Purdue signed a 23 man recruiting class last week. Ten of those players will begin their Purdue career on offense. I'm going position group by position group to show how these guys appear to fit into the overall scheme of things.
Purdue needed a 3rd string scholarship quarterback. Their current depth chart is a nightmare in terms of QB recruiting with Blough as a R.S. Sophomore and Sindelar as a R.S. Freshman, so Purdue had no immediate playing time to sell. They were looking for a developmental Q.B. that could possibly play another position.
I'll post a Sparks Bio a little later in the week, but he is electric with the ball in his hands. He's not a traditional pocket passer at all, but he's hard to tackle and displays solid arm strength on the run. He's a kid that could easily be converted to a WR, if he can't cut it at QB. He comes from an excellent high school program in Louisiana whose recent star players have included Eddie Lacy, Eric Reid, and Landon Collins. I think a mobile QB from a good program who, at worst, can be useful elsewhere, isn't a bad pick up at all, and fills a big need on the roster.
Purdue is full up at running back, and with budding star Markel Jones sitting on top of the depth chart as a true sophomore. This was another spot where Purdue had no immediate playing time to offer. What Purdue does lack is a change of pace back. The Boilermakers have a good bit of thunder, but very little lightening. So if Purdue was going to take a running back, it was going to be a guy with speed.
Take a look at Lankford-Johnson's film, then realize that he is one of Purdue's lowest ranked recruits. It really doesn't make sense, because this kid can fly. He has excellent speed, and can find another gear in the open field. He put up 1879 rushing yards and 22td's as a senior, and was an 1st team All Cape Coast, First Team All District, and 2nd team All-State (Florida 5A). Louisville wanted him, and wanted him pretty badly, but new RB coach DeAndre Smith was able to convince him to come to Purdue without stepping foot on campus. He provides a solid change of pace option for the Boilers and should contribute as a kick returner early in his career. Again, he is one of Purdue's lowest ranked recruits, it makes no sense to me.
Purdue only lost two players (Danny Anthrop, Shane Mikesky) off of last years squad, but will have 5 seniors on this year's squad. Purdue was looking for some speed at the slot position and some size on the outside. They don't have a ton of playing time to offer this season, but the depth chart after next year is wide open with presumed starters Yancy and Young graduating.
Landers is one of Purdue's top ranked recruits. At 6'4 with good speed, Landers is a prototypical outside receiver. He is a deep threat who can outjump cornerbacks. On top of being an excellent football player, he is also averaging 16 points, and 5 rebounds a game for Dunbar's (Ohio) basketball team, which seems to speak to his athleticism. He had an offer from Iowa, and was a Bowling Green / Dino Babers commit before Babers left. He will get a year to play behind DeAngelo Yancey, and then will be fighting for a starting position.
Ferguson is another of Purdue's more highly ranked recruits, mainly because he can run extremely fast. He ran a 10.62 on route to winning the 100 meters at the USATF Junior Olympics track meet. Basically, Ferguson was the fastest 17-18 year old in the nation last year if you use the 100 meter as your overall speed metric. He is only a 3* recruit however because he is small for a football player, at 5'8, 160 pounds. He was originally committed to Oregon St. before decommiting and signing with Purdue. Ferguson is a guy you get the ball to 5-10 times a game, in a variety of ways, and hope he can break a big play. If (big if) Purdue is smart, he will be our version of Darren Sproles. He may not consistently put up big numbers, but he might be able to break the occasional big play with his world class speed. At worst, he should be able to contribute as a kick returner from day 1. Purdue needed some speed in the slot, and signed the fastest 17-18 year old in the nation. That's not too shabby.
