Jeff Brohm has been on a tear this month. After not having a single commit as recently as June 4th he has brought in 11 players for the 2018 class in a little more than two weeks. As a result, Purdue has seen its recruiting rankings skyrocket. Sure, it is not the No. 1 overall class in the nation. In fact, last night’s 11th commitment only brought the class up to 50th nationally, with some of the heavyweights like Alabama still to get going, but that is a refreshing change from previous seasons.
It is also good to see that Brohm is bringing in mostly quality 3-star guys instead of desperation 2-stars. Per Rivals, he has 7 3-star guys and 4 2-stars in a class ranked 50th nationally and 10th in the Big Ten. Those numbers blow anything Darrell Hazell did out of the water. The number of early commits is a good sign, too.
Brohm’s class is now about half full. According to the scholarship grid I am tracking, Purdue is at 81 used scholarships for the 2018 season. That number can change, however, because I still have us at 2 over the limit going into this year. Purdue has been very coy about updating the roster and what scholarship attrition there is. I would guess that Brohm has real room for another 6-9 guys in this class.
But 11 guys before the end of June is unusual for Purdue. Using the Rivals rankings, let’s go back and look over the last decade of recruiting. I’ll start in 2007, as that allows us to look at four coaches (Tiller, Hope, Hazell, and Brohm) to see where their classes finished and how quickly they got to this point.
2007: 19 commitments, 59th nationally, 10th of 11 in the Big Ten
This is one of Tiller’s final classes and probably where the downturn really began. About half the class never really did anything, and his one four-star (JuCo linebacker Brian Ellis) never even made it to campus. Tiller did have a commitment as early as January 2006, but did not get a second until June 22nd when Derrick Sherman and Colton McKey came on board. The 11th commitment did not come until October 17th.
2008: 26 commitments, 63rd nationally, 9th of 11 in Big Ten
This is really Tiller’s final full class, though it was announced before the season that Danny Hope would take over. That means he had a large hand in this class, which took in 26 players. Kawann Short and Ken Plue were the big gets here, but even with 26 players Purdue couldn’t crack the top 60. Short was the first commitment on April 13th, but the 11th commitment did not come until July 26th.
2009: 19 Commitments, 74th nationally, 11th of 11 in Big Ten
This was Hope’s first full class and even with a year as the coach in waiting it was not good. Al-Terek McBurse was the only 4-star commit and he lasted just two years in West Lafayette. It has nearly as many NFL players (Kevin Pamphile & Josh Johnson) as it does America’s Next Top Model winners (Keith Carlos). The first commitment did not even come until June 20th, with the 11th not coming until December 6th.
2010: 24 commitments, 54th nationally, 7th of 11 in the Big Ten
Hope’s 5-7 opening year that was agonizingly close to so much more had a lot of promise. This was also probably the height of the restrictions of resources behind the scenes if all the stories are true about Burke, Cordova, and the Board of Trustees. Ricardo Allen and Ryan Russell became NFL prospects, but there were also a lot of swings and misses. Charles Torwudzo was the first commit, but that came on June 22nd. Purdue got No. 11 on October 5th with Cody Webster.
2011: 15 commitments, 93rd nationally, 12th of 12 in the Big Ten
This was really a triple whammy. Large classes in 2008 and 2010 meant this was going to be a smaller class all along, so it would have to be high on quality to get ranked well. Purdue also had a disappointing 4-8 year. This was the first year competing against Nebraska in the Big Ten recruiting race, too. The first commitment came on May 19th, but the 11th did not come until January 10th, just a few weeks before signing day.
2012: 26 commitments, 33rd nationally, 4th of 12 in the Big Ten
Yes, those numbers were actually for a Purdue recruiting class. It is by far the best the Boilers have done in the last decade, and theoretically should have put Darrell Hazell on much better footing when he took over in early 2013. It was a larger class than 2011, but had more quality. Purdue got multiple 4-stars in Carlos Carvajal and Ryan Watson, but both fizzled. Of the 26 commitments only two, Thomas Meadows (a kicker) and Jason King were 2-stars. King even ended up being a three-year starter. Everyone else was at least a three-star. The final players of this class just finished their careers, and Anthony Brown is so far the best NFL guy, having had a good first year in Dallas. The first commitment was on April 16th, with the 11th still not coming until August 15th
2013: 23 commitments, 56th nationally, 10th of 12 in the Big Ten
There are so many questions here. If Purdue pulls off narrow losses at Notre Dame and Ohio State in 2012 is Hope still the coach (likely)? Does Hope’s promising 2012 class then develop differently (Given Hazell’s awfulness, probably)? Since this class was mostly Hope holdovers, is it better if Hope stayed (probably, since Hazell was a terrible recruiter)? Danny Etling was the first commitment on April 18th, but the 11th did not come until after the transition on January 20th.
