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Purdue Boilermakers Football Preview: A look at the 2015 defense

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Earlier today we took our Purdue Boilermakers preview from the way back machine to looking forward for a change, with a look at the offense. So, it’s only natural that after that we give the same amount of coverage to the defensive side of the ball.

It’s this side that has been the somewhat bright spot of the Hazell era, but could that be changing heading in to the 2015 season? There is a rising sophomore with an unknown future at defensive end, a steady star in a secondary that otherwise has underwhelmed and a linebacking group with a lot more in the way of questions than answers too.

Let’s just say, while the Boilermakers defense was the strength it wasn’t exactly good either. After all, the defense ranked in the double digits of the Big Ten in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense in 2014.

Can any of that change now that more and more of Hazell’s recruits are about to see the field? Let’s see what the 2015 season looks like on the defensive side of the ball.

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Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Big Ten

Top 25 Players in the Big Ten for 2017: No’s 20-16

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It is almost time for pads to start popping and helmets to start cracking together…and that means football season is right around the corner. Here at talking10 it also means the release of our annual Big Ten Preseason Top 25 Players list.

Top 25 List: No’s 25-21 |

After unveiling the first five players for the 2017 season, we continue our annual countdown of the best the Big Ten has to offer according to our staff.

Don’t forget to follow our staff of Andy Coppens, Phil Harrison, Philip Rossman-Reich and Zach Worthington on Twitter for their breakdowns of the Top 25 and their individual lists.

No. 20 — Michael Deiter, OC/G (Wisconsin)

http://gty.im/615527018

2016 Season Stats: Started all fourteen games in 2016 (ten at center and four at left guard). He was a consensus all-Big Ten honorable mention for the second year in a row, and anchored a line that saw the Badgers rush for 203.1 yards per game.
Best Game: vs. Illinois (led the O-line in a team effort of 363 yards rushing, 6TDs and no INTs)

Deiter is the arguably the most valuable and versatile player on the offensive line. He returns for his third year, so there’s also tons of experience to draw from. Wisconsin will always be a run first team, but we can’t forget about the passing game. To that end, he has been worked at left tackle some in the spring, so there’s a good shot he’ll at least be seeing some time against edge rushers that will be hell-bent on getting to the quarterback.

He’s played the interior of the line, has had to call out blocking assignments, and is a two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten performer. He’ll be counted on again to be the leader of Wisconsin’s vaunted offensive line tradition in 2017.

No. 19 — David Blough, QB (Purdue)

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2016 Season Stats: 3,352 passing yards, 295 for 517 (57.1%), 25 TDs, 21 INTs, 4 TDs rushing
Best Game: vs. Iowa (458 yards passing on 30 for 59 (50.8%), 5 TDS, 1 INT

There’s no questioning the talent No. 11 possesses. But up until last year, it had just been potential with a lot of inconsistent play. While the decision making still needs to get better, Blough can make all the throws in the book. He is accurate deep, has a big arm, and when hot, can give even the best of secondaries fits.

Purdue has long been known as the cradle of quarterbacks in the Big Ten, and if Blough can cut down on the interceptions and learn the new system head coach Jeff Brohm, we might be looking at a first team All-Big Ten type talent. He’ll get the volume, he just needs to grow as a decision maker and be more consistent — especially against the better defenses in the league.

No. 18 — D’Cota Dixon, S (Wisconsin)

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2016 Season Stats: 60 total tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1 sack, 4 INTs, 4 PBs, 1 FF, and 1 recovered fumble
Best Game: vs. Ohio State (9 total tackles, 1 INT)

Dixon is the steady safety that never misses an assignment and seems to have a knack for the big play. His interception late in the game sealed the win over LSU on September 3, and another INT in the end zone in overtime ended Nebraska’s bid for an upset in Camp Randall on October 29.

He earned third team All-Big Ten as well as Academic All-Big Ten last year. He is a great leader on and off the field and is very involved in the community, but it’s his play on the field that gets him the recognition in our Top 25. As the game has progressed to more and more spread attacks — with the Big Ten being no exception — having a safety as a leader and big-play guy who can read things is paramount to the success of the defense. Dixon fits that bill.

He’s already been named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watchlist this preseason. The award is given annually to the player judged to be the best defensive player in the country, and is handed out by the Football Writers Association of America. The Badger D is counting on his steady play in the back-end of the defense to keep up the high level they’ve been playing at over the last few years.

