As we enter the 2021 football season , the Boilers are looking to put a weird and unfortunate 2020 season in the rear view mirror, and it wouldn’t be a fall camp if there wasn’t a QB competition at Purdue. Last year, the Quarterback room improved as a whole and took some steps forward, but will likely be leaned on heavily to increase the number of big plays in 2021. Let’s take a look and breakdown who will be vying for the elusive title of QB1 heading into the season.
Jack Plummer – QB Competition
Going into 2020, I thought Plummer was going to get the nod from the Brohms, but it ended up being O’Connell to get the start in Week 1 against Iowa. So naturally the only thing to do for 2021 is to double-down. Despite an 0-3 record (which should really be 1-2, looking at you backfield judge from the Minnesota game), Plummer put up some really solid numbers in 2020 completing 71% of his passes for an average of 7.6 yards per attempt. He threw for 8 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions, one of which was after the aforementioned debacle at the Minnesota game. In 2019, Plummer completed just under 60% of his passes for 1603 yards, 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 7 games, so the improvement was evident.Plummer’s cleanest game in 2020 came against Nebraska after the special teams spotted the Cornhuskers 14 points, where he went 33/47 for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Regardless if the offensive line improves, I believe that Plummer’s mobility is a huge advantage for Purdue, being able to move the pocket more and have an additional run threat to bring more defenders into the box. It’s this advantage, combined with Purdue’s run game woes in 2020, along with his arm strength that ultimately lead me to believe Plummer will be QB1 come September.
Aidan O’Connell – QB Competition
Last year O’Connell was the winner of the QB competition to open the season and lead the Boilers to a 2-1 record with wins over Iowa and Illinois and a narrow loss to a good Northwestern squad. O’Connell’s season ended early due to a foot injury and finished completing 64.7% of passes for an average of 6.7 yards per attempt with 7 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. Going into last year the general thoughts were O’Connell was the more accurate passer and less mobile, whereas Plummer was the more mobile, bigger arm but less accurate option, but that ended up not being the case in 2020. Accuracy will always be the first and foremost importance for Brohm and Co, with mobility being more of a tiebreaker aspect, that’s why O’Connell got the nod in 2019. But, after Plummer’s improved accuracy in 2019 and the run game’s near non-existence, I think O’Connell has a bit of a hill to climb here. It might be a very small hill, small enough to have even got past it by now in camp, but it is a hill nonetheless.
Austin Burton – QB Dark Horse
After 2019 Purdue dipped into the transfer portal to bring in Austin Burton from UCLA. Not only was it a move to fill out a thin QB room, but also as a dual-threat option. But, despite Purdue’s run game woes in 2020, Burton never saw the field. I think it is unlikely Burton will beat out both Plummer and O’Connell for the starting QB job, but I think there is a possibility Burton will get on the field with some special run-oriented packages. To me, this would seem like a break in case of an emergency type situation for the run game in 2021, as Brohm and Co. will still rely heavily on the pass game and want the best QB in as much as possible. This isn’t to say Burton isn’t a capable passer because he is, and if Purdue were in a situation where Plummer and O’Connell were to go down with an injury, the Boilers would be in a good spot still to win games with Burton at the helm.
Mike Alaimo – Backup
As expected Mike Alaimo redshirted in 2020, as most freshman Quarterbacks do so there isn’t much to go off of besides what we have seen and heard heading into 2021, but rumor has it the kid has potentially the strongest arm in the QB room, which is great to hear for the future of the Cradle of Quarterbacks. Alaimo also reportedly has put on 10 lbs in the offseason according to the roster, but still has maintained his above average mobility for a pro-style QB. I think it is very unlikely we see Alaimo take the field in 2021, but like Austin Burton, the Boilers will be able to manage if Alaimo’s services are called upon due to injuries.
Reserve: Jack Albers, Andrew Hobson, Christian Gelov