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Thank You, Purdue Football 2020 Seniors

A total of 13 players are in (possibly) their final season with Purdue this year.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

This is going to be a strange one, but everything about this year has been strange. Tomorrow Purdue is going to have senior day, but there will be no fans and some seniors have already opted out. Also, every single senior on the roster has the option to return of next season because of this weird COVID year. Since we don’t know who is staying and who is going let’s salute the 13 listed seniors on the roster for this year who have been through a lot in their time, from the firing of the guy who recruited most of them, to the memorable Ohio State upset, to a year marred by a pandemic.

Tyler Coyle – LB/S – Coyle is a graduate transfer that was brought in to shore up the secondary. He was a tackling machine at UConn, but has so far only played in three games and has a pair of tackles: one each against Northwestern and Rutgers. I would expect him to take the free year and return next season.

Greg Long – OL – Long has been the latest in a long line of offensive line transfers that have served as a one-year stopgap solution. He has been a regular contributor, playing in all five games and even getting a tackle on at turnover against Iowa. Should he return he will solidify the line next year.

Anthony Watts – DT – After redshirting in 2016 Watts has been a steady four-year contributor and part of the rotation on the defensive line. Defensive tackle is a position where you need a constant rotation of guys, and for four seasons Watts has been more than steady. I could see him testing NFL waters.

Lorenzo Neal – DT – Neal has been a rock. After missing last season recovering from ACL surgery he could have gone to the NFL. Instead he returned and has made big play after big play. Against both Northwestern and Minnesota he twice had big stops to get Purdue the ball back for a chance to tie or take the lead. He did the same against Rutgers last week. For four seasons Neal has an absolute load to handle in the middle with 73 tackles, 13 for loss, 4 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles, a fumble recover, and even a blocked kick. He will be off to the NFL after this season.

Jared Sparks – WR – Sparks is the one known player that has opted out, but he is still one of my favorites. He came to Purdue as a quarterback and even took some snaps there in 2017. He has done everything asked of him and is great of doing the little things. This year he had only four receptions for 38 yards, but he had a textbook block on the second touchdown David Bell scored against Iowa that allowed Bell to walk into the end zone. He could return next year, but it seems doubtful since he is a 5th year guy and a graduate. He likely leaves with 59 receptions for 642 yards and a touchdown, 26 carries for 135 yards, a 7-yard touchdown pass to David Blough in 2018, and two games against his brother Adam against Missouri.

Simeon Smiley – DB – Smiley is another 5th year guy who may or may not return, but he has been a contributor for each of the bast four years after redshirting in 2016. He has played in 42 games with 75 tackles, 3.5 for loss, one sack, two interceptions, and 14 pass breakups. He was robbed of his third career interception last week on a questionable at best roughing the passer call in the first half and it might have been a game changer, as Rutgers ended up scoring on the drive.

Jackson Anthrop – WR – If he chooses to return you know Jackson will make an impact next year. He made an impact in his very first game, the first game of the Brohm era, with two touchdowns against Louisville after redshirting in 2016. In 41 career games he has 64 yards rushing and 2 TDs, 94 receptions for 828 yards and six TDs, one pass completion for 24 yards in 2017, eight tackles, 317 kickoff return yards, and 54 punt return yards. That’s what Anthrops do.

Brennan Thieneman – S – The Thieneman family is almost as popular as the Anthrop family at Purdue, only the Thienemans have both been walk-ons that have earned scholarships. Brennan has been a steady contributor like his brother. He may not be the most talented player out there, but he is smart and technically sound. He has 63 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and a fumble recovery in his career.

Grant Hermanns – LT – After redshirting in 2016 Hermanns has been the anchor of the offensive line at left tackle. He has played in 32 career