No. 17 — Jack Cichy, LB (Wisconsin)

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2016 Season Stats: 60 total tackles, 7 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 2 passes defended
Best Game: vs. Ohio State (15 tackles, 3.5 TFLs)

Cichy probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Part of that is likely because of his size, and another part is largely due to an injury that cut his season short last year. Still, No. 48 is another hard-nosed, 100% effort Wisconsin inside linebacker who is not afraid to throw his body into the fray.

In 2016, he was a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award, Lott IMPACT Trophy quarter-finalist, and All Big Ten honorable mention. And that was in just seven games of duty.

He’ll once again be looking to anchor a defense that has set the template for being stingy and aggressive. If he can stay healthy in 2017, he will be a force once again, and get further notoriety than what he already has.

As far as the preseason awards go, he is on the Bednarik, Nagurski, and Lott IMPACT Trophy watch-lists, and for good reason.

No. 16 — Marcus Allen, S (Penn State)

http://gty.im/602967178

2016 Season Stats: 110 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 passes defended
Best Game: vs. Minnesota (22 tackles)

Allen led the Nittany Lions in tackles last year — as a safety. Yes, a player out of the secondary led the entire defense in tackles. Let that sink in for a moment, because it’s the first time a safety has done that in Happy Valley since James Boyd did it in 2000.

Allen is very good at diagnosing plays on the back-end, but even better at coming up in run support, and off his initial read to make stops closer to the line of scrimmage. He’s not afraid to stick his head in on bigger players, and has great break and explosion after recognition.

In 2016, he was named All-Big Ten third team by the Coaches, and so far in 2017 he is on the Nagurski, Lott IMPACT, and Bednarik watch-lists. He is another talented defender on the back end that should play a huge part in the continuation of the Penn State resurgence.

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Boilers Football

Purdue Boilermakers 2017 Spring Football Game: What We Learned

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Spring games and spring football mean very different things to teams across the country. Some are trying to find starters or replace a bunch of talent that is off the NFL, others are hoping to just stay healthy and get work done.

However, with a new coaching staff, the Purdue Boilermakers’ 2017 spring camp has been all about finding out who this team is.

On Saturday afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium, the Boilermakers presented themselves to the general public for the first time in the Jeff Brohm era. It is all about tempo, big plays and getting back to the basics of attacking through a pass-happy offense.

But, was that what was on display in the 2017 Purdue spring game? Let’s find out what we learned from the spring game and camp.

There’s Reason For Hope

You know a program is down in the dumps when fans stop showing up to games in droves. All hope seems lost.

Well, if the spring game is any indication, Purdue fans should be ready to have a bit more optimism heading in to the 2017 season. Things were far from perfect during Saturday’s spring game, but both sides of the ball provided big moments that should provide hope to the fans going forward.

Brohm’s offense is predicated on hitting big plays and creating mismatches with tempo. We bore witness to some of the big-play ability that could be there this season in the first half of the spring game. Jackson Anthrop and Gregory Phillips seems to have found an ability to make big plays happen in the pass-catching department and that was good to see.

Defensively, the aggressiveness that was talked about all spring camp long also was on display. There were big plays, big hits and plenty of individual talent on display. There were also 11 “sacks” on the day (as quarterbacks weren’t actually live). It all added up to the defense winning 45-30 over the offense.

Names like safety T.J. Jallow, LEO linebacker Rob Simmons and fellow linebacker Kai Higgins were huge for the defense. Simmons was a stud and couldn’t be a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses based on his size and athleticism. Higgins recorded three sacks on the day and Jallow, a JUCO transfer from East Mississippi Community College, showed he was more than a hitting machine on the field.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a long way to go for this team. The defense blew some big assignments and it cost them early on in the game. The offense was brutal as well, scoring just three touchdowns on 23 possessions in the spring game.

But, this was at least a positive start to the Brohm era and a showcase that a solid foundation for future success is being laid.

David Blough Better Stay Healthy

One thing was abundantly clear from the spring game, and that is this offense without David Blough is in trouble. Many believed Elijah Sindelar would be the easy call as the backup, but reports out of camp said he was struggling at times and that was on full display on Saturday.

Sindelar took plenty of snaps before bowing out in the second half of the game, but couldn’t lead the Boilermakers offense in to the end zone at all. He finished the day 14 of 25 passes for 177 yards and no touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the athletic Jordan Sparks showed he still has plenty to work on as a passer — going just 9 of 18 for 106 yards and an interception.

