Purdue Football 2020 Position Previews – Wide Receivers

Wide Receivers

At most programs, Purdue’s wide receiver room would be an embarrassment of riches, but with Coaches Jeff Brohm, Brian Brohm and JaMarcus Shepard at the helm of the offense, Purdue is primed for an offensive explosion. It goes without saying that it isn’t every year that Purdue has one of the top position groups in not only the Big Ten but in the country. Let’s take a look at what feels like an armada of skilled wide receivers repping the Boilermakers this season.

Rondale Moore – Starter

Sophomore – 5’9” 180 lbs.

Rondale Moore lines up before a play against TCU in 2019 (Dave Kovich)

During the turmoil that was getting the season off the ground, Rondale opted out before ultimately opting back in once COVID protocols were at a place where he felt safe to participate.  The diminutive phenom comes back with a lot to prove in his mind.  The last time the nation saw Rondale he was being helped off the field after suffering a hamstring injury against Minnesota.  Moore will remind the country why he’s the only third ever true freshman consensus All-American when the season opens against Iowa.  There isn’t much anybody can complain about Rondale Moore, but the one thing I want to see him improve on is his return game.  Specifically I want to see him make some better decisions in terms of ball security on punt return.  Him housing a return this year would be nice too, something I’m sure new Special Teams Coordinator Marty Biagi is cooking up as we speak.  Could Rondale Moore be the first Purdue Heisman finalist since Drew Brees in 2000?  Boiler nation will wait with great anticipation and enjoy every moment of Rondale in Old Gold and Black this season. 

David Bell – Starter

David Bell starts a route in Purdue’s comeback win against Northwestern in 2019 (Robert Shipley)

Sophomore – 6’2” 205 lbs.

Purdue replaced one WR1 Freshman All-American for another Freshman All-American WR1 after Rondale Moore went down last season, not many schools can do that.  Now the Boilermakers will look to pair together what might be the best WR duo in the country and create total matchup nightmares.  Bell hauled in a staggering 86 receptions for 1035 yards and 7 touchdowns as a true freshman without Rondale on the field for a majority of them.  Bell was a human first down running slants last season and had some really solid plays going over the top on corners, but I think I would like to see a bit more of that this year and balance it out.  Bell had offseason surgery to fix an issue he dealt with all season, so seeing how he has recovered and if that injury some how hampered him last season will be something to watch in week 1. 

Amad Anderson – Contributor

Sophomore 5’11” 175 lbs.

Amad Anderson begins his route during Purdue’s 42-24 blowout of Vanderbilt (Dave Kovich)

Last season Amad Anderson had a very surprising freshman year with 31 catches for 343 yards and three touchdowns.  Anderson can play all over the field, but I think he works best on the outside on curl and crossing routes.  While he isn’t Rondale in terms of yards after catch, I think he has really good moves and sense of what is going on around him when he makes the catch.  The high energy receiver will certainly see plenty of minutes all over the field this season and will be an interesting candidate for a breakout sophomore season.

Milton Wright – Contributor

Sophomore – 6’3” 195 lbs.

Milton Wright scores a touchdown after burning two defenders during Purdue’s 40-14 stomping of Maryland in 2019 (Dave Kovich)

Milton Wright heads into his sophomore season after a solid freshman season where he brought in 18 receptions for 288 yards and 1 touchdown.  The thing about Wright’s freshman stat line is that it doesn’t show the full story of how good Wright could’ve been last year.  There were quite a few deep balls Wright failed to bring in that frankly he should’ve, I don’t think anybody would question that including Wright himself.  If Wright has been able to get his hands and mind right in the offseason Purdue will have quite a good wide receiver burning corners on fly routes, something Brohm hasn’t really utilized much since 2017.  

Jared Sparks – Contributor

Senior – 6’1” 215 lbs.

Jared Sparks celebrates his first career touchdown reception against Vanderbilt in 2019 (Dave Kovich)

People forget that Jared Sparks actually came to Purdue as a dual threat quarterback and really has only been playing the position for two full seasons, one of which he was riddled with injuries.  During his career so far Sparks has had some struggles hauling in the ball, but when he has been able to bring the ball he has been pretty successful averaging 11 yards per reception in his career.  When Sparks gets some field time this year, I will definitely be watching how he is catching the ball and see if he is using his hands instead of his body, and catching before running.  If he is able to fix that, Purdue will have a really solid outside possession receiver to use in specific situations. 

Jackson Anthrop – Contributor

Senior – 5’11” 190 lbs.

Jackson Anthrop takes over at slot receiver after Rondale Moore was injured in 2019 (Dave Kovich)

Editor’s Note: This was written prior to the announcement that Jackson would miss a portion of the season due to injury.

Jackson Anthrop is the kind of guy any coach loves having on the team as a senior.  He works hard, does what he is asked and ready and waiting in the wings.  After his career started off solid in 2017 with 47 catches for 423 yards and 7 touchdowns, Anthrop’s role diminished with the rise of Rondale Moore in 2018.  After Rondale went down against Minnesota last year, Anthrop didn’t even miss a beat when he became WR1 in the slot and produced on near identical levels in 2019.  When healthy, Anthrop is about as reliable as a receiver as a coach could ask for in terms of ball security.  Don’t be surprised for Anthrop to get some serious run in 4 wide sets this year. 

TJ Sheffield – Contributor

RS Freshman – 5’11” 185 lbs.

