- Head Coach: Jeff Brohm (5th Season)
- 2020 Record: 2-4 (2-4 in Big Ten)
- Last Meeting: 10/21/67 - Oregon State 22, Purdue 14
- Key Returners: WR - David Bell, LB - Jaylan Alexander, DE - George Karlaftis
Few teams in the country enter 2021 in a more perplexing spot than Purdue is, as head coach Jeff Brohm tries to continue his rebuild of the Boilermakers program, one he has invested in so deeply on a professional level. Turning down jobs to go elsewhere, Brohm has made Purdue his project of choice, which right now is reeling from an identity crisis after a 2-4 campaign where nothing seemed to go right for the Boilermakers.
Four defeats to end the season, including two to the likes of Nebraska and Rutgers, forced Brohm to move on from defensive coordinator Bob Diaco at the end of the year, as the Boilermakers allowed 29.8 PPG to opponents and boasted the third-worst passing defense in the Big Ten. Instead, they brought in Marshall’s Brad Lambert to fix the issue, as his Thundering Herd defense lead the country in scoring defense in 2020.
Lambert should have some solid pieces to work with, beginning with linebacker Jaylan Alexander, one of my favorite all-around players in the Big Ten. Alexander can combine with defensive end George Karlaftis, who posted 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks back in 2019, to give the Boilermakers some random stand-outs, but as a unit, Purdue has a long, long way to go on the defensive side of the ball.
A new system and scheme can only help in the race to set things straight. Lambert will surely feel the heat to spread his influence sooner rather than later.
Offensively, the Boilermakers first have to make a decision at quarterback in a position battle that will likely last until the Fall. Aidan O’Connell, last season’s opening day starter, and Jack Plummer both posted nearly identical stats and posses similar skill sets, but O’Connell seems to have a slight upper hand from the outside looking in. Regardless, whoever is named QB1 will be delighted to have wide receiver and main target David Bell back in tow, who grabbed 53 catches for 625 yards and 8 scores in 2020, to anchor the receiving core.
Up front, remember the names Greg Long and Western Kentucky transfer Tyler Witt, who could both saddle the left side of the line and become a formidable hole creating duo for running back Zander Horvath, a serviceable option out of the backfield. The Boilermakers are pedestrian at too many positions to turn heads in the Big Ten, but against the right foe, anything could happen.
Overall, when you think of Purdue, think of them in the same regards of Oregon State as randomly sprinkled in, there’s some glimpses of great talent, but it’s not all a finished product just yet. Jeff Brohm continues to try to tweak and add pieces to make moves in the Big Ten and while it hasn’t worked just yet, they’re never too far off from taking on the role of giant killers, just like the Beavers do from time to time.
Player To Watch
Jaylan Alexander - Linebacker
When you talk about the type of guy you don’t want to see lined up across from you on Saturdays, Jaylan Alexander is exactly the player that fits that mold. The 2020 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection posted 49 tackles in just 6 games last year and can make plays from the backfield to the secondary and everywhere in between. He’ll lead the Boilermakers defense as they try to improve across the board in 2021.
- Date: Saturday, September 4th
- Time: TBD
- Location: Ross-Ade Stadium (West Lafayette, Indiana)