Purdue Football 2020 Position Previews – Running Backs

Running Backs

One of the bigger questions heading into 2019 was who was going to be the primary ball carrier for Purdue out of the backfield.  We seem to have an answer to that as the backfield now swings from a potential liability to stability heading into the 2020.  Let’s take a look at who will be carrying the rock for the Old Gold & Black this season.

King Doerue – Starter

Sophomore – 5’10” 220 lbs.

King Doerue scampers for a touchdown on a 12 yard rush in the first quarter of Purdue’s victory of Northwestern in 2019. (Robert Shipley)

Heading into last year, many thought one of the true freshmen would have to emerge as the season went on and one of those freshmen did indeed and it was the dynamic back from Amarillo, Texas, King Doerue.   Doerue really broke out last year starting with the Minnesota game where he ran the ball 20 times for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 reception for 9 yards.  As the season progressed and the offensive line began to stabilize, Doerue’s numbers and consistency improved,  averaging over 4.2 yards per carry over the last four games.  Doerue is also a respectable receiver out of the backfield, bringing in 20 receptions for 148 yards.  With the amount of weapons Purdue has in the wide receiver room, I don’t expect Purdue to all of a sudden be a run first program, but be on the lookout for Doerue to push closer to the 1,000 yard mark on the season.  If Purdue can use the passing game to open up the running game more, we could see many 30+ yard runs a season after they were almost non-existent.  

Zander Horvath – Contributor

Junior – 6’3″ 230 lbs.

Zander Horvath celebrating a 7 yard touchdown reception in the first half against Minnesota in 2020.
(Dave Kovich)

After a freshman campaign where Zander played exclusively at the fullback position he made the move to running back .  Throughout the season Horvath showed signs of being a potential situational use back and had some decent averages in the second half of the season until Indiana.  Against Indiana, Horvath rushed for a whopping 164 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Conventional wisdom says Horvath is the kind of guy you want running up the gut and between the tackles, but where I think he has the most success is on the outside when he can get a head of steam.  The plays that stick out the most in my mind looking back to last season were the swing passes when he got matched up against smaller DBs and was able to run rampant on the outside.  I think Jeff Brohm will come up with some great new ways to use Horvath this season and will be a significant contributor out of the backfield with some tailor made packages specifically for him.

Da’Joun Hewitt – Contributor

RS Freshman – 5’10” 205 lbs.

Despite being thin at runningback last season, Purdue was able to get Da’Joun Hewitt some in game snaps and still maintain his redshirt.  Hewitt only had six carries and one reception on the season, but should be increasing those numbers dramatically going into 2020 without having to worry about maintaining a redshirt.  Coming out of high school Hewitt showed all of the skills needed to be successful at the next level and that hasn’t changed.  Hewitt has some great speed for his size and has incredible skills cutting, which makes him a threat anytime he has the ball in his hands.  Looking forward to seeing how he has improved during his redshirt season and what he can really do on Saturdays.

Tirek Murphy Jr. – Contributor

Freshman – 5’10” 215 lbs.

Tirek Murphy makes his way to Purdue out of Middle Village, NYC and is the highest rated Purdue Running Back in the modern recruiting era.  When we say Tirek Murphy is the Beast from the East that is because he is a certified athletic freak.  This is the kind of guy who is cut from a similar cloth as Rondale Moore.  He is extremely dedicated to football and his craft along with maintaining and improving his body in any way he can.  Before arriving at Purdue there were videos of Tirek practicing on the beach from working on endurance drills and lower body stability.  That is some next level training that could prove to be very fruitful for the true freshman.  As I mentioned above outside of Doerue there are some question marks at who will be the backup for the “every down” type of back.  Murphy posses the ability to run the ball inside, outside and receive out of the backfield.  Essentially has has all the tools that if proven out will be extremely useful to a Purdue offense read to explode at the seams.

Alfred Armour – Contributor at Fullback

Sophomore – 6’1″ 235 lbs.

Armour warming up prior to the spring football game in 2019. (Robert Shipley)

Purdue is not really known for running power offense or utilizing fullbacks, but in goal-line situations it is great to have a big burly back like Alfred Armour leading the train in front of Zander Horvath.  In addition to working in goal-line Armour often comes in on passing downs where Purdue is looking to add some protection against a blitz and keep the back in to block.  This was a role I think Armour could use some improvement on, but that isn’t to say blocking out of the backfield isn’t a hard task.  

Henry Lewis, a walk-on freshman from Fishers, will provide added depth at the running back position.

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