During his true freshman campaign TJ Sheffield appeared in just two games, with two catches for 12 yards against Minnesota after Rondale Moore went down early in the game.  Sheffield most likely would’ve gotten much more play his true freshman season with Rondale out, if an injury hadn’t ended his season just as it was getting started.  Sheffield is a quick elusive slot receiver somewhere between Rondale and Jackson Anthrop and will push to get minutes backing up Rondale this season.  Depending on what Purdue does in the return game I would not be surprised if Sheffield gets some minutes on the punt return team if they decide to not use Rondale there.  

Mershawn Rice – Contributor

RS Freshman – 6’2” 200 lbs.

Similar to Sheffield, Mershawn Rice by all accounts had some very good practices in 2019 but ultimately injuries kept him from seeing the field in games.  There is a lot we don’t know about Rice since he only appeared in one game last year, but with the size and athleticism he has he will sure find his way onto the field one way or another this season.  Depending on how he and Milton Wright have progressed I would not be surprised to see them fighting for minutes on the outside this season.  I would consider Rice to be one of the bigger dark horse candidates for breakout wide receiver this year, that is of course not including Rondale and David Bell.  His minutes in the opener against Iowa might be a glimpse into what to expect the rest of the season.

Maliq Carr – Contributor

Freshman – 6’5” 230 lbs.

As Purdue brings in it’s second touted class of wide receivers, there might be nobody people are looking forward to more than Maliq Carr.  While many folks believe Carr will eventually be a TE prospect in the NFL, Purdue will utilize him as a true wide receiver early in his career.  At 6’5” 230 lbs that is a matchup nightmare no matter what position he plays.  One of the things I am looking to see is how developed Carr is at utilizing his height to beat defenders and make grabs.  The closest college comparison we have to Carr right now in terms of where they were as a recruit, is Kyle Pitts the TE from Florida, who is currently tied for the most number of receiving touchdowns this season.  The biggest difference I see between the two right now is that Carr seems a bit bigger and stronger whereas Pitts is slimmer and faster.  I think if Carr wants to make it the league as a wide receiver he is going to really have to be careful of his body constantly just because of how tall he is.  Regardless, look for Carr to make an immediate impact either on the outside or in the slot.  He also may become a favorite red zone target for Purdue.

Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen – Contributor

Freshman – 6’2” 195 lbs.

Yaseen makes his way to Purdue via Walled Lake High School in the greater metro Detroit area.  ARY was a recruit that was originally very much on Purdue’s radar before committing extremely early to Northwestern, but ultimately flipped to Purdue on National Signing Day in 2019.  I think the thing you need to know most about ARY the most heading into this season is that this kid is smart, so smart in fact it almost caused him to lose his senior season of eligibility.  Long story short, Yaseen took a high school level course as an 8th grader being home school.  The argument was that by taking that class, it counted towards a year of his MHSAA eligibility.  This was obviously ludicrous and overturned and he went on to have a stellar senior season.  Reports are that ARY is cut from the same cloth as Rondale Moore and David Bell in terms of their work ethic and that work ethic will give him a shot at minutes as a true freshman this season.  

Marcellus Moore – Potential Contributor

Freshman – 5’8” 160 lbs.

It’s not every day you have a world record setting sprinter step into your football program and it’s because of that, Marcellus Moore might be the hardest wide receiver to nail down what his role will be this coming season.  Marcellus’ accolades in track require their own cabinet and the Purdue coaching staff must be salivating to utilize yet another speedster in the offense and return game.  But the question remains, is it worth burning his redshirt?  I seriously don’t know the answer to that and that will be an equally tough question for the coaching staff to answer.  Regardless, the next time you see Marcellus Moore as a ball carrier on your tv screen or in person you will learn an entirely new definition of fast.  

Collin Sullivan – Potential Contributor

Freshman – 6’2” 200 lbs.

Collin Sullivan makes his way to Purdue via Round Rock High School in Round Rock Texas.  Reports out of Purdue’s scrimmage this morning are that Collin Sullvan has done really well and impressed  the coaching staff.  As a senior he finished the season with 69 receptions for 1,204 yards and 15 touchdowns.  Those are some video game numbers and when you remember that this was down in Texas in 6A competition.  Sullivan is another dark horse candidate to ball out this year and earn some serious minutes at the outside receiver spot opposite David Bell.  If Purdue feels comfortable enough to rotate receivers this year Sullivan could shine.

Kory Taylor – Reserve 

Sophomore – 6’5” 205 lbs.

Taylor has always been a very interesting person to watch and wait for him to breakout and really utilize is height to his advantage and really be a threat over the top and in the red zone.  Unfortunately we just haven’t had a chance to see that.  In 2019 he appeared in two games as a reserve and had a couple of decent catches in the 2019 spring game.  With the arrival of Maliq Carr, Taylor’s status as the tallest wideout is now contested along with his chances of getting some playing time on the outside or in the red zone.  I do think there could be some merit to the idea that Purdue could have a “Megatron” type set for the red zone, utilizing Purdue’s biggest receivers, if they have enough size mismatches this season.  Taylor could definitely be a part of that.

Purdue has a bevy of underclassmen walk-ons to fill out the roster and work the scout team:

Andrew Sowinski – Bishop Chatard (Indianpolis, Indiana)

Alex Maxwell – St. Leon (East Central, Indiana)

Daniel Roach – Central Catholic (Lafayette, Indiana)

Grant Summers – IMG Academy (Atlanta, Georgia)

Camden Childers – Carroll (Fort Wayne, Indiana)

Jake Smith – Harrison (Lafayette, Indiana)

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