After a lackluster stretch of seasons, Purdue rallied to its first season with a record above .500 for the first time since 2011 under new head coach Jeff Brohm. The Wildcats face an early test when they travel to West Lafayette on Thursday night, with the Boilermakers looking to build upon last season. Here are three things to know about Purdue:
Purdue’s defense is young and inexperienced
Last season, the Boilermakers were extremely reliant on their experienced defense, which helped guide them to a 7-6 season. Purdue’s defense thrived under new co-coordinators Nick Holt and Anthony Poindexter, improving significantly in its run defense — Purdue ranked No. 6 in the country in rushing S&P+ last season. However the Boilermakers’ defensive line and linebackers were torn apart by graduation, returning only Lorenzo Neal and Markus Bailey. Purdue also brings an inexperienced group of cornerbacks as well, with Dedrick Mackey and Kendrick Major, two freshmen, expected to start.
Purdue could use a quarterback platoon system
This year the Boilermakers return both of their starting quarterbacks, yet similarly to Northwestern, Elijah Sindelar, who’s started at the end of last season for Purdue, returns after tearing his ACL against Northwestern last November. Like Clayton Thorson, he is expected to be ready to play, but will probably share time with senior David Blough. Blough also suffered a gruesome injury last season, dislocating his ankle against Illinois. A Texas native, Blough is more mobile than Sindelar, who is more of a pocket-passer and deep threat. Purdue’s quarterbacks are a talented group, and while Sindelar is expected to get the starting nod on Thursday, he still has some health questions and both quarterbacks should see game action.
The Boilermaker receiving corps are young, but deep
Last season the Boilermakers were reliant on their defense for their success, yet as stated above, they lost their defensive core and will need to retool. Their offense was lacking in production last season, ranked 60th in offensive S&P+ and returning many of their best players. Purdue lost their best receiver, Anthony Mahoungou, to graduation (and the NFL draft), but returns 10 of the 12 receivers who were targeted at least 19 times. The Boilermakers were very good last season at finding their running backs; RBS accounted for 43 receptions for almost 300 yards in 2017. Purdue also returns two tight ends, Brycen Hopkins and Cole Herdman who provided a deep threat up the seam last season. The two combined for 45 receptions for 680 yards last season and their production should only increase. Like Northwestern, the Boilermakers return many receivers, particularly sophomores Jackson Anthrop and Jared Sparks, and seniors Terry Wright, Isaac Zico, and Jarrett Burgess.