Purdue football is in an interesting place as it heads to the 2015 season. It has a very small freshman class, yet there is a lot of experience returning at several positions. Because of that, there is not a lot of room for freshmen to come in and play immediately. As we wrote about yesterday, there are some redshirt freshmen that can play immediately, but the true freshmen may be limited. Here are a few that can play.
Markell Jones - RB - A recent article on FOX Sports called Jones the most important player for Purdue in 2015. That is very high praise. The departure of Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert opens up a spot at running back and only sophomore Keyante Green really has experience. There is a bit of a logjam with D.J. Knox and Keith Byars II also there, but Jones enrolled early and has wanted to start from day 1. His HS numbers suggest that he can:
Sophomore year: 1,610 yards on 226 carries and 22 TDs
Junior year: 2,653 yards on 252 carries and 42 TDs (team won Class 4A state championship)
Senior year: 3,565 yards (state single season record) on 312 carries and 60 TDs
Those numbers are beyond absurd. That is 7,828 yards on 790 carries and 124 TDs in three years. That means on nearly an eighth of his carries the only thing that stopped him was the end zone. When you combine the paltry 102 yards he had as a freshman he finished second in state history behind the 8,110 yards rushed by Elwood's Sammy Mirales (who only set the record in 2013). His 774 points scored is 4th all-time in Indiana history. His teams were 53-4 in his four years in HS, with a pair of losses coming against state powerhouse Cathedral. He didn't even play most second halves of games because Columbus East was ahead by so much. They only games they were even challenged the last two years was the 2014 semi-state loss to New Palestine and the 2013 state championship game, and this past season they scored more than 60 points in 7 of 8 straight games, including an 82-13 thrashing of South Dearborn in the sectional. Has he played entire games 10,000 yards was easily within the realm of possibility.
So, yes, Jones can contribute. He enters as the state's Mr. Football recipient in a runaway. He is not an especially big back at 5'11" 207, but he is a player that put up huge numbers from a winning program. Even then, he was overlooked and rated only the No. 56 back in the country.
Elijah Sindelar - Quarterback - Currently, Sindelar is third on the depth chart and that might not change. He also enrolled early after winning Kentucky's Mr. Football award, but (what else?) a torn ACL prevented him from going through spring practice. He threw for a state record 144 touchdowns in high school and was second all-time in passing at 12,637 yards before his injury. Last season he had 49 TDs and 3,609 yards before he was hurt. ESPN rated him as a 4-star QB and he has a legitimate chance of beating incumbent Austin Appleby and redshirt freshman David Blough for the starting job.
Ben Makowski - Long Snapper - Makowski is the rare recruited long snapper and he is already listed at the top of the depth chart ahead of John Bednar and Grant Ellington.
Brycen Hopkins - Tight End - Purdue needs a TE, so why not big Brycen Hopkins? His dad played at Illinois and he has some great size already at 6'5" 235.
Andy Chelf - Safety - I like a lot of what I have heard about Chelf and both safety spots are open, so there is opportunity. Had Drue Tranquill stayed committed he would already be starting at safety, but all is for naught. Chelf came from the famed Southlake Carroll HS in Westlake, Texas and put up some massive numbers there. He is a sure tackler and is quick to the ball, which is often needed with our defense.
Unfortunately, Chelf is also recovering from a torn ACL.
Evyn Cooper - Cornerback - Cooper is big for a corner, but if Frankie Williams shifts over to safety Cooper could see some action at corner. A lot of bigger, better schools like Arkansas, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Missouri wanted him, but he is at Purdue.