Two of Purdue's better players on the entire roster reside in the secondary. Also, Purdue is probably the thinnest and most inexperienced in the secondary. This creates a very interesting situation going into 2015. During the spring there were only three healthy scholarship cornerbacks, so a pair of walk-ons ended up playing a lot. They even looked pretty good, as Antonio Blackmon and Race Johnson did well enough to at least warrant a second look this fall.
Still, those two have been passed by some very talented freshmen. Also, both safety positions are completely up for grabs with Landon Feichter and Taylor Richards gone. This is, overall, an extremely young unit with a pair of very, very good senior corners. It should make things interesting at least, especially without the reliable Feichter in the middle cleaning up messes.
CB: Frankie Williams - Sr.
Career stats: 180 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 6 INT, 1 FR, 19 PBU
CB: Anthony Brown - Sr.
Career stats: 129 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF, 13 PBU
S: Brandon Roberts - Fr. (RS)
S: Leroy Clark - Jr.
Career stats: 42 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU
You can't ask for a better duo on the corners than Brown and Williams. Williams has the potential to be an All-B1G type of player and was a Second Team selection last year. Brow, surprisingly, has yet to notch an interception in his career. He did have 10 pass breakups last season, so it is only a matter of time, especially if teams throw away from Williams. Both guys are solid tacklers and defenders. They may not be able to completely erase a receiver for a day, but they are at least going to make opposing quarterbacks think twice before throwing that way.
The safety spots are still questionable, however. Right now Clark and Roberts are at the top, but that can change. Roberts has been impressive coming out of his redshirt year. Clark at least has four starts and 23 games of experience, but has been up and down. He was a 4-star recruit according to ESPN so now it is time for him to live up to that. Roberts is pretty much locked in a neck-and-neck battle right now with Robert Gregory to start.
CB: Da'Wan Hunte - So.
Career stats: 2 tackles
CB: David Rose - Fr.
CB: Mike Little - Fr.
CB: Evyn Cooper - Fr.
S: Robert Gregory - Jr.
Career stats: 2 tackles, 1 FR
S: Evan Feichter - Jr.
Career stats: 3 tackles
As you can see, there is not a ton of experience with this group. Gregory is on his third position at Purdue after coming in as a quarterback and spending a year at running back. He has been described as a hard hitter and a feast or famine type safety. He could make a huge play, or he could blow it. Feichter is a walk-on, but is the younger brother of Landon, so do not count him out at all. He already has played on special teams for two years and has constantly been in the mix. Hunte also has some special teams experience.
Perhaps the most exciting are the freshmen. At least one of them is going to play, likely many of them. The coaches have raved about Cooper's athleticism and instincts, but he is still a freshman. Both Rose and Little are currently co-No. 2's on the depth chart behind Frankie Williams. Since Williams did miss time last year due to injury that is important.
Basically, some freshmen are going to play. We just don't know how many yet. It is a good thing that the coaching staff got a lot of them.
CB: Antonio Blackmon - Fr. (RS)
CB: Race Johnson - So.
S: Austin Logan - Jr.
Career stats: 25 tackles, 1 INT
S: Tim Cason - Fr. (RS)
S: Andy Chelf - Fr.
This is a bit of a mixed bag. I was very surprised to see Logan this far down on the depth chart, especially with two years of experience at a position of desperate need. As mentioned above, Johnson and Blackmon made the most of a good spring as walk-ons and should see some playing time at least on special teams. Cason is coming off of a redshirt and has done some good things, so he could be in the mix at safety.
Finally, I really like Andy Chelf even if he wasn't very highly rated. I think he has some potential even though he is likely going to redshirt.
Thank goodness for Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams. They have tons of experience and are the unquestioned leaders here. Otherwise, Purdue would be in serious trouble. You never want to rely entirely on freshmen, walk-ons, and players at a new position. Purdue has done that for years on defense and it has often gone poorly. The incoming freshmen do look good and could be promising in the future. With many of them being corners they get the benefit of learning behind Williams and Brown before being cast into the fire.
I am still concerned about safety, however. We were spoiled with the likes of Stu Schweigert, who patrolled the middle for years as both a ballhawk and a crushing tackler. When was the last time we had someone like that? Probably when Stu himself was here. Yeah, there was Bernard Pollard, but he didn't pick off a ton of passes and him celebrating a tackle made 15 yards downfield wasn't exactly endearing.
We have to hope that someone here is an answer in the middle. We have our freshman (Roberts and Cason), our walk-on (Feichter), our position switch (Gregory) and our re-tread (Logan). Someone has to work out, right?