Purdue does not have a lot of experience returning on the defense, but one player has been a regular contributor for several years now. He enters his final season as a possible starter with one last shot to really make a difference.
Joe Gilliam - Sr. (RS)
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN (Southport HS)
6'1", 230 pounds
2014 projection: Possible starter at Outside Linebacker
Gilliam has grown quite a bit as he enters his fifth and final season in West Lafayette. He is Purdue's most experienced returning linebacker with 36 appearances in 38 possible games over the last three seasons. He has a total of 22 starts in that time and has 95 total tackles with a sack, a fumble recovery, and a handful of forced fumbles plus pass breakups.
Overall, Gilliam has been a solid, but not great linebacker. He started all 13 games as a sophomore in 2012 and eight games last season, so at the very least he will be a solid reserve this coming year. Right now he is expected to be a starter at outside linebacker, but he could be pushed by Gelen Robinson and Ja'Whaun Bentley once the season starts.
Gilliam is capable of having a solid final season, however. After having 57 tackles in 2012 a goal of 60 stops seems reasonable this year. Given the longstanding problems at linebacker, something that would be excellent.