The freshmen finally have official numbers on the roster, so I can include them in the countdown as we get to them. The first freshman is one that has high expectations going into the 2014 season, as he is expected to be an instant impact guy.
Ja'Whaun Bentley - Fr.
Glenarden, MD (DeMatha HS)
6'2", 250 pounds
2014 Projection: Starter at linebacker
Finally, we have recruited an actual living, breathing Big Ten-sized linebacker that comes to Purdue virtually ready to play. He doesn't need two years of development. He doesn't have to switch from another position. He is not undersized and overmatched. After such a dearth of talent at the linebacker position for over a decade it is a relief just to have a player that comes in and at least looks the part.
He comes from the famous sports power DeMatha Catholic and produced for four seasons there. As a freshman he had 10 sacks with a forced fumble. His sack numbers dwindled since then, but he was still a beast of a player with 113 tackles and 26 for loss in an excellent senior year.
Can he start from day one? Well, to be honest, our linebackers have been so putrid for so long thatI can see both he and Gelen Robinson playing immediately. Purdue's currently listed starters are Joe Gilliam (solid, but undersized), Sean Robinson (a position switch guy) and Jalani Phillips (an underwhelming senior). Their backups are redshirt freshmen who have yet to play at all.
Only Phillips and Antoine Miles are close to Bentley's size, so if he is ready, I have no doubt he'll play. In the Big Ten you live and die by linebacker play on defense. Otherwise, your defense is Indiana. Bentley needs to be a rampaging beast that is a sure tackler, able to make plays in the backfield, and able to drop effectively into pass coverage. If both he and Robinson are finally the long awaited answer at linebacker Purdue will get a lot better, quickly.