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Purdue Football: 2018 Boilermakers Preview and Prediction

Markell Jones, Purdue Football

Markell Jones, Purdue Football

The Jeff Brohm era got off to a great start as Purdue won seven games, including the Foster Farms Bowl to finish things off. With expectations on the rise in West Lafayette, the offense will need to lead the way with so many new faces on defense. If the quarterbacks can stay healthy and game-changers emerge in the passing game, the Boilermakers should be able to replicate last year's success and stay relevant in the Big Ten West race. But their margin for error is thin because of the turnover in their defensive front seven.

Previewing Purdue Football's Offense for 2018

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Rutgers Football/Big Ten Magazine

Jeff Brohm arrived at Purdue as a heralded offensive guru. In Year 2, he'll have several returning pieces to get closer to his offensive goals, but also plenty of question marks.

Both of Purdue's quarterbacks are recovering from significant injuries. Junior Elijah Sindelar played the last three-and-a-half games on a torn ACL. Meanwhile, David Blough's season ended with a dislocated ankle on Nov. 4. Sindelar is a prototypical drop-back passer with a 6'4" frame and the strong arm of former pitcher who hit mid-90s. At 6'1", Blough gets by on experience and veteran savvy to make plays with his feet. Both could see playing time again this year.

Running back is the deepest position group on the team, with a variety of different body types and running styles. Markell Jones, Tario Fuller, D.J. Knox and Richie Worship should all get plenty of carries.

Purdue struggled to find reliable receivers last year. Under-recruited and undersized sophomore Jackson Anthrop is a sure-handed target. But for Purdue to field a big-play offense, others will need to emerge. Incoming freshman Rondale Moore is the most highly touted Purdue recruit in years and will eventually become a featured piece of the offense. Tight ends Cole Herdman and Brycen Hopkins are reliable pass-catching targets, but not overpowering blockers.

The offensive line, led by senior center Kirk Barron, returns four starters.

Previewing Purdue Football's Defense for 2018

Defensive coordinator Nick Holt sparked a dramatic transformation in his first year at Purdue. The Boilermakers jumped from 117th in scoring defense in 2016 to 24th in 2017. Holt's hybrid 4-3 system is built to stop the run, a perfect fit in the smash-mouth Big Ten. The challenge for Purdue will be to replicate some of that success after losing eight players who saw significant action.

Junior linebacker Markus Bailey played out of position at Sam linebacker last year as a means to get the best 11 players on the field. He still racked up the second-most tackles (89). He'll return to his natural position at Mike linebacker this year, where he'll be the clear leader of the defense.

The front seven was the strength of the team last year but will be the biggest question mark. Defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal will anchor a new-look line.

The secondary, even though it's replacing both corners, could be better. Physical redshirt freshman Kenneth Major could start alongside fellow freshman Dedrick Mackey. However, they're also going to have to cover longer considering so many pieces are gone from the front seven. Senior safety Jacob Thieneman, a former walk-on, earned a starting role largely because he was smart enough to quarterback the defense.

Previewing Purdue Football's Specialists for 2018

Punter Joe Schopper was a high school safety and four-time state champion at Cathedral in Indianapolis. He showed his athleticism, converting four successful fake punts last season (two passes, one run, one by penalty). Placekicker Spencer Evans has an incredibly strong leg. He recorded 35 touchbacks and is looking to win the field goal job outright.

Final Analysis

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Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Brohm exceeded those expectations by leading Purdue to its first bowl win since 2011. Veteran defensive leaders keyed the turnaround last year. Now, with so many of those players gone, the pressure is on the offense. Purdue could take a step back in Year 2 before it takes two steps forward in Year 3.

National Ranking: 45

Big Ten West Prediction: 3