WEST LAFAYETTE – The years of quarterback controversies at Purdue under Jeff Brohm are over.
After David Blough and Elijah Sindelar battled for the starting job in 2017 and 2018, Blough has graduated and Sindelar is in sole possession of the keys to what could be one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
For the first time in his five years at Purdue, the 6-foot-4 Sindelar is the unquestioned starter. Purdue will sink or swim on his arm.
It's one of the strongest in the Big Ten, capable of making every throw. It's the arm that threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns and earned Sindelar the MVP at the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl.
It's also the arm that threw three interceptions in the first half against Northwestern in Week 1 of 2018 and caused Brohm to turn to Blough again. Sindelar hasn't started since.
It's those interceptions that Sindelar has to avoid. Can the decision-making catch up with the arm strength?
“I think Elijah will take good command of the team,” Brohm said. “He has a big arm, he's played some good football, but other times, he's had some deficiencies with turning the ball over, not making good decisions.
“I think he understands those are the things he needs to correct, but they are correctable.”
Brohm has intimated that the first half against Northwestern was in part a coaching failure and vowed to be better. Sindelar has heard the message loud and clear. He has had almost a full year to think about those interceptions against the Wildcats and put processes in place to make sure he avoids them in 2019.
“Last season, I tried to force some bigger plays,” Sindelar said of the season opener. “If it was third down, those throws are OK, but if it's first-and-10, second-and-10 is better than off the field. It's in times like those, knowing when to check the ball down or when to just pull the ball down and take a sack. A sack is not the end of the world.”
The good news for Sindelar is that he has so many weapons around him that he won't need to take chances often.
Purdue has brought in a host of talented receivers in the last two years; Rondale Moore, David Bell, Milton Wright, T.J. Sheffield and Kory Taylor are only a sampling of the Purdue pass-catchers that have big-play ability.
The upshot is that Sindelar can check down and still create big plays.
“We have a lot of weapons, outside, in the slot, even at running back,” Sindelar said. “There's a lot of targets to give the ball to, all of them can create space, they can all make people miss. All I have to do is just distribute and they do their own job, so it's kind of cool.”
Outside of turnovers, the biggest issue for Sindelar will be staying healthy. He already has the respect of his teammates after playing 31/2 games in 2017 – including that prolific Foster Farms Bowl – on a torn ACL.
Purdue hopes he doesn't have to go through that again and Sindelar has adopted a regimen of hot tub work and cross friction, which is meant to maintain mobility in his knees and prevent scar tissue from forming.
The quarterback hyper-extended the same knee he had torn and missed spring practice this year because of it, but he described that as a “freak accident.”
“I feel like an old man, if I'm being honest,” Sindelar said. “(I do) basically proactive stuff, so I don't ever want to get behind the curve, I want to stay in front of that. So far, we haven't had a problem since spring practice. I think what we're doing works, I don't see (my health) being a problem.”
If his health isn't a problem and his decision-making is better, Sindelar could be in for a huge season.
And the Purdue offense is counting on it.