Offseason decision gives Purdue center Viktor Beach upper hand
"We want to take this to the next level and it’s going to start with this offensive line. I’ve got to be a real anchor for this offensive line"
WEST LAFAYETTE – Just the thought of walking into Purdue coach Jeff Brohm’s office – with offensive line coach Dale Williams sitting there with his visor on – generated a fear so great that Viktor Beach couldn’t wrap his head around it.
To avoid this potential encounter, Beach had to make a choice heading into the summer. Purdue’s projected starting center had missed nearly all of spring practice with a back injury and planned to stay on campus during Maymester and summer school to catch up.
He wanted the starting position, one of three up for grabs on the offensive line, heading into the 2019 season. The native of Fort Meyers, Florida, was considered the heir apparent to Kirk Barron, whose effort, talent and work ethic allowed him to start 39 consecutive games to cap his career.
Beach knew the right decision and made it. No more golf.
“It shows he’s getting smarter,” Williams said.
Just the idea of re-injuring his back on the golf course and telling Brohm and Williams made Beach break out in a cold sweat. No, thank you.
“Oh, man,” Beach said. “That would not be a fun walk up to coach Williams and coach Brohm’s office for sure.”
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Beach won’t have to make that walk now, at least for giving up golf. He might be summoned for another topic, but it won’t be because he tweaked his back on the golf course.
“I love to golf. My dad plays golf back home and a lot of teammates love to golf but I knew that would be terrible for my back," Beach said.
He leaned on the words of Max Halpin, a graduate assistant offensive line coach for the Boilermakers. Halpin endured a similar back injury and loved to play golf. He put the clubs away and made a commitment to improving his health and overall play at Western Kentucky.
Beach is taking the same path with the Boilermakers.
“It was fine,” Beach said. “I had to get past the first mental block and realized – ‘I’m here to play football.’ I’m here to make this team successful. A 6-6 record isn’t good enough. We want to take this to the next level and it’s going to start with this offensive line. I’ve got to be a real anchor for this offensive line and step up and earn this spot and not give the coaches any doubts or questions in their mind.”
Beach is right about the offensive line. This group of five must be solid for Brohm’s high-powered offense with numerous weapons at the receiver position to thrive.
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After seven days of practice, Beach has settled into the starting spot at center. He’s also playing left guard, allowing Will Bramel an opportunity to gain experience at center.
Three of the five starting positions appear to be solidified, along with tackles Grant Hermanns and Matt McCann, who has seen action at right guard and Bramel playing right tackle. The guard spots remain the biggest questions, although D.J. Washington and Alex Criddle have emerged as the leaders.
“Through the small little summer throwing sessions that we had, we were just throwing a bunch of different guys in there and trying to see who jelled well, who could figure it out and first and foremost who’s going to know the plays and be comfortable,” Beach said.
“You can somewhat know what you’re doing but you can’t be slow out there. You’re not going to get up to game speed unless you’re confident you know what you’re doing. We’ll find those guys, moving people around and pieces of the puzzle around and running through each play and getting everybody familiar at each spot.”
Not only does Beach have to replace Barron the player, but Barron the leader. He was the anchor on the offensive line, giving it stability and leadership skills that will be hard to equal without the experience.
“I think I have a good knowledge of every position on the line. With the two guard spots being super young, they might not know what they’re doing,” Beach said. “I’m pretty confident I know what they’re doing, so I can make sure to tell them what to do.
“Coach is throwing me at left guard. That gives me confidence that they trust me to play both of those positions. Even if I’m playing center, I can help that left guard because I know what that left guard is going to be doing.”
Mike Carmin covers Purdue football for the Journal & Courier. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @carmin_jc