Big Changes on the 2 Deep?

The official 2 deep is out, and there are quite a few changes in the offensive scheme.

No, Alexander Webb isn't the new QB, and there are only a few adjustments on the defense.
Something about the layout on offense suggests NU is moving away from the 3 WR spread offense and back to a 2 back 2 WR scheme with a tight end. Its pretty obvious from the 2 deep - 2 Running Backs and 2 Wide Receivers - essentially a split end and a flanker - is the way I'd read it.

Injuries to Junior WR Ashton Aikens' knee, then Soph Mark Philmore [ACL strain] are probably the reason for the adjustments, as NU's OC Mike Dunbar has watched his experienced receiving corps corps shrink. He still has a long list of wideouts, but they apparently haven't worked their way into the mix just yet.

So the projected 2 deep for Purdue shows Senior Jason Wright and Junior Noah Herron [on the move left - AP Photo] lining up at running back, with the "rells" as backups.

Before you get too excited, Skip Myslenski of the Chicago Trib reports that Herron will be running the Z WR routes, and they've got #12, Soph Derrell Jenkins listed as his backup. Those who pay close attention to the 2 deep will remember that Jenkins was listed as the #2 Z-WR last week. We've seen NU in a 2 back set this year, most notably last week in short yardage situations, but at appears the shuffle is more cosmetic than an actual realignment of the offense.

So the interesting change for the Purdue game is the elimination of the Z-WR position from the 2-deep on paper. The injury to the starter out there, Mark Philmore [AP Photo right], out 4 weeks, is probably the reason, but the change affects speedy Eric Batis who is not listed at WR [he's still the holder]. Other media reports indicate that frosh Sean Herbert has replaced Philmore out at the Z slot with Brandon Horn [X WR Roger Jordan's backup] and Batis getting more looks this week too.

Randy Walker's comment:? "We're going to have to have some guys step up in the receiving corps"

The only changes are the addition of Senior Louis Ayeni and Junior Jarvis Adams as backup Safeties.

Everyone who watched the game Saturday realized how much the NU defense missed Ayeni, who is listed as Senior Torri Stuckey's backup but plays a lot in the various defensive sets the Wildcats like to throw out on the field. Adams is also listed on the 2 deep as d-back coach Jerry Brown lists 3 safeties at each position this week.

I don't read much into the shifts here. The NU defensive backfield is very fluid with almost every player shuffling in and out based on the situation. As long as it works you won't hear much whining about playing time.

Special Teams:
We're back to Kunle Patrick running the punts, with Jeff Backes as the #2. You worry about 2 starters doing that, but this week Backes could really get tested by Purdue, so Patrick it is. Deep down inside, I wonder why Eric Batis doesn't run back something - when I saw him last Spring, I was impressed with how fast he gets off the ball.

So much for changes. I'm a little worried about Jason Wright's ankle -- he's sitting out practice this week, but should play Saturday down at Purdue. Terrell Jordan is quick, but he needs more experience if he's going to dethrone Jason this year.  I'd really like to see Herron run in Wright's slot a bit, maybe we'll get to see some of that this weekend.

The other concern is the development of the freshman WR's we recruited last year. I'm all for redshirts for frosh - it gives them time to learn both the NU academic environment, and the football playbook - but I really expected to see a couple of them out there this year. At this point, I wouldn't burn any redshirts but I had hoped for an infusion of speed from the freshman class.

So off to Ross-Aide we go. Sounds like a John Mellancamp concert? Nope - its Purdue.

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