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Purdue Football: 2017 Boilermakers Preview and Prediction

Markell Jones, Purdue Football

Markell Jones, Purdue Football

There’s plenty of excitement around Purdue with Jeff Brohm taking over as head coach after Darrell Hazell’s disastrous tenure. Brohm has the quarterback and running game needed to make his high-powered offense work, but the offensive line and receiving corps are both inexperienced and unproven. The defense returns six starters but this is a unit that ranked either 13th or dead last in the Big Ten in yards, points and rushing yards allowed per game last season. Things are looking up for the Boilermakers with Brohm now in charge, but that doesn’t mean this will be reflected in the win column right away. 

Previewing Purdue Football’s Offense for 2017

In junior David Blough, Purdue returns the Big Ten’s leading passer (3,352 yards and 25 touchdowns), and in Markell Jones, D.J. Knox, Richie Worship, Brian Lankford-Johnson and Tario Fuller, the Boilermakers have a talented and varied collection of running backs to help first-year coach Jeff Brohm implement the high-powered offense he brought with from Western Kentucky. Brohm went 30–10 overall and won two Conference USA titles while establishing more than 75 school records in his brief stop in Bowling Green, Ky.

There are two significant areas of concern — the offensive line struggled last year and didn’t show many positive signs in the spring, and the receiving corps lacks playmakers. Tight ends Cole Herdman and Brycen Hopkins combined for 45 catches for 527 yards and could be featured prominently in the fall. The Boilermakers also hope to get a boost from Corey Holmes, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame who caught 11 passes for the Fighting Irish in 2016.

The offensive line gave up 11 sacks in the spring game and is searching for dependable options to team with junior center Kirk Barron. Two graduate transfers should add depth and competition this fall.

Previewing Purdue Football’s Defense for 2017 

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With six returning starters, including leading 2016 tackler Markus Bailey, who made 97 stops at linebacker as a true freshman, Purdue should be much improved on this side of the ball after allowing 38 points or more seven times last season. Bailey will be joined at linebacker by Danny Ezechukwu and Ja’Whaun Bentley, who combined for 102 tackles last season.

The Boilermakers are deep at defensive end with Austin Larkin, Antoine Miles and newcomers Kai Higgins and Rob Simmons, each of whom played well in Purdue’s spring game. The tackles will include senior Gelen Robinson, the son of former Purdue and NBA standout Glenn Robinson, Eddy Wilson and Lorenzo Neal. Robinson made 61 tackles in 2016, and Wilson had 36, including six for a loss.

Purdue’s secondary allowed opponents to complete 59 percent of their passes for 22 TDs last season, but that group will be bolstered by hard-hitting junior college transfer safety T.J. Jallow and by fifth-year graduate transfer Josh Okonye from Wake Forest. They will join corners Da’Wan Hunte and Tim Cason, along with safety Navon Mosley.

Previewing Purdue Football’s Specialists for 2017

In sophomore placekicker J.D. Dellinger and junior punter Joe Schopper, the Boilermakers have two of the Big Ten’s best specialists. After making only two of his first five field goal attempts as a freshman, Dellinger made eight of his final nine to finish 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) with a long of 42 yards. Schopper punted 56 times for a 40.7-yard average, with 24 downed inside the 20-yard line and eight of 50 yards or longer. Malik Kimbrough and Lankford-Johnson are the likely kick returners.

Final Analysis

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Brohm was hired in December to replace the fired Darrell Hazell, who was 9–33 in three-plus seasons with the Boilermakers, including only 3–24 in the Big Ten and a horrific 0–14 in the month of November.

While Brohm has a talented and experienced quarterback in Blough, Purdue’s September schedule isn’t exactly conducive to a quick turnaround. The Boilermakers open on Sept. 2 against Louisville in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium before playing Ohio University in West Lafayette, then travel to Missouri before entertaining Michigan on Sept. 23.

Brohm will have to rely on young players on the offensive line and transfers at wide receiver. Purdue likely will feature an exciting offense and an improved defense, but winning more than three or four games will be a challenge for Brohm and his coaching staff.

National Ranking: 84

Big Ten West Prediction: 6