Purdue’s defensive rebound in 2017 was impressive, but the 2018 is going to require a miracle of coaching and recruiting to overcome the 2015 recruiting class.
The 2015 recruiting class should be backbone of the 2018 defense. You need redshirt juniors and true seniors to lead the way at a program like Purdue. Even though Purdue’s recruiting has seen an appreciable improvement under Coach Brohm, the defense last year relied heavily on seniors, because Purdue isn’t quiet at the point where they can recruit plug and play defenders. Unfortunately, the class of 2015 was so poor on the defensive side of the ball, the Boilermakers are left with few upperclassmen options for the 2018 season.
I started covering recruiting for Hammer and Rails during the 2015 season, and I did my best to sell it as a class with potential.
On the offensive side of the ball, that was true. Purdue will have several starters/key contributors on offense from the 2015 class, including:
That class also still has several players with the potential to step up next season on offense, such as:
Finally, the class included two JuCo hits on offense:
Say what you will about Coach Hazell’s recruiting (and there is plenty to say) but he nailed this class on the offensive side of the ball.
The defensive side of the ball is an entirely different story. I don’t track these things, but I’m not sure you could find a Power 5 team with such dismal return on a defensive class, possibly ever.
What Went Really Wrong:
Wyatt Cook: ILB - 3* (.85)
Cook was the highest rated defensive recruit in the 2015 class, and I’m not going to lie, I thought he was going to be a stud. He was the captain on a great high school team (McDonogh School) and a state champion wrestler. I thought he was a guy that would come in and contribute right away, start as a sophomore, and star as a junior/senior, but something went wrong.
Cook got in trouble for minor consumption as a freshman....dumb, absolutely...but it should have just been a minor blip. Plenty of kids get in this type of trouble and go on to a successful college career.
Cook was then moved to defensive end from his familiar linebacker spot, and just sort of disappeared. He transferred out of the program before the 2017 season, and as far as I can tell, hasn’t reemerged on another roster.
Sawyer Dawson: OLB - 3* (.84)
Dawson was another player I thought had a real shot to contribute at Purdue. The Plant City, Fla was a S/OLB tweener at 6’1, 200, but looked to have the athleticism to bulk up and contribute by his junior year.
That didn’t happen. Dawson never found his niche on the Purdue defense, and announced he was leaving the team after the 2017 season.
Evyn Cooper: ATH - 3* (.84)
Cooper, out of power house Buford High School in Georgia, was seen as a recruiting steal, but he just couldn’t get it figured out at Purdue.
First he got arrested for stealing bikes. Then Hazell couldn’t decide where to play him during his redshirt season. Then he couldn’t decide if he wanted to play at all. Then he left.
It looks like Cooper spent some time at Coffeyville C.C. but I’m not sure if anything materialized out of that venture.
Tim Faison: OLB - 3* (.80)
Faison was a late addition to the class. One of the Purdue assistant coaches fell in love with his tape, and “stood on the table” and made his case for adding Faison to the linebacker heavy 2015 class.
Faison redshirted in 2015 and moved to DE. He didn’t play at all in 2016 and transferred before the 2017 season. He recently signed with UNT to play linebacker after a 1 year stint in JuCo.
Andy Chelf: S - 3* (.80)
Chelf was a late bloomer that really came into his own as a senior at national powerhouse South Lake Carroll (TX). He was another kid that I thought would contribute.
Chelf redshirted as a freshman in 2015 after blowing out his knee before getting to Purdue. Then he didn’t see the field as a RS freshman in 2016. It looked like things were turning around for Chelf when he put up a 7 tackle performance in the 2017 Spring game...but then he got shot the next day in a weird off campus incident. Thankfully he recovered from the gunshot, but never made it onto the field in 2017 and has announced that he is leaving the team.
David Rose: DB - 3* (.80)
Rose came into Purdue with the reputation of being a solid athlete. He excelled at both football and basketball in high school, and looked to be a solid pick up for the Boilers as a tall, physical corner.
Rose couldn’t stay out of trouble at Purdue. He was arrested with Cooper in the bike theft incident as a freshman. He was suspended for several games in 2016 for “personal conduct reasons” according to Gerard Parker.
He didn’t make it to the 2017 season.
