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Purdue Boilermakers Football Preview: A look at the 2016 defense

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The Purdue Boilermakers of 2016 have a big hill to climb after a 3-9 season in 2015, and a lot of that hill comes from a defense that simply couldn’t stop the other team from scoring. Even in the lone Big Ten victory over Nebraska, Purdue’s defense still gave up 45 points.

Change has to happen internally, and without the two best players from that defense last season in defensive backs Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown. With those two out of the picture thanks to graduation, Purdue has to find other ways to stop opposing offenses from going nuts on them once again.

Can time and reps help a pass rush that was pretty brutal? What about a rush defense that was second to last in the B1G last season? Simply put, the Boilermakers have a lot of holes to fill and production improvements to make in 2016.

But, how will that happen if at all? Let’s look at those who may make it happen here in 2016.

 

Defensive Line

There are two sides to every coin, and that certainly is the case with the Purdue defensive line. On the one hand, it has some star potential up the middle and on the other hand the stats say it needs some big time work on pass rushing and rushing defense.

A great example of that is junior defensive tackle Jake Replogle, who had 60 tackles and 14.0 tackles for loss last season. But, he had just 2.0 sacks and no one on the team had more than 4.0 sacks total (21.0 as a team). He needs to step up, especially with former fellow starter Ra’Zahn Howard opting to transfer from the program following spring football. That means names like sophomores Eddy Wilson and Keiwan Jones have to step up to the plate.

As for the ends and the hopes of creating some pass rush? Just like Replogle needs to step up inside, so does fellow junior, Gelen Robinson, on the outside. He’ll be joined by another underwhelming performer that needs to step up in senior Evan Panfil.

There also isn’t a lot of quality in depth and the hope will be that names like JUCO transfer Austin Larkin and incoming freshmen defensive tackles Anthony Watts and Lorenzo Neal step up quickly to fill the voids on the depth chart.

Linebackers

One name and one name only should be on your mind when it comes to the Purdue Boilermakers linebacking group — Ja’Whaun Bentley. That’s not saying much, considering he racked up just 49 tackles last season…until you realize that total came in just five games. He’s back and better than ever after a stellar spring.

If Purdue’s defense is going to up the ante in rush defense, Bentley’s presence in the middle is going to have a lot to do with it.

Surrounding Bentley at linebacker will likely be senior Jimmy Herman (SAM) and junior Danny Ezechuwku (WILL). The latter comes in to this season as the second leading tackler from last season (79), but had just 2.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sacks last season. Again, numbers that must change if this team is going to do anything defensively.

Depth on the outside could come from Markus Bailey, who got his feet wet as a freshman last season with nine tackles in just two games played. Outside of that, this a group that doesn’t have much to write home about and a lot to prove.

Secondary

Purdue could really have used another season out of star defensive back Frankie Williams, but that isn’t going to happen. Neither is the return of last seasons best defensive back, Anthony Brown, who led the team with four interceptions. Life without him will be interesting for the Boilermakers defensive backfield without them.

Leading this group has to be senior safety Leroy Clark, who finished last season as one of just three Boilermakers with multiple interceptions to his name. Stepping in to Williams’ shoes will be senior Robert Gregory who did have 50 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in backup duty last year.

Cornerback will be a real interesting situation for this team, but it appears junior Da’Wan Hunte will take over on one side and Tim Cason will be on the other side. Depth is a concern based on a lack of experience across the cornerback position, but inexperience doesn’t mean there isn’t quality necessarily.

We’ll all get to find out together as the season goes on, that’s for sure.

 

Questions Still to Be Answered

Can Jake Replogle Be Enough in the Middle?

If there is a star on the Purdue defensive line, it is Replogle and even that could be a stretch. While he can get behind the line of scrimmage, the lack of help around him led to numbers that were completely out of whack. He clearly couldn’t do it alone last season, but with his fellow starter from last year gone he may have to find a way to do it again or this team will suffer the same bad pass rush and porous rush defense it did a season ago.

Are Youngsters Ready at Cornerback?

After putting out some of the best cornerbacks the Big Ten has seen over the last decade or so, Purdue turns that spot over to a lot of potentially talented but equally inexperienced cornerbacks. The good news is that Da’Wan Hunte showed out in the spring and could be the next star at cornerback for the Boilermakers. Beyond that, this group has a lot of unknowns that need to show quickly they are capable of handling Big Ten wide receivers.

Our Projected Starters

DE: Gelen Robinson, Jr.
DT: Jake Replogle, Jr.
DT: Eddie Wilson, So.
DE: Evan Panfil, Sr.
OLB:
MLB:
OLB:
CB: Da’Wan Hunte, Jr.
FS: Leroy Clark, Sr.
SS: Robert Gregory, Sr.
CB: Tim Cason, So.

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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Boilers Football

Music City Bowl: Auburn takes apart Purdue

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After watching fellow Big Ten West division teams Minnesota and Wisconsin demolish opponents to open the bowl season, Purdue got taken apart by Auburn 63-14 in the 2018 Music City Bowl.

