There is no question that a lot of freshmen will play this year, but both of today’s players could play a significant amount.
George Karlaftis - Fr.
West Lafayette, IN (West Lafayette HS)
6’4”, 265 pounds
2019 Projection: Starter at Defensive End
I saw Karlaftis last week at the Purdue Fanfest and I can attest that even though he is a freshman, he is a grown-assed man. The most anticipated recruit in Purdue football history probably could have played, and even started, last season on the defensive line. Instead he was terrorizing high school players as West Lafayette HS went 15-0 and won Indiana’s Class 3A state title. He had 106 tackles and an astounding 17.5 sacks. He was also a basketball player, but did not play last season because he graduated in January and enrolled early at Purdue. He finished his career with 332 tackles, including 84 tackles for loss and 41 sacks.
Karlaftis is a local kid who held on his very early commitment. Having committed early in his junior season we have waited two years for him to get here, and he comes in with huge expectations. After going through spring practice he seems well suited to fulfill those expectations from day one. As the No. 59 national recruit according to 247 he comes in as perhaps the highest rated player we have ever gotten. He will start on Friday against Nevada.
Just how versatile of a player is he? He was a two-time state champion in the shot put and would have won three in a row had he not been enrolled at Purdue this spring. His championship throw of 60 feet, 1⁄2 inch in 2018 as a junior would be close to Purdue’s all-time top 10, and his 2017 winning throw of 59 feet, 5 1⁄2 inches was almost three feet further than second place. He was so good that he was even 6th in the state as a freshman in 2016. He was also the onside kick kicker for WLHS and kicked a pair of onside kicks as a freshman when the Red Devils were state runner-up in 2015.
Da’Joun Hewitt - Fr.
Nashville, TN (Davidson Academy)
5’10”, 205 pounds
2019 Projection: Contributor at running back
With Tario Fuller and Richie Worship both sidelined Hewitt is almost certainly going to play this year. Purdue is down to just four healthy running backs left on the roster, and Alfred Armour is more of a fullback now. Along with fellow freshman King Doerue is going to see plenty of action early on. Depending on when Fuller returns Hewitt could hold on to his redshirt, but it seems unlikely.
Last season he had 273 carries for 2,170 yards and 39 touchdowns as his team went 13-0 and won a state championship in Tennessee. How much he plays this year will likely depend on how well he blocks.