While the front seven should be pretty solid for Purdue, there are some questions in the secondary. We know that two players, Da’Wan Hunte and Leroy Clark, will be starting. Hunte played extensively last year as the backup corner to Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams. Clark was a full-time starter and is an excellent option at safety.
As for the rest? Well, we have some freshmen that will play and the second cornerback spot is still in flux. We have a 5th year senior getting pushed hard by a true freshman at the other safety spot. We have a new defensive scheme where the nickel back will be a primary position instead of a third linebacker.
At least we are trying something new.
Leroy Clark – Sr. – Safety – Clark was Purdue’s top tackler last season. While that is good, you never want your safety to lead the team in tackles because it often means he is doing his job well beyond the line of scrimmage. He finished with 88 tackles and two interceptions. With 35 appearances in 36 career games, a 4-star rating when he was recruited, and well over 100 tackles Clark is one of the most experienced players on the entire team. He fits the definition of “serviceable, even good, but not all-B1G caliber.” He’ll be fine.
Robert Gregory – Sr. – Safety – Gregory came to Purdue as a quarterback, played at running back for a bit, and is now a safety. One of the last remaining Hope guys, I give him credit for being willing to help out in any way. He had 50 tackles and an interception last season in his first full years as a starter. He is definitely a try hard kind of guy, but as a multiple-position-switcher you have to feel like he wouldn’t be here if there were better options. He is getting pushed by an incoming freshman, however.
Austin Logan – Sr. – Safety – Logan is the lost man on the defense. In 2013 he was playing extensively and had 14 tackles with an interception. Last year he didn’t even play a down and appears to have fallen well behind everyone else on the depth chart.
C.J. Parker – Jr. – Safety – Parker is a big safety that was brought in as a JuCo transfer. It looks like he will primarily back up Clark, but not a lot is known about him. Last season he had 61 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions for Mt. San Jacinto junior college.
Wes Cook – Jr. – Safety – Cook is a walk-on transfer from east Carolina that is likely playing special teams at best.
Da’Wan Hunte – Jr. – Cornerback – Hunte played in all 12 games last year and has locked down one of the starting corner spots. He had 18 tackles and 2 sacks last season. His best game came against Bowling green where he had six tackles. As the No. 1 corner he should do fine, but I am concerned that he is only 5’9”.
Kamal Hardy – Jr. – Cornerback – Hardy was a JuCo transfer brought in to play immediately, but he is in a three-way battle for the No. 2 corner spot with Myles Norwood and Tim Cason. He had the advantage of going through spring practice, but this is one of the last position battles to be truly settled.
Myles Norwood – Jr. – Cornerback – Norwood has made more of a name for himself as a receiver so far. He switched positions last year and his speed and size should give him an edge as he is battling with Hardy and Cason. He has also played in 21 games as a special teamer and reserve receiver.
Race Johnson – Jr. – Cornerback – Johnson is the older brother of diver Steele Johnson and he has done pretty well for a walk-on. He played in three games last year and even got a tackle against Indiana State. He should be a good coverage guy on special teams.
Jacob Thieneman – So. – Safety – The walk-on from Guerin Catholic in Noblesville is well down on the depth chart.
Tim Cason – So. – Cornerback – Cason is the third person fighting for that second corner spot, but because he was a safety for the two previous years he might be better suited for the new nickel spot. Last season he appeared in six games and had four tackles, so he at least has some defensive experience to bring with him.
Brandon Roberts – So. – Nickelback – Roberts is the only player on the roster listed officially as a nickel back, but in the new defensive scheme he will play a lot. He played in 11 games last year and had 36 tackles plus an interception at Northwestern. It certainly sounds like he has filled his role as half linebacker/half defensive back well in camp. It is a unique role for sure, and we can pencil him in as a starter since he is the only player on the roster listed for that role.
Antonio Blackmon – So. – Cornerback – A walk-on, Blackmon has done well in each of the last two spring games and has outperformed many scholarship players at the position. He is the type of guy that seems to be mentioned in every practice report, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he emerged as a reserve corner.
David Day – Fr. (RS) – Cornerback – Day is a walk-on corner that seems to be well down the depth chart.
Ronnie Hill - Fr. (RS) – Safety – Hill is a walk-on corner that seems to be well down the depth chart.
Andy Chelf – Fr. (RS) – Safety – Chelf tore his ACL last season and redshirted. He appeared to have a pretty bad knee injury last week in camp and there haven’t been any updates, but it did not sound good.
Mike Little - Fr. (RS) – Cornerback – Little was expected to battle for a corner spot, but it looks like he is currently behind the big four, plus Blackmon.
David Rose - Fr. (RS) – Cornerback – Rose hasn’t been heard from much since his arrest last season and is probably in the doghouse.
Evyn Cooper – Fr. – Cornerback – Cooper hasn’t been in practice and was involved in the same arrest with Rose last season. Hazell insists he is on the team, but he is not currently listed on the roster. Sounds like a guy in the process of getting a cranial-rectal inversion.
Josh Hayes – Fr. – Cornerback – Hayes is an exciting freshman that may push for some playing time. He brings good size to the position, but can he elevate himself above some other to make not redshirting worth it?
Brandon Shuman – Fr. – Cornerback – Shuman is basically in the same boat as Hayes. They bring a lot to the table, but lack experience and it is not known if they will avoid the redshirt or not.
Simeon Smiley – Fr. – Cornerback – Can we go three-for-three with true freshman corners getting the same evaluation? Yes we can!
Navon Mosley – Fr. – Safety – Here is a guy I am excited to see. He is reportedly pushing Gregory hard and could even start from day 1 as a true freshman. He is supposed to cover like a corner but hit like a linebacker, something we have sorely missed at the safety position since, well, since Stu Schweigert was back there patrolling. Coverage has been an issue with Gregory, so if Mosley is better in coverage he needs to play.
Brennan Thieneman – Fr. – Safety – The younger brother of Jacob, he is a walk-on that is well down the depth chart.