Antonio may or may not get back this year. We’ll see. Dontay Hunter, if he does, it’ll be later in the season is his time frame. And then on Kpaka, he would be the same thing if not even beyond after his surgery.

Q. About the running backs, are the guys you have now, are they guys you trust at this point from a pass protection perspective, from a passing game perspective, a lot of the other stuff Zander gave you?

JEFF BROHM: Well, Zander did a great job for us because he could do it all. He could run the football and he could pass block and he definitely could catch the ball out of the backfield, and he understood it. He’s played a lot of games for us.

King I think is steady at all those things, and it’s his time to step up and do his thing and have some fun with it, which I think he has the ability to do that.

Dylan is a little bit newer, but he’s picked things up fast enough, and that was the concern is if he would be able to mentally handle the whole package, and I think he’s done a really good job, and then when he gets beyond that, gentleman questions has a ways to go to understanding all those different things and the speed of college football and intricacies of it and pass protection, but he does have some twitch and some burst that if you can figure out a way to get him the ball and ease him into it, could be beneficial.

You know, those two older guys we have confidence that they know the package and it’s just about them executing it and playing hard and playing well.