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4 Days to Purdue Football: Ja’Whaun Bentley

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Pray to your deity of choice that Bentley stays healthy this year.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago we had perhaps the most important player on the offense in Markell Jones. Today we have probably the most important player on the defense.

Ja’Whaun Bentley – Jr.

Glenarden, MD (DeMatha Catholic HS)

6’2”, 250 pounds

Linebacker

2016 Projection: Starting Middle Linebacker

There is little doubt that Bentley is absolutely critical to Purdue’s success in 2016. Last season he finished with 49 tackles and was fifth on the team in that category. It is a low number for a middle linebacker, but he also didn’t play in the final seven games after tearing his ACL.

As a result, Purdue’s defense went from “struggling against the run” to “mere speedbump”. Bentley’s return, if he is 100%, is the most important addition to that defense. He is an all-Big Ten caliber middle linebacker, something Purdue has not had in ages. He provides vocal leadership as a two-time captain and he backs that up with stellar play in the middle.

The sky is the limit for Bentley. We should expect a 100 tackle season because he was almost halfway there last season when he got injured in only the fifth game. If he plays up to his potential the Purdue defense will be much, much better. If he gets hurt again, well, we’re probably screwed. He is that important of a player.