The Boilermakers were down for the count before they even knew what hit them. It was 28-7 after the first quarter and 56-7 at the half.

Auburn’s 56 first half points were the most in a half in any bowl game in history and its 63 points were the most by any SEC team ever in a bowl game.

Senior quarterback David Blough wanted to go out on a high note, but finished with just 184 yards and two interceptions without a single touchdown to his name.

Meanwhile, his counterpart at Auburn — Jarret Stidham — need just 15 completions in less than three full quarters of play to rack up 373 yards and five touchdown passes.

It was the first game of head coach Gus Malzahn taking on play calling duties and his offense certainly responded well.

Purdue allowed 586 yards of total offense to the Tigers, who also were 50 percent on third down conversions and averaged 23.6 yards per completion in the game.

About the only bright spot was the play of sensational freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore, who had 11 catches for 94 yards and 104 yards of total offense with a touchdown.

This one will be put in the vault and never seen again by the Boilermakers.

Purdue will now look forward to new goals and hopes of being a player in a suddenly much more competitive Big Ten West division race with the likes of Minnesota, Nebraska and themselves competing on a higher level late in the season.

The next time the Boilermakers will be on the field against a different opponent will be Aug. 31 as they take on the Nevada Wolfpack in Reno.

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Jeff Brohm says no to Louisville, will Purdue be his long-term future?

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There was much rejoicing in West Lafayette, Ind. on Wednesday night. Head coach Jeff Brohm announced he was staying at Purdue and not leaving for the Lousiville job. 

After watching a dormant Purdue football program make a steady and fun rise back to relevancy in just two years under Jeff Brohm, there was real fear that Brohm would be gone.

Brohm’s ties to the Lousiville program are well known, and there’s no doubt he loves the program. But, just a few weeks ago we talked about how the situations of the two programs made the “inevitable” move not so inevitable after all. 

It appears that the heartstrings of the team he is building and the things Purdue have promised were enough to keep him from his “dream job.” 

“This is by far No. 1. The hardest ever. Not even close,” Brohm said about the decision to stay with the Boilermakers and bypass an opportunity to return home, via the Lafayette Journal and Courier

Now that that is settled, what does the future really look like for Brohm and the Boilermakers? In the short-term it appears that once again the Board of Trustees is set to increase Brohm’s salary and likely the pool of money for his assistant coaches. 

Purdue also has gone all-in on getting better facilities for the football program and those investments are starting to pay off in the form of better recruiting. 

Brohm has recruited the No. 25 ranked class in the country. Some of it is no doubt who he is and how his staff is built, but it’s also an equal part what the Boilermakers can sell to recruits once they are on campus. 

Top-notch facilities, a fun and honest coach and one of the most prolific offensive schemes in the country make this Purdue team exciting to young and old alike. 

All of it adds up to the formula for where Brohm can have long-term success right there in West Lafayette. 

Stepping stone to another job? More like here for the long haul. At least that was the signal I got from what this decision meant. 

Brohm said as much when speaking to the Journal and Courier on Thursday in that one-on-one interview. 

“Purdue’s been great and that’s no shot at Louisville. Louisville was great to me,” Brohm said. “I like it where I’m at and I think we have all the resources we need to continue to get better and improve and try to become a contender and a competitor in a great conference to play at a high level.

“Really, the last place I was at (Western Kentucky) I probably would’ve stayed there forever other than this is a step up in football and I need to do it right here.”

If Brohm wasn’t leaving Purdue for the Lousiville job or for the Tennessee job after last season, what would it really take to pry him away from the Boilermakers program? 

The good news for Purdue fans is that what Brohm signaled to the college football world is that it is going to take something really special to pry him away. 

We’re talking about Nick Saban retiring, Clemson idiotically running Dabo Sweeney off to the NFL or even the NFL itself calling on Brohm for him to leave. 

But the picture of Brohm becoming more like an institution at Purdue than a one-night stand is becoming clear. This could be the moment of clarity where Brohm sets aside any other jobs and focuses on what he has in front of him. 

Purdue stepped up to the plate and now Brohm has rewarded their efforts. It’s a marriage that both seem dedicated to for the long haul now. 

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Boilers Football

Is Jeff Brohm to Louisville inevitable?

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The last name Brohm and Louisville are about as synonymous as any could be with a single program. After all, Jeff Brohm’s father is the man who laid the foundation for the modern era at Louisville. 

So, with Bobby Petrino out as the head coach of the Cardinals it was only natural that speculation would run rampant about the hottest Power 5 head coach in the country — Jeff Brohm. 

Brohm has proven what a good leader and a good turnaround artist can look like in college football. But, would he really leave after just two seasons at the helm of the Purdue program? 

