CRAWFORD | In Brohm, Purdue getting even more than it bargained - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | In Brohm, Purdue getting even more than it bargained for

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Jeff Brohm speaks with Howard Schnellenberger before the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Jeff Brohm speaks with Howard Schnellenberger before the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It doesn't seem that long ago that I was saying Western Kentucky University was hiring one of the most-qualified first-time head coaches college football had ever seen when it named Jeff Brohm head coach three seasons ago.

Now, Purdue has lured Brohm away, and I have some news for the folks in West Lafayette, Ind.: You're getting one of the best young coaches in the country, period.

All Brohm did in his first college job was build one of the nation's most dangerous offenses at WKU, lead a program that only completed the process of transitioning to Division I in 2008 to an AP Top 25 ranking of No. 24 and a 12-2 record at the end of his second season in 2015. Then, after losing the leading passer in WKU history, he rebuilt the offense and won 10 games and another Conference USA championship in 2016.

WKU became just the second Football Bowl Subdivision program in the history of the state of Kentucky to win double-digit games in back-to-back seasons -- and its not like those other programs here haven't been at it for a while.

The numbers are what they are. You can look them all up and they're impressive. No. 2 in the nation in scoring offense this season at 45.1 points per game and No. 7 in total offense at 517.4 yards per contest.

The numbers are no fluke. A year ago the Hilltoppers averaged 44.3 points per game. The year before that 44.2. WKU's fast-paced offense is like a basketball fast-break. It should be a big hit in West Lafayette. 

There are all kinds of numbers. What they don't show you is Brohm's growth as a coach. There was no reason WKU should've been expected to win C-USA this past season. The Hilltoppers were picked to finish second in the East Division and most overall projections had them as the fourth-best team in the league overall, some as fifth-best.

But WKU beat division favorite Middle Tennessee on the road, beat West favorite Louisiana Tech in the league championship game after losing to them by three on the road in the regular season, and here they are, largely because of Brohm's ability to improvise, improve and inspire.

Brohm learned. He took an entire summer to become a student of the defensive side of the game. He educated himself. He worked at becoming a better coach, building a staff. This year's WKU team improved to 40th nationally in scoring defense and 37th in total defense.

This past summer, he was talking about his evolution as a coach, and at an event in Louisville talked with Rick Bozich and me about the kind of coach he hoped to be.

"I’ve played the game a long time, and coached for a lot of great coaches, lots of player’s coaches, lots of hard-ass coaches," Brohm said. "I believe in trying to make it fun. I tell our coaches, I want you guys to enjoy coming over to the building, spending extra time, bring your kids over, anything to make you want to be here and make you want to come to work. It’s never going to be perfect, but we try. Same with players. I want them to have fun. I want them to enjoy it. You only go through college once. I’ve been on staffs before where players were scared to come over after they made a mistake. I don’t want that. I think our players feel comfortable.”

This is what Purdue has gotten. I feel fairly confident in saying, it's probably more than they bargained for. And I'm sure they bargained a great deal.

RELATED: Background on Brohm

Brohm's football influences include a mini-hall of fame in itself. Howard Schnellenberger, Bobby Ross, George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, Mike Shanahan, Tony Dungy and others. As an NFL quarterback, he learned from guys like Steve Young and Jerry Rice.

On the day he was hired at WKU, the sports information staff asked him for the names of some people who could give them a nice line or two about him. He rattled off names like Young, Schnellenberger, Bobby Petrino, Ron Zook. They noticed the name of Jay Gruden on the list of people to contact. Kyle Neaves of WKU's sports information staff had just read a story about Gruden being named head coach of the Washington Redskins that day. It said he'd gotten 350 text messages. He figured he'd skip Gruden, but Brohm said, "No, shoot him a text and tell him what you want, he'll call back."

An hour later, Gruden was on the phone with Neaves.

Brohm has had a front-seat for some of the best minds in football, and he did more than just watch them. He learned.

He learned about building programs from Schnellenberger, who was the best in his time at doing it. Ross had success taking his system to multiple stops. Seifert was a defensive specialist and two-time Super Bowl winner. And on down the list. Shanahan. Dungy. He spent more time with Petrino than any of them, and learned a great deal.

Now, his first game at Purdue will be against Petrino and his alma mater. I don't know what kind of firepower Purdue has in its lineup. But in that game, whoever takes the field for the Boilermakers will be prepared.

Brohm has been nothing if not patient about his next step. He wasn't in a hurry to leave WKU. He wasn't in a hurry for a big payday. He made quite a bit of money in the NFL. He wanted the right spot. Even this year, he took his time to talk to Baylor about an opening before turning back to Purdue, and it took some convincing for Purdue to land him.

He picked Purdue as much as the school picked him. You can be sure he didn't make the move without studying it.

Brohm has turned himself into a very good head coach. If he keeps learning, he could be a great one.

I like his chances, because he's still learning.

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