Senior Day is always a little bittersweet. It feels more so when the team is not in a bowl game. This coming Saturday against Indiana will be a short Senior Day ceremony. Many senior classes have between 15 and 25 players taking part. Attrition over the years as Purdue has shifted under Jeff Brohm means that this Senior Day and the next one will be short. Purdue currently only has 11 seniors on its roster, and a few of them potentially could return next year because of injuries.
While this class has been small, it has been transformative. They were brought in while Purdue football was at its nadir as a program. They are members of the 2015 and 2016 recruiting classes that were 68th and 73rd nationally and at the bottom of the conference. The 2015 class had 26 members, but only 12 eventually used all of their eligibility at Purdue. The 2016 had 23 members and a few are 4th year juniors, but 11 have already left the program.
The 11 players taking part on Saturday may not have a stellar record on the field, but they have been part of the foundation that Jeff Brohm has laid. There will be no bowl game this year, but they all helped that first year turnaround and last year’s huge Ohio State win. Sadly, injuries mean that a few won’t even get to play on Saturday, but they will still be remembered for the role they have played.
Elijah Sindelar – QB – Sindelar might still return for his 6th year next season because of so many injuries in his career. He has a pair of torn ACLs, last year’s injuries that limited him to two games and this year’s concussion and broken collarbone. He has been through a lot, but has still thrown for 3,525 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career. He is currently 14th all-time in passing yards at Purdue, just 7 yards behind Brandon Kirsch. He is also tied for 10th with the great Len Dawson in touchdown passes. Unfortunately, he has only played in five games total the last two seasons, but started this season on fire with more than 900 yards in the first two games. He could have shattered the all-time passing marks this year, and it is just cruel that he hasn’t been able to fulfill his potential due to injuries.
Markus Bailey – LB – Bailey is another player that had his Purdue career ended prematurely. He made it two games before a knee injury shut him down for the year. He was the heart and soul of the defense, however. He is the rare player that played in five years, as he managed three games as a true freshman before a knee injury ended that year. He will leave Purdue with 327 total tackles, which is 14th all-time. He has 229 solo tackles, which is 11th in school history, and 13.5 sacks, which is 14th in school history. He also has an impressive 6 interceptions, with the most memorable being his exclamation point pick-6 last year against the Buckeyes.
Tario Fuller – RB – Fuller is another hard luck case. He started the 2017 strong with big games against Ohio and Missouri, but an ankle injury cost him the rest of that season. Last year he was third in the backfield behind Markell Jones and DJ Knox, then he broke his jaw in fall camp this year. That cost him much of the season, as he has 12 carries for 32 yards. He has 357 yards rushing and 2 TDs in his career as well as 133 yards receiving. I’d love to see him go out with a bang on Saturday, but the weight he lost after breaking his jaw has severely limited him this season.
Richie Worship – RB – Injuries have also been cruel to Worship, as a promising career has limited him to just one carry in one game since 2017. He had a carry for three yards at Iowa, but swelling in the knee he hurt in 2017 has really limited his playing time. Here is hoping he can go out with a bang on Saturday with Fuller, as the duo could have been a great thunder and lightning running duo. In his career Worship has 393 yards rushing and five touchdowns to go with 122 yards receiving and two more scores.
Ben Holt – LB – Holt has been a one-year mercenary as a graduate transfer from Western Kentucky, and he has been a tackling machine. He is currently second in the conference with 104. He may not be the fastest or biggest linebacker, but he plays incredibly hard and is always there on the play. Against TCU he had an amazing 17 tackles.
Matt McCann – OL – McCann has been a mainstay on the offensive line these last four seasons. Out of a possible 49 games he has played in 46 of them. He has started 45 times and has been ridiculously versatile too, playing both guard and tackle. He is everything you could ask for and more in an offensive lineman, and will be tough to replace.
Brycen Hopkins – TE – Hopkins will be playing on Sundays next year, and he might be the best tight end in America right now. He is coming off of one of the best games of his career as he had 8 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He is among Purdue’s all-time leaders in multiple receiving categories with 122 receptions (21st all-time), 1,803 yards (18th all-time), and 14 touchdowns (15th all-time). He can still climb a few more places on these lists, too. He has an excellent chance at winning the Mackey Award for the nation’s best TE and being named a First Team all-Big Ten selection. His 14 touchdowns also might be a record for more different quarterbacks he has caught a TD from, as he has caught touchdowns from David Blough, Elijah Sindelar, Aidan O’Connell, and Milton Wright. What’s more surprising is that he did not catch a TD from Jack Plummer.
Lorenzo Neal – DT – Do we see Lorenzo Neal again? He can technically take this year as a redshirt and return next season. He has not played a snap this year and I have my doubts we’ll see him on Saturday. He had some NFL buzz, but was it high enough for him to get drafted after not playing at all this season. He had 63 tackles, 11.5 for loss, and 4 sacks with 4 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in his career. He also blocked a kick last season. He is the prototypical nose tackle that makes Nick Holt’s defenses go, and his absence this year has been large. Should he return next season it would be huge.
Navon Mosley – S – Mosley has had an up and down career at Purdue. The team captain has been a mainstay in the defensive backfield the last three seasons and he has 257 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 3 fumble recoveries in his career. He has played in all 49 games over the last four seasons, making him one of Purdue’s most durable players over the past four years. He’s also been an excellent leader.
David Day – CB – I want to see Day get in the game in some capacity on Saturday. The senior walk-on has played in one game total, all the way back in 2017, but he has been a solid contributor in practice and on the scout team. He deserves some run on special teams at some point.
Malcolm Dotson – WR – Speaking of special teams, Dotson has been an ace on special teams for four years now. Technically listed as a wide receiver, I don’t know if he has every lined up and run a route, but he has been a gunner on punts due to his tremendous speed. Dotson has also been a sprinter on the track team, making his winters and springs busy, but in football he has played in 39 games all on special teams. He also has 12 tackles and he even recovered a fumbled punt at Missouri in 2017. In 2018 he was part of the 4x100 meter relay team that placed 20th at the NCAA Outdoor meet. In his time at Purdue he has also run the 4x400, 200, and 100 outdoors while running the 60, 100, and 200 indoors with various relay teams.
These 11 seniors have had quite a ride at Purdue. They have persevered through a coaching change, tons of injuries, and a lot of losing, but they have helped pull Purdue football out of the abyss it was in from 2013-16. They have established a new foundation that all the young players playing this year can build on.