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Purdue Boilermakers Need to Get Defensive in Next Head Coaching Hire

Earlier this week we gave you a list of five names the Purdue Boilermakers and athletic director Mike Bobinski needed to be looking at in its search for the next head football coach.

It just so happens that one of those names, ex-Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, has had his name surface as a realistic option should the Purdue brass reach out to him. Naturally, be we believe the Boilers brass needs to be making that phone call, and making it quickly.

However, just because there is interest and openness on the part of Pelini doesn’t mean the Boilermakers are going to make him the next head coach.

What it should indicate is that Bobinski and Co. should be looking around the conference and figuring out the formula that is working for those teams competing at the top.

Bobinski is likely to find that the formula includes playing tough-nosed and statistically impressive defense. Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska are the Big Ten’s best teams, and it is no mistake that they are also the conference’s best overall defenses as well.

Purdue went with the gimmick offense before, hiring Joe Tiller just as the college football world was on the verge of a spread offense revolution. It then tried to clone that idea in the hire of Danny Hope, and that failed miserably.

Darrell Hazell? That hire seemed to be a mess and a reach to find someone with Big Ten ties at the top. His stint at Ohio State under Jim Tressel seemed to be the single thing Morgan Burke hung his hat on.

That and the fact that Hazell was a really good person.

Clearly that idea didn’t work, so why not try something different and try getting tougher.

Pelini’s win-loss record at Nebraska is well-documented and debated by now. However, what do the numbers say about his defenses during Nebraska’s time in the Big Ten under him?

Nebraska finished seventh in total defense in 2011 (8th in rushing, 7th in passing), but hit a high-water mark of 4th in total defense in 2013 (7th in rushing, 4th in passing).

No doubt that Pelini would fulfill the idea of getting tougher on defense, but there are a number of coaches that would do the same (and have better actual results) and have ties to Big Ten country.

Dave Aranda of LSU (and formerly Wisconsin) — you bet his defenses play tough and his schemes are incredible. His work at Wisconsin earned him a $1.2 million deal to coach the Tigers defense, and while the scheme may be a difficult transition, Aranda proved scheme and players can be married easily.

Greg Schiano of Ohio State (and formerly Rutgers) — have you seen what his defense has done this year with all those starters gone and all those first-time starters for the Buckeyes? This group is incredibly aggressive and physical once again and Schiano has a lot to do with the young players getting up to expectations.

When is the last time we talked about Purdue’s defense and actually being aggressive in the same sentence?

Matt Rhule of Temple — He was a linebacker at Penn State and has coached on both sides of the football. Oh, and he’s made Temple in to a viable FBS football team, no small feat.

The point is, all of these options show that Purdue doesn’t have to look at a head coach that will bring a gimmick offense in to the mix to be successful. If it can become a solid defensive team with an identity that is comfortable for the head coach on offense, the Boilermakers may just become a viable Big Ten team once again.

Some fans may want the newest and fanciest of toys to play with on offense, but the reality is nothing is going to change at Purdue until it fixes a defense that has been at or near the bottom of the Big Ten barrel for far too long.

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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