Franklin is a guy that played both running back and wide receiver in high school, and projects as either the flanker or slot receiver in college, at 6'0, 200 pounds. He is a strong runner when the ball is in his hands, and has the speed to run away from opponents if they let him get going. After watching some of his film, he reminds me a little of Artavis Scott from Clemson. Scott lines up as a wide receiver, but is basically a running back that catches the ball instead of taking handoffs. Wheeler (Georgia) used Franklin in the same manner, with most of his receptions coming within 2 to the yards of the line of scrimmage. Franklin has enough speed to keep the DB off, so when he catches the ball, he has some room to maneuver, and at worst he gains 3 or 4 yards a catch. At best, he breaks the first tackle and is running down the sideline. Franklin is also a two sport athlete who also stars for the Wheeler baseball team. He is a guy that is probably going to need some work on technique at wide receiver, but appears to have a solid physical skill set. If you're going to gamble on a 2* kid like Franklin, gamble on a raw, but athletic kid and hope you can coach him up. That's what you're getting in Franklin.
Wegher was a stud receiver, running back, and occasional wildcat quarterback in South Dakota his freshman year in high school before transferring to athletic boarding school and All-Star high school team IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Basically, he has been receiving college level coaching, weight training, and nutrition for the last three seasons. Oh, and his brother is Brandon Wegher, former Iowa running back, and current Carolina Panther running back, so being good at football seems to run in his family. Wegher is technically listed as an "athlete" but at 5'11, 200 pounds, his future for Purdue is at the slot position, even though he mostly played running back for IMG. IMG is so loaded it's difficult to put much credence in stats, but Wegher put up good numbers as a junior, rushing for for 646 yards and 13 touchdowns on 71 carries. His senior year production was way down, after a substantial ankle injury early in the season put him on the bench, and Tony Jones Jr. (4* Notre Dame signee) took over the IMG rushing attack. Wegher came back, but was limited in his touches as a running back, recording 153 yards on 19 carries. He transitioned to more of a full time wide receiver and pulled in 10 receptions for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those numbers aren't that impressive, but keep in mind that IMG has an insane amount of talent, and spread the ball around quite a bit. Wegher has basically been in a college environment the last three years, and he is already enrolled at Purdue, so if anyone is going to make the transition for high school to college seamlessly, it's going to be Wegher. This is another roll of the dice on a 2* prospect, but keep in mind that Wegher was receiving recruiting interest from teams like Notre Dame and Florida after his sophomore years, before he started sharing the rushing load with Jones as a Junior and injuring his ankle as a senior. Not a bad gamble if you ask me.
I'm not sure I really need to say much about Jackson, as anyone reading this article probably knows who he is already. For those few (possibly no) people who stumbled across a Purdue recruiting article, Jackson is following his two brothers to Purdue, with his brother Dru playing as a walk-on guard for the Boilermakers, and his brother Danny starring for the Purdue football team before he went full Purdue and let his knee explode on the field at the end of his junior year. As far as I know, Jackson is a grey shirt, which means that he is really the first recruit for the 2017 class. A Grey Shirt means that Jackson will delay enrollment at Purdue until the second semester of his freshman year, allowing him to count towards next year's scholarship count, while maintaining freshman eligibility for the 2017 season. Anthrop is a do everything athlete, that plays football, basketball, and baseball, and will probably beat your ass in ping-pong, darts, hopscotch, and tiddly winks. We all know the guy that does everything well, and Jackson is that sort of guy. If you're that guy, it's awesome. If you're not that guy, you secretly loathe him, because you took up curling in an effort to beat him in something 3 years ago, and he just destroyed you in his first attempt without even knowing the rules, and playing (is playing the correct term for curling) in boat shoes and jeans. The Anthrop name carries some serious weight at Purdue, and rolling that dice on another Anthrop seems like a good idea.
The Situation: Purdue currently has 4 tight ends on the roster, and possibly an H-Back in the running back stable. Purdue would have taken the right tight end, but didn't find one, and skipped position in this signing class.
Purdue graduated three offensive linemen, most importantly, starting left tackle David Hedlin and starting center, and Purdue institution, Robert Kugler. Purdue has a plethora of guys that can play guard, and Kirk Barron is slated to step into the starting center position, but tackle, both left and right, is a little thin. Purdue really needed to bring in a guy that could compete right away at left tackle, as Cam Cermin and Marteesee Patterson are the only real options at the position, and both are probably suited at right tackle, especially Patterson. This position had a bunch of turnover during recruiting with players decommitting en masse after Jim "burning" Bridge, abandoned ship for Duke late in the process, leaving Purdue in need of offensive linemen, but without an offensive line coach, because Purdue needs recruiting handicaps to make it fair for everyone else.
