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Purdue may shake up offensive line after Penn St debacle

October 7, 2019
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Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer (13) throws a pass while being pressured by Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (99) in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Penn State defeated Purdue 35-7. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
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Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer (13) throws a pass while being pressured by Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (99) in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Penn State defeated Purdue 35-7. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Purdue’s offensive line has been a major concern all season. Now coach Jeff Brohm is considering a major shake-up.

Two days after the Boilermakers allowed 10 sacks in a 35-7 loss at Penn State, Brohm opened up the possibility of replacing as many as four starters for Saturday’s game against Maryland.

“We are not where we need to be. That’s a fact,” Brohm said Monday at his weekly news conference when asked specifically about the line. “We got beat. You know what, some guys do a good job, and it just seems on every play there’s one guy that’s having a hard time and that’s the thing that’s getting exposed.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Left tackle Grant Hermanns and right guard Matt McCann both started last season and were expected to anchor the unit.

While Hermanns has played well, McCann suffered an ankle injury against Vanderbilt and missed the TCU game before returning for the first two Big Ten games. Brohm said McCann, a fifth-year senior, allowed Penn State to get a pass rusher free when he missed the cadence and was late off the ball.

Center Viktor Beach, left guard Alex Criddle and right tackle Will Bramel have started all five games this season — jobs now in jeopardy.

Beach has been dealing with injuries all season and is expected to be replaced by sophomore Sam Garvin.

Mark Stickford, who took over for the injured McCann against TCU, has moved ahead of Criddle on the most recent depth chart though Brohm said he plans to use both in a rotation.

Redshirt freshman Eric Miller will get a chance to supplant Bramel in practice this week and sophomore Marc Roland could challenge McCann.

“We want to try to still have some competition but definitely try to maybe start to settle on some guys we feel good about,” Brohm said. “I think Grant has the most experience up front, him and Matt. Those two guys have to play well for us in order for us to do well.”

The Boilermakers (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten) have lost three straight, are off to their worst start in Brohm’s three seasons and are tied for the league lead in sacks allowed (16) with Minnesota.

They will need to win five of their final seven games to become bowl-eligible and they may have to do the bulk of that work without starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar, who is expected to be out until at least mid-November with a broken left collarbone he suffered when a Minnesota pass rusher drove him into the ground in Game 4.

It’s also unclear when All-American receiver Rondale Moore might return from a hamstring injury that kept him on the sideline last weekend.

And Jack Plummer, Sindelar’s replacement, could be trying to fend off Aidan O’Connell for the starting job this week after Brohm noted Plummer occasionally held the ball too long against the Nittany Lions.

“Jack competed extremely hard. He gave us great effort and he did some good things,” Brohm said. “When you get hit that many times, you’re going to struggle a little toward the end and we took a lot of sacks. So we just want to make sure there’s competition at every position. I think Aidan is a guy that could play or he may not play, depending on how this week goes.”

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