Purdue made a major statement on a national stage last year with a stunning 49–20 upset over No. 2 Ohio State. It was one of three wins over ranked opponents.
But perhaps the biggest statement came in the offseason. When Louisville tried to poach Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and halt the positive momentum the Boilers had created over the coach’s first two seasons, the school opened its wallet, inking Brohm to a new seven-year deal worth $36.8 million.
"At this point in time, we are so convinced that we have the right head coach and he has assembled the right people around him, we felt it was important, to the best of our ability, to maintain that continuity [of] leadership in our program," athletic director Mike Bobinski says.
The deal makes Brohm the third-highest-paid coach in the Big Ten, which might sound like a lot for a coach who went 13–13 in his first two seasons. But consider that Brohm took a program that had won just nine games over the previous four seasons and led it to back-to-back bowl games, relying mostly on players who ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten recruiting rankings.
With Purdue's first top-25 recruiting class since 2004 and the salary bump, the pressure is on Brohm to not only build upon the positive momentum he created but also become a serious contender.
Previewing Purdue's Offense for 2019
Even though Purdue lost quarterback David Blough, three starting linemen, a pair of starting receivers and its leading rusher, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Boilermakers' offense will be even better than last year, when the unit became one of the nation’s best big-play offenses with 25 plays of 40 yards or more (fifth best).
One reason is quarterback Elijah Sindelar. He’s a prototypical pocket passer with a 6'4" frame and the strong arm of a former pitcher who hit the mid-90s. Senior tight end Brycen Hopkins brings pedigree as the son of former NFL offensive lineman Brad Hopkins.
But the main reason for optimism? Rondale Moore.
The electric wide receiver came to Purdue with 4.3 40-yard dash speed and the strength to squat 600 pounds. He burst onto the scene as a true freshman, producing a new Purdue record with 2,215 all-purpose yards, to earn consensus All-America honors. Around Moore, the Boilermakers stocked the receiver room with four new freshmen, including a pair of four-star recruits in David Bell and Milton Wright. Converted quarterback Jared Sparks continues to look more comfortable at his new position.
Meanwhile, running backs Tario Fuller and Zander Horvath will compete for carries.
The biggest question marks are on the offensive line, where tackles Grant Hermanns and Matt McCann are the only linemen with any experience to speak of. While the line will have a fresh feel, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Brohm, who has been forced to lean on patchwork units that were never overpowering in his first two seasons.
Previewing Purdue's Defense for 2019
Purdue’s defense lost seven starters from 2017 to '18 — and it showed. This year, though, Purdue returns virtually everyone.
Linebacker Markus Bailey answered Purdue's biggest offseason question when he chose to return for his senior season. He racked up 115 tackles last year and should be in line for another big season. The Boilermakers bolstered the linebacker group further by adding Western Kentucky grad transfer Ben Holt, who is defensive coordinator Nick Holt's son. He’ll compete for a starting job with junior Cornel Jones and sophomore Jaylan Alexander.
Up front, an area that was a weakness last year could turn into a strength. The Boilers added a dynamic piece to their line when defensive end George Karlaftis, a top-75 national recruit, chose to stay at home. Purdue also moved linebacker Derrick Barnes to the Leo position, a hybrid linebacker/end where he’ll have more chances to rush the passer. Once nose tackle Lorenzo Neal returns from his ACL injury, the unit will be much more complete than last year.
In the secondary, senior safety Navon Mosley has started since his freshman season. The Boilers have prioritized length and athleticism with several interesting prospects, including redshirt freshman Cory Trice and true freshmen Jalen Graham and Marvin Grant.
Holt has proved what he can do with a veteran defense. In 2017, the Boilermakers ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring defense. As the Boilermakers restock their defense after the 2017 mass exodus, they should continue to make strides back toward this standard.
Previewing Purdue's Specialists for 2019
After redshirting last year, placekicker J.D. Dellinger returns to the starting role. Purdue is likely to feature a new punter in freshman Brooks Cormier. Moore gives Purdue a spark in the return game.
Brohm exceeded virtually every expectation by taking the Boilermakers to back-to-back bowl games in his first two seasons.
There is no doubt that the program is on an upward trajectory, but don’t necessarily expect a huge jump in Year 3. Purdue might not be ready to contend in the Big Ten West in 2019, but there is no doubt that this program is headed in that direction.