As we move closer to the football season kickoff and our expectations for this year's Boiler squad grow and change on a near-constant basis, today's featured player in the Kickoff Countdown may also be facing some serious expectations from fans, and setting some of his own as well. With 39 days left to the return of Purdue Football, today we get to take a look at Joe Gilliam, a sophomore Outside Linebacker who is in contention for a starting spot this year.
Joe Gilliam - So. (RS)
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN (Southport HS)
6'1", 211 pounds
2012 projection: Possible starter at Outside Linebacker
Gilliam is a product of Southport High School in Indianapolis. While there, he amassed 266 total tackles and 14 sacks as a three year starter at Linebacker. Joe was also an Indiana 5A All-State selection during his senior year in 2009 and was later considered a three star prospect for the recruiting Class of 2010. Before he ultimately committed to Purdue, Joe also had offers from schools such as Indiana (Boo!), Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Stanford. That's quite the attention and quite an accomplishment if you ask me! For those interested, his Scout.com recruiting profile from 2009 can be found here.
Once he got to West Lafayette, Gilliam redshirted his freshman year in 2010 and then saw limited action last year as a reserve. Specifically, he recorded 7 total tackles and 3 solos in 11 appearances, including one start.
Come this year, #39 is entering his redshirt sophomore year as a Boilermaker. By now, he is a seasoned guy on the team and should have a good understand of the inter-workings of the defense as well as the Linebacker position. He has plenty of playing time and even some starting experience under his belt. However, Gilliam's inheritance of one of the starting OLB spots is not guaranteed. Although he is a serious contender to start alongside incumbent starters Dwayne Beckford and Will Lucas, he must fight off challengers at the outside position like Antwon Higgs, Nnamdi Ezenwa and Mike Lee.
Also, Gilliam is a bit small for a starting Linebacker at 211 pounds. While each of the aforementioned challengers may be bigger, stronger or more tenured than Joe, he has his own advantages in his blazing speed and unique athleticism at the Linebacker position. All in all, his obvious gifts and a good work ethic can certainly carry him into a starting job at Linebacker for the Boilers this year. Now we just have to wait and let time tell the real story.
For those who demand more Joe Gilliam in their lives, give him a follow on his witty Twitter handle: @GillyTheKid_39.