WEST LAFAYETTE – The way Purdue's solid gold helmets glinted in the summer sun when the Boilermakers took the field Thursday afternoon, a viewer could almost have fooled themselves into believing it was a game day at Ross-Ade Stadium.
In reality, it was Purdue's first official practice of fall camp, the only one on the schedule that will be open to the public. The Boilermakers worked out in front of 100-200 fans, playing without pads, but getting after each other and talking a little bit of trash along the way.
Coach Jeff Brohm was pleased with his team's energy in its return to Ross-Ade. There was no easing into the work; the Boilers were full go from almost the minute practiced opened.
“I think our team will always have decent energy when they take the field,” Brohm said. “We have some decent leaders that will make that happen, we've got some coaches that have energy to make sure we get that done.
“But is important to (have energy). You can't take any day for granted and without question, we have to be the most hungry team football team on the field every time we step on it.”
One of the Purdue coaches who certainly brings energy to the field is co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard, a Northrop graduate. Shephard was all over the field, giving a tip or piece of encouragement to every wideout who crossed his path. In one wide receiver drill, he pantomimed playing cornerback and shouted “I'm gonna pick it, I'm gonna pick it.”
Shephard has reason to be excited: his wide receivers have the potential to be among the best groups of pass-catchers in the Big Ten. Their play stood out in team drills, when the Boilermakers lined up to run full-speed plays against a two-hand-touch defense.
Quarterback Elijah Sindelar was effusive in his praise for the receiving corps.
“We have a lot of weapons, outside, in the slot and even at running back,” Sindelar said. “There are a lot of targets to give the ball to, 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.”
Rondale Moore, the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2018 as a freshman, was as impressive as ever, catching nearly every ball thrown in his direction. A couple of times he opened up huge cushions on in-routes with a simple shoulder fake.
He wasn't the only standout receiver. True freshman Milton Wright, a 6-foot-3 four-star talent from Louisville, Kentucky, played like a difference-maker. He flashed strong hands and the leaping ability to go up and make plays over smaller corners.
Even the young tight ends made plays in the passing game, as true freshman Garrett Miller, a physical 6-5 end from Texas, hauled in several passes in traffic and generally demonstrated good receiving instincts for a big man.
Moore will be the featured receiver in every game, but he was exhilarated to have younger players pushing him and his fellow returnees.
“With those guys being here, it just helps the competition in the room and you have no choice but to get better,” Moore said. “If you're taking days off and slacking, you can get your spot taken, so for those guys to be here, the competition is great.”
One player who wasn't on the field was touted freshman receiver David Bell, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. Brohm hopes that the Warren Central product can return within a week. Bell admitted it was difficult to watch his team practice while he wasn't able to go.
Still, there will be plenty of time for the freshman to make his mark. This is the first of 13 practices in fall camp and the Boilermakers are confident they're headed in the right direction.
See the video
To see a Rondale Moore video interview from Purdue football camp, click on this URL --