Purdue needed someone who could come in and physically compete for one of the tackle spots day 1. At 6'8, 310 pounds, Jalen Neal fills that role. Neal has ideal size to play either left or right tackle. If Cam Cermin holds down the left tackle spot, Neal can either provide depth at left tackle, or slide over the right and compete for a starting spot. In an ideal world, Neal holds down left tackle, allowing Cermin to stay at his more comfortable right tackle spot. At worst, Neal can provide some ready made depth at both tackle spots. If he's terrible (which I don't think he will be) he only takes up a scholarship for 2 years, and allows whoever is coaching Purdue in two years to look for another solution. At best, he comes in a wins the starting left tackle job, and uses his freakish size to help keep either Blough or Sindelar upright, and open holes for Markel Jones. Basically, Purdue needed a tackle right now, and a 6'8, 310 pound JuCo fills that need. This is a low risk, high reward type of gamble.
Hawthorne is a 6'6, 275 pound late bloomer from Arizona. Hawthorne is just starting to fill out his long frame, after starting his high school career as 6'0 220 pound freshman. Hawthorne projects as either a left or right tackle at Purdue, and will probably spend his next few seasons in the weight room and at the training table. There are very few ready made offensive linemen coming out of the high school ranks, and those select few are snapped up by teams at the top of the food chain, not teams that are currently wallowing in the mud. If I'm looking for a developmental tackle, I'm looking for a kid who has room to grow and is willing to work. Hawthorne fits those 2 criteria. Will he be a great player for Purdue or will he be a perennial bench warmer? I have no idea, but that's the way it is with offensive linemen. Here is an article on Hawthorne: http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/high-school/recruiting/2015/12/08/asu-arizona-interested-centennial-ol-tanner-hawthorne/76995310/
Hermanns is another player that Purdue brought in with the future in mind. Hermanns has a huge frame at 6'7 and at only 265 pounds, he has plenty of room to grow. I would rather Purdue take skinny (relatively speaking) tall guys that can add good weight, than overweight guys that need to lose weight, and then gain good weight in it's place. Hermanns will eventually have ideal size to play either tackle position, and the fact that he's coming in a little light, should mean that most of the weight he gains, under supervision of the weightlifting and nutrition program at Purdue, should be good weight. He is another kid you file away in the back of your head for a little while and hope he grows into a player later down the line. If Hermann needs some inspiration, he should to Dennis Kelly, a 2* tackle prospect that came to Purdue as a gangly, 6'7, 235 prospect and left as an NFL sized o-linemen, or Mike Otto, who came to Purdue as a 2*, 6'7, 245 pound prospect, and left Purdue as a giant left tackle. Both Otto and Kelly went on to play in the NFL. With his size and athleticism, that should be Hermanns goal. Again, I have no problem with this gamble.
The Situation: Purdue has one of the absolute worst kicking situations in the country last season, which was unexpected, because Paul Griggs was a decent, even good, kicker before he suddenly wasn't. Griggs lost all confidence, and Purdue refused to put him on the field for the most part, going for numerous fourth downs in the red zone because they lost faith in Griggs. Purdue needed a guy to come in and stabilize the kicking job immediately.
J.D. Dellinger: Dellinger is a 6'2, 170 pound kicker from Charlotte North Carolina. He comes to Purdue as a 2* prospect, but that's pretty much par for the course for most kickers. Chris Sailer Kicking, a camp specifically focused on the premier kickers in the nation, is a better resource on kicking than traditional recruiting services. Sailer has Dellinger listed as his 5th best kicking prospect in the nation and a 5* kicking prospect. Dellinger was an All-State selection for the state of North Carolina. He went 13/19 on field goals with a long of 57. Dellinger was a national pool soccer player before he turned his focus to kicking, so it sounds like he is also a decent athlete. With leg enough to kick a 57 yard field goal, kickoffs should improve. Dellinger is about as good as Purdue could have hoped for in a kicker. I look for him to win the starting job in camp, and hopefully hold it for the next 4 years.