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INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue football coach Jeff Brohm and his staff “love making the game fun.”
“We play an exciting brand of football,” Brohm told The Gazette at Big Ten Media Days. “It’s not just something that happens. We work on it. We want to throw it. We want to run trick plays. … We want to allow our players to make a name for themselves.”
That has helped the Boilermakers become an attractive destination for wide receivers in the transfer portal, especially ones from a more run-reliant Iowa offense.
Two of Purdue’s top wide receivers in 2022 are former Hawkeyes — Charlie Jones and Tyrone Tracy Jr. Jones announced his move to Purdue in June, and Tracy transferred in December.
Jones, the 2021 Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year, had plenty of opportunities with the Hawkeyes on special teams, but his offensive role was more limited. He had 34 of Iowa receivers’ 360 targets in 2021, per Pro Football Focus. Purdue’s receivers combined to receive 549 targets.
“(Jones) wanted to go somewhere and showcase what he could do at receiver,” Brohm said, “and get a chance to hopefully maybe play at the next level by catching a lot of balls and being in a passing offense.”
Brohm expects Jones to “be on the field quite a bit for us,” whether that be on offense or as a returner.
“He’s really done a good job this summer,” Brohm said. “He gives us great speed. He’s got a great connection with Aidan O’Connell because they grew up not too far from each other.”
O’Connell, Purdue’s starting quarterback, is from Long Grove, Ill., and Jones is from Deerfield, Ill. — both northern suburbs of Chicago. Jones already has left a good impression with his fellow Illinois native.
“He’s a dynamic player,” O’Connell said. “We’re going to need him.”
Tracy had high expectations going into 2021, but his season-high in receiving yards was only 43. Now, he has the potential to be a versatile weapon for the Purdue offense.
“He’s going to be a receiver and running back for us,” Brohm said. “We’re going to figure out ways for him to touch the ball.”
Brohm said Tracy, an Indianapolis native, has “come in with a great attitude” and has been “outstanding in his preparation” since arriving on campus.
“Anybody that plays for their hometown college football team takes a little more pride than others,” Brohm said. “They know that they have a lot of fans and family and friends watching, and they want to prove how good they can be.”
Unlike Jones, Tracy had the benefit of acclimating to his new team during the 15 practices allowed in the spring. O’Connell said “his name kept coming up” because of having “great practices” at both wide receiver and running back.
Jones’ and Tracy’s performance in West Lafayette could be key to how the Boilermakers’ prolific offense fares this year.
The Boilermakers’ top three wide receivers from 2021 — David Bell, Milton Wright and Jackson Anthrop — won’t be in a Purdue uniform in 2022. Bell went to the NFL Draft, Wright is academically ineligible and Anthrop graduated.
Back in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes don’t have much depth at wide receiver following Jones’ and Tracy’s departures.
Only three players at the position who are available for 2022 have caught a pass in a Hawkeye uniform — Nico Ragaini, Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV — although Iowa’s surplus of tight ends could help the situation. Jackson Ritter’s season-ending injury kept Iowa from having four.
At the same time, Purdue — with what Brohm describes as an “exciting brand of football” — has two wide receivers who have caught passes in Hawkeye uniforms.
“We’re not going to do things the traditional way just to do it,” Brohm said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to win.”
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