Boilermakers' run game must improve

Purdue needs to find balance on offense. Its running game must improve. Boiler Sports Report gives a detailed look at the Boilermakers' run game.

Key Returners: Akeem Hunt, Senior; Brandon Cottom, Senior; David Yancey, Sophomore; Dalyn Dawkins, Sophomore.
Key Depatures: Kurt Freytag (Graduating)
Additions: Dexter Knox, Creekside (Ga.) High School

Summary: To put it kindly, Purdue's rushing attack was nonexistent last season. The Boilermakers averaged 67.1 rushing yards per game and posted just six touchdowns on the ground. Akeem Hunt was supposed to be the primary focus of the offense, but averaged 38.7 yards per game—still the team's leading rusher. Brandon Cottom and Dalyn Dawkins also saw touches but none of the three made a significant impact.

Looking Ahead: Purdue needs to have some semblance of a rushing attack to complement a passing game with high potential. Whether it's Hunt, Dawkins, Knox or somebody else, the Boilermakers need to find balance on offense. To have such lowly rushing statistics each game is simply inexcusable. Purdue needs more from its ground game.


The goal was to build an identity—bruising, physical, relentless. Purdue hoped it could run a ground-and-pound offense. It didn't quite come to fruition.

It all starts up front where the offensive line faltered. The Boilermakers' blockers didn't give the backs a chance to be successful. But there's plenty of blame to fall on the shoulders of Purdue's tailbacks.

Akeem Hunt was supposed to be a standout in the offense. After a season of averaging more than eight yards per carry, he posted more than half that mark. Hunt tallied just 464 yards on the ground (38.7 per game) and one touchdown. The other options didn't work, either.

Behind Hunt, Brandon Cottom recorded 154 yards on 45 carries while freshman Dalyn Dawkins didn't do much better. So where do the Boilermakers go from here?

Purdue's offensive line play must greatly improve for the rushing attack to have success. There's potential for improvement with some promising recruits. Frankly, though, it can't get much worse.

With better blocking, we may just see stronger play from the Boilermakers' ground game. Perhaps Hunt can again resemble that elusive runner we saw before 2013. But it's hard to believe in much when it comes to this subject.

After the shift to a pass-happy, West Coast offense, Purdue ditched much of its plans to build that ground-and-pound game. Still, a blueprint has to be configured to make the rushing attack efficient.

The Boilermakers would be wise to stick with Hunt as their feature back. His struggles of last season were likely just an anomaly, largely due to poor blocking. A tailback that excels in space couldn't get past the first level of defense.

Hunt is a vital weapon in the passing game, too. It's a sad note, but he was the team's second-leading receiver—more of an indictment of the inconsistencies at receiver than anything else. Purdue's offense has potential to take some strides next season and much of that is because of Hunt.

Don't count out sophomores Dalyn Dawkins and David Yancey, plus incoming freshman Dexter Knox. The Boilermakers can count on Dawkins for speed, Knox for power and Yancey for some in-between. There are certainly talented tailbacks in the stable.

Maybe Purdue's offense can come closer to forming an identity.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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