ESPN personality and Indianapolis radio host Dan Dakich seems to be under that impression. He tweeted out the following on Thursday: 

Just earlier this week, Brohm addressed the obvious connections and the speculation that would come with the Louisville opening. 

“I’ve heard the noise just like everyone else,” Brohm said during his regular weekly press conference on Monday morning. “I think unfortunately it’s important for me to not comment on any speculation right now. I have a job, and we’ve got work to do, and a lot of it. We’re going to put forth the effort to do that. We’ve got a tough opponent this week, and then we’ve got to go to IU, and we’re going to have to play well, and we’re going to have to play much better than we did last week, so I’m going to stay focused on that, and very appreciative of the job I have right now.”

While that is all well and good, Brohm didn’t exactly smack down the rumors for after this season. He didn’t make a definitive statement that he would be back in 2019 and end the speculation. He chose to say he would focus on the here and now and leave the other stuff open to interpretation. 

So, it’s hard to ignore when sources inside the state of Indiana are attempting to break a story about the Louisville-Brohm situation.

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that Brohm is also one of the most private coaches in all of college football. He doesn’t even have an agent to help handle contract negotiations for example.  

Given that, is it prudent to believe reports from one source of information as the gospel of what will happen?

After all, we’ve seen this song and dance with plenty of coaching searches in the past. Names were “hired per sources” or the “target of the search” per sources plenty of times in the last three years, only to find out none of it was even true. 

Perhaps these sources are angling for some piece of the pie should Brohm move or to stir the pot and force Louisville in a different direction? For those who have never sourced information before, the trick is figuring out the meaning behind the information you are given. 

We can also lean on the past to inform us if a rumor or report is true. 

In the case of Brohm all we have to do is look to last year to know that he is at least open to the idea of coaching elsewhere. There was serious flirtation between Brohm and Tennessee before Brohm chose to take his name out of the running. 

It isn’t as if he has the ties that bind him to Purdue in any meaningful way, and that’s what the Tennessee job flirtation told me. 

Additionally, are there multiple reports of this happening?

The good news is that it’s Dan Dakich and Dan Dakich alone making this claim. In the hour since his claim there is not another single credible report of the same information. 

Breathe for a moment Purdue fan, it may not be as over as you think it is. 

Purdue has money, new facilities in the works and a wide open division. Louisville? That money situation has really dried up, the program and athletic department have taken massive hits and it’ll mean another rebuild just two years after starting his latest project. 

Will the power of family connections win out? Maybe…but it isn’t nearly as inevitable as many in the media are leading people to believe. 

Until Jeff Brohm or Louisville make that announcement, skepticism remains the smartest option. 

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Purdue’s Moore puts Big Ten on notice in record-setting debut

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There are no moral victories in college football. So, don’t expect the Purdue Boilermakers to be happy about a 31-27 loss to Northwestern in the 2018 season and Big Ten opener. 

But, despite the loss at least one individual showcased an ability to tear up Big Ten defenses nearly at will. 

That person is true freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore. 

All that Moore did was go out and set a single-game record for the most all-purpose yardage with 313 combined yards. He broke Otis Armstrong’s school record, set in 1972 of 312 yards. 

It wasn’t just one part of the game that stood out either, as Moore did it as a receiver, a running back and a kick returner too. 

Just how impressive was Moore’s debut? He nearly broke the record in just one half of his college football debut. Moore had 302 of his 313 yards in the first half alone. 

That first half total broke down like this — 79 rushing, 98 receiving and 125 on kickoff returns. 

HIs big night almost looked like it wouldn’t get off the ground though. On the first drive of the game, Moore broke loose up the middle of the Northwestern defense, only to drop a good pass from Elijah Sindelar. 

Moore made up for it quickly though. He single-handily put his team back in the game after watching the Wildcats go up 14-0 quickly in the first quarter.

First it was a 32-yard touchdown reception and less than three minutes later it was a 76-yard touchdown run. The rushing touchdown was the longest by a Purdue player since an 82-yard effort from Akeem Hunt back in 2014. 

Clearly the stats are impressive, but it was the how it happened that also matters. Moore had the Ross-Ade crowd oohing and awwing and on the edge of their seats every time he touched the ball. 

When was the last time that happened? 

Brohm being able to get Moore wasn’t just getting lucky with an underrated recruit either. Purdue won a major battle to get him on campus and he came to Purdue as the highest-rated recruit to ever done the black and gold.

He had just about every school in the country seeking out his talent, with Ohio State, Alabama and the like in the mix. Now, some believe those schools soured on him as he didn’t sprout up height wise over the final two years of high school, but that speed man. That speed. 

But, it was Purdue that overlooked his lack of height and saw his blazing speed as an asset that could be used. 

It was on full display on Thursday night against a quality Northwestern defense and special teams units.

Moore plus Jeff Brohm’s innovative offensive mind could be a very dangerous combo. 

It also put the rest of the Big Ten on notice — Purdue isn’t going to go quietly in any game this season. 

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