I expect the tight end position to have more production this season, mostly because TEs coach Terry Malone moved up to take the reigns as offensive coordinator. He likely knows these guys best after coaching them last year, so it makes sense for him to find ways to work them into the offense more.
Currently there are only four tight ends on the entire roster, and only one has even played in a game so far. That leaves a pretty clear starter.
Cole Herdman – So.
Herdman had a pretty decent season out of his redshirt as the main backup to senior Jordan Jurasevich. He ended up playing in all1 2 games and started twice. Herdman caught a pass in every game except the Wisconsin game, but never had more than two receptions per game. That left him with 18 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns. The TDs came late in blowouts against Minnesota and Indiana.
Herdman brings pretty good size and hands to the position at 6’4” 251 pounds. His experience is what will be critical. He has all of it when it comes to this entire unit. Word is that he will occasionally line up wide instead of on the line, but given Purdue’s offensive line issues he could be held in to block more often. Malone sees Herdman as the traditional safety valve underneath for his quarterbacks, unlike John Shoop, who likely didn’t know tight ends were eligible receivers.
Brycen Hopkins – Fr. (RS)
Hopkins is a promising player that seems to be getting a lot of looks as a blocker coming off of his redshirt year. His dad was an NFL offensive lineman for 13 years, so he at least has the pedigree to be a solid football player. Hopkins has a basketball background from high school, which is what all the great tight ends in the NFL seem to have. In his senior year his high school reached the state title game and he finished with 11 catches for 247 yards and three scores.
Hopkins certainly looks like he has the physical tools, but he is still raw. I do like his height for potential goal line situations.
Jess Trussell – Fr. (RS)
Trussell is one big hombre from Texas at 6’6” 240 pounds. His senior year was an impressive one with 22 catches for 493 yards and 7 touchdowns. He even threw a pass according to his MaxPreps profile. Like Hopkins, he has the size to play tight end in the Big Ten. What he lacks is the experience. Right now it seems like Hopkins is a bit ahead of him, but if Purdue goes with a three TE goal line set Trussell is a good option.
Wade Buckman – Fr.
Buckman is a freshman walk-on from Holland, Michigan that joined the team this fall. According to his hometown paper he was a preferred walk-on:
Buckman, a 6-foot-6 quarterback at Holland, will likely move to tight end with the Boilermakers.
“I have talked to coach about tight end. They want me to put on some weight,” he said. “But they said they are thin at the quarterback spot, too, so with my experience there I could see myself with a little action there, too, maybe a flex.
It seems like Buckman is very likely a redshirt candidate, especially since he is moving from QB to TE.
Projected Depth Chart:
Buckman - Redshirt