If you were not paying close enough attention last fall, then you missed a fun season for the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue strung together a solid nine-win campaign that may not have gotten enough respect as it came together in the shadows of a Big Ten that is dominated in the headlines by Ohio State and Michigan.
Purdue managed to knock off two highly-ranked teams with a major victory over the then-No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes and later a double-digit victory over the Michigan State Spartans, but Purdue couldn't capture the same magic in big matchups with Notre Dame, Ohio State, or Wisconsin. But the Boilers did manage to end the season with a bowl victory over Tennessee after dominating in-state rival Indiana in the regular-season finale.
What does Purdue do now after losing some big-name players to the 2022 NFL Draft? The Boilermakers get to work on taking the next step with an early start to the spring. Here are a few storylines to pay attention to in West Lafayette this spring.
5 Storylines to Watch During Purdue’s Spring Practice
1. Aidan O'Connell's return provides stability
Purdue avoids the often-dreaded spring storyline of having to figure out what to do at the quarterback situation with O'Connell deciding to return to the Boilermakers in 2022. O'Connell's return gives head coach Jeff Brohm confidence in having an experienced starter who has proven capable of running the offense with some success, and the experience could lead to a chance to improve from some mistakes in 2021.
2. Finding a big-play receiver
Purdue has had some electric wide receivers in recent years with Rondale Moore and David Bell. But with Bell following Moore to the NFL this spring, the search for a new go-to receiver capable of making a big play is officially on in West Lafayette. Milton Wright appears to be the top candidate to be the next big-play option for Purdue after finishing second on the team in receiving yards in 2021 with a team-high seven touchdown receptions.
3. Big shoes on the defensive line
Speaking of big shoes to fill, how does Purdue manage to replace George Karlaftis on the defensive line? Doing so is incredibly easier said than done given Karlaaftis is expected to be a first-round draft pick for an NFL team in need of adding a pressure-maker on the end of their line, but Kydran Jenkins had some very encouraging moments for Purdue on the line last season.
4. Holding on to the football
Purdue had a very solid season last season with just four losses. Not surprisingly, Purdue had a regrettable turnover margin in each of their losses, some more egregious than others. So protecting the football must be a focus this spring for Purdue, and last season is a shining example of why. Games and results against Notre Dame (-2), Minnesota (-2), and Wisconsin (-3 with five total turnovers lost) could have gone differently if Purdue could secure the football better.
5. Brohm's new-look staff
Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm welcomes some new faces to the coaching staff this offseason, including David Elson being moved up from his role as a defensive quality control assistant and Garrick McGee as a wide receivers coach. Elson will get a chance to dig into his defensive coaching background to help improve the Purdue linebackers, and McGee will be tasked with helping the receivers continue to be the threats the program has become known for.
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