Fred Brown: DT - 2* (.78)
Brown was another somewhat late addition to the class. He was a guy that was going to have to add significant weight to compete as a defensive tackle in the Big10. He redshirted in 2015. He didn’t play in 2016.
He didn’t make it to the 2017 season.
What Went Ok:
Shayne Henley: DE - 2* (.78) JuCo
Henley was brought in to provide depth on the defensive line. He provided depth, but not much else. He graduated after the 2016 season.
What Could Have Gone Better:
Eddy Wilson: DT - 3* (.84)
Wilson was obviously a much needed hit for Purdue in this class, but it was a rough ride. Wilson’s talent and toughness was never in doubt, and the Michigan native provided Purdue with strength and explosiveness from day 1.
Wilson saw significant playing time as a freshman and sophomore. His toughness was on display his sophomore season when he played a good bit of the season with one hand in a giant cast. While Eddy played well on the field, he struggled in the classroom.
Academic issues almost kept him off the field in 2017. He was removed from the roster, but made it back onto the team and provided Purdue with solid play as both a starting and reserve tackle in what was essentially a 3 man rotation. Academic issues resurfaced as was deemed ineligible for the Fosters Farm Bowl, and subsequently declared for the NFL draft.
Wilson’s talent is undeniable. He is the only Boilermaker from the 2017 with a combine invite, but his career still leaves me wanted a little more. In a perfect world, Wilson is preparing to be an anchor for Purdue’s 2018 defense.
What Could Still Work Out:
Mike Little: WR/DB - 3* (.84)
Little came to Purdue as a WR/DB and was quickly placed on the defensive side of the ball. He redshirted in 2015, and saw limited playing time in 2016 (I seem to recall him dealing with some injuries).
Little got onto the field for 6 games this season and recorded 5 tackles. His biggest play, of course, was his 22 yard reception on a fake punt against Indiana that set Purdue up for a touchdown.
The depth chart at CB is wide open heading in the 2018 season. Little will get a look in camp, and at worst, should provide some depth in the defensive backfield.
It’s been a rough start, but hopefully Little can take some momentum from the 2017 season and become a regular contributor in 2018.
Chazmyn Turner: DE - 3* (.82)
I had high hopes for Turner and he still has an opportunity to make things happen at Purdue. Turner almost didn’t make it to Purdue. He was a verbal commit, but didn’t sign on National Signing Day, and it looked like he was West Virginia bound. Turner, however, decided Purdue was the right place for him after all, and signed late. Things have gone .... poorly so far.
Turner redshirted in 2015, and was arrested with Cook, for simple possession during the year. He didn’t make it onto the field in 2016.
2017 was looking promising, but he blew out his knee in the spring.
I will say this about Turner, at 6’5, 260, he certainly fits the physical mold of what Nick Holt wants at the strong side defensive end position. I have no idea if he can play after sitting the last 3 years, but he’ll get a look in the spring at a wide open defensive end position. If he could at least provide some depth in the rotation it would be considered a win.
The One Redeeming Quality:
Markus Bailey: LB -3* (.84)
Thank God for Markus Bailey, not only will be proven player returning from the 2015 class. He should be the star of the defense.
Bailey was an interesting recruit out of Hilliard Davidson in Ohio. Bailey was the best linebacker and best running back on his high school team. He mainly played linebacker but would occasionally feature as the starting running back. He was one of the more highly recruited defensive players in the 2015 class, and Purdue had to work hard to secure his services.
Bailey looked like he was going to be an immediate impact player on the 2015 team, but he tore his ACL after 2 games, and received a redshirt.
In 2016 Bailey started all 12 games as a redshirt freshman, and recorded 97 tackles and 4 interceptions.
In 2017, Bailey started all 13 games in a crowded linebacker rotation and recorded 89 tackles, 11 TFL, 7 sacks, and an interception.
Bailey should be the leader of the completely revamped defense in 2018.
3 out of the original 12 recruits remain on the roster.
2 of the 12 have started games (Bailey & Wilson)
The lack of production in the 2015 is staggering. Purdue is going to have to lean heavily on the 2016 and 2017 class and hope that the 2018 class has some guys that can step in and compete right away in order for the defense to repeat its resurgent 2017 performance.
I have faith in Nick Holt, but this is going to be one of his toughest rebuilds ever.