Those aren’t exactly confidence-inducing numbers in an offense that is predicated on good quarterback play. Purdue’s quarterbacks need to step up to the plate in case the worst happens to Blough, because what we saw from them as a whole on Saturday was not good to say the least.

Wide Receiver Needs An Upgrade

Jackson Anthrop is a name to watch after the spring game. He at least stepped up when the big plays were needed. The younger brother to former Purdue wide receiver Danny Anthrop got free for a 69-yard reception on a simple go route early on in the game and then scored a 19-yard touchdown when the defense failed to cover him on the same route later in the first half.

But, outside of that kind of play it was a bad day for the Boilermakers wide receivers group. Even Gregory Phillips, the most experienced returning option, had a bad day overall. He followed up a big play early on by dropping easy passes and being largely irrelevant most of the day.

There will be an influx of names coming this summer, including former Notre Dame player Corey Holmes. One would expect the three newcomers will have ample opportunity to make the most of their arrival.

After all, this group has done next to nothing to show they are consistent enough to move this offense and this team to a different level than before.

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Boilers Football

What to watch for in Purdue Boilermakers 2017 Spring Game

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Few new head coaches in the Power 5 conferences have the challenge ahead of them as Purdue Boilermakers Jeff Brohm does. The good news is Brohm hasn’t buried his head in the sand so far.

Instead, this spring has been all about “going to work” and taking it back to fundamentals. Purdue has broken things down to the basics in hopes of building a solid base to work with, and given the disaster that was the Darrell Hazell era in West Lafayette, Ind. it probably has been the wise move.

But, as all new coaching regimes go, intrigue on just how quickly a turnaround may happen starts with the first public event — the spring game. With so many questions to answer, what are going to be the biggest ones facing Purdue in this particular moment?

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest things to watch for on Saturday

Defensive Improvement

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, Purdue’s defense has been in decline for a long time and it hit rock bottom in the Darrell Hazell years. Of course, there were individually talented players, but as a unit this group has been brutal for a while now.

Brohm isn’t exactly know as a defensive coach, so he’ll be trusting co-defensive coordinators Nick Holt and Anthony Pointdexter to turn this train around. Holt and Pointdexter are familiar names to Brohm, with both coaching on his staff at Western Kentucky.

Reports from camp have highlighted a huge pick up in hard-hitting JUCO safety T.J. Jallow from the now infamous “Last Chance U” series about Eastern Mississippi Community College. He’s been laying the wood when he can this spring and that certainly will be helpful to a defensive scheme that wants to be aggressive.

Gelen Robinson has slid inside and been a monster and overall the aggressiveness of the defense has certainly been turned up. But, is it because of pure improvement from the players or because of offensive deficiencies? Saturday’s spring game should help provide some of the answers and if they are positive for the defense, that will be a welcome bit of news for Boilermakers fans everywhere.

Any Help for David Blough in Passing Game

Let’s just say new head coach Jeff Brohm has laid down the gauntlet for the wide receivers this offseason. Simply put, the cupboard appeared bare and anyone willing to step up and showcase themselves in a positive light is likely to see the field this fall.

Has anyone taken advantage of the opportunities presented to them? Reports out of practice have not been too positive for the receiving group so far. Instead, most have been about how good the secondary has looked.

If anyone can show some consistency and some pop in the spring game, they are certainly going to find themselves in the mix for large amounts of snaps this fall. Let’s see if anyone can actually show out on Saturday.

Offensive Line Play

If you’re familiar with the Big Ten, then you know championships are largely won with the play of the offensive and defensive lines. Have an elite group on both sides and watch your championship chances skyrocket.

Purdue has been as far from stellar on that front as possible for the last few years. Can Brohm and offensive line coach Dale Williams get this group to a quality level quickly? The good news is that this group is young and inexperienced, meaning Williams won’t have to break them of habits he doesn’t like and can mold this group in his image.

Judging by the fact he was able to get a player like Frank Martin, who was named third team All-American this past season, to elite levels, expect the Boilers offensive line to get better quickly.

However, it hasn’t been an easy spring. Reports indicate the offensive line has had trouble handling the aggressive nature of Purdue’s new-look defense. Will that show up in spring ball or will Williams be able to show his group has improved enough over 15 practices to be excited about come the fall?

There are a lot of holes to fill in on this team and this spring game will likely be about finding those players who want to step up and do something about those holes. The offensive line included.

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Badgers Basketball

2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special

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The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?

Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.

So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.

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