The class was mostly on hold because of the coaching situation. The general consensus is that Hope was done before the three-game win streak at the end of the year, but what if it gets that 4th down stop in South Bend? What if that extra point isn’t blocked in Columbus? Those two games turned on a handful of plays, and if maybe two plays, one in each game, goes a different way Purdue is in a much better spot right now. I am not saying Hope would still be coach, but we at least dodge Hazell. As it is, much of this class was a complete washout.
2014: 19 commitments, 71st nationally, 13th of 14 in the Big Ten
Hazell’s first full class got off with a thud. Gelen Robinson is the first four-star we can credit to him, but this was a slow developing class. The first commitment was on May 5th, but No. 11 did not come until December 16th. In terms of talent, this is the class that gave us David Blough, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Robinson, but much of this class is kind of in no man’s land right now.
2015: 26 commitments, 68th nationally, 14th of 14 in the Big Ten
In the class that was supposed to be the first big Hazell class and show off his closing skills while replacing much of the highly ranked 2012 class Purdue dropped 35 spots nationally and 10 in the Big Ten with the same number of commitments Hope brought in just three years earlier. Elijah Sindelar led things off by committing on February 12th, but the 11th commitment did not come until Joe Schopper on August 6th. Markell Jones, Markus Bailey, and Brycen Hopkins look like really good prospects from this class, but many of them are no on their last chance to be coached up by Brohm or passed over.
2016: 23 commitments, 73rd nationally, 13th of 14 in the Big Ten
Simply put, this is where Hazell lost his job recruiting-wise. This included the Coy Cronk debacle and it is loaded with a lot of 2-star guys that still need a lot of work to be salvaged by Brohm’s staff. This was all after a 2-10 season when Hazell needed a massive turnaround. Josh Hayes was the first commitment on May 1st, but the 11th commitment did not come until December 14th. That’s really, really late.
2017: 24 commitments, 68th nationally, 14th of 14 in the Big Ten
And, at last, we’re to the last vestiges of Hazell and the beginning of the Brohm era. Because of a transition his was never going to be a great class, but it is very telling that Brohm was hired on December 5th and still outperformed two of Hazell’s classes, tied a third, and was ranked only behind the one that had Hope recruits. This doesn’t even include the whopping five graduate transfers brought in to play immediately. The first commitment was legacy Griffin Alstott on March 25th, and the 11th came on December 15th. Hazell was fired October 16th with only 4 commitments (Alstott, Nicholas Sipe, Dedrick Mackey, and Mark Stickford). For the most part, this is Brohm’s class. Only four can be attributed to Hazell, with Tyler Hamilton having the ultimate faith by committing on November 23rd after Hazell was fired, but before Brohm was hired.
Getting 11 commitments before the summer solstice is huge. Only 34 of the 128 FBS level schools have at least 11 commits right now. It shows that Brohm is ahead of the game and is getting the guys he wants. It also gives them a critical few extra months to get on board with what they need to work on this summer and fall before coming to West Lafayette.
This is also the earliest by more than a full month Purdue has had 11 commitments dating back through 2007. Danny Hope/Joe Tiller got No. 11 on July 26th in the 2008 cycle, but many times we were into November and December before getting a class this large. That’s half the recruiting cycle!
A team ranking of 50, even this early, is gigantic improvement. That is going to fluctuate as other program get commits and such, but when you’re used to being in the 70s nationally and at the bottom of the Big Ten, being at 50 is a welcome relief. Hazell never had a class finish ahead of three Big Ten members. If Brohm keeps it up, he will already be ahead of anything Hazell did.
Ultimately, I would love to see a class close to Hope’s 2012 class. That is the outlier among these listed. Even using rivals’ rankings that go back to 2002 Purdue only finished 50th (2006), 29th (2005), 20th (2004), 31st (2003), and 27th (2002). That’s one top 25 recruiting class in the last 15 years. At least on paper, hope brought in the talent with a big 2012 haul. Hazell and his staffed squandered it, as those guys were sophomores and redshirt freshmen when Hazell went 1-11 in 2013.
Recruiting is a two-part system though. You have to bring in good guys and you have to develop them. Hazell could do neither. Hope (for one year, at least), could do one. So far, Brohm is showing improvement in recruiting both in terms of talent and timeliness. This fall we will see what he can do in terms of development. No one is expecting six wins this fall, so if he takes Hazell’s subpar talent and pulls out a bowl game it will be an enormous good sign.
After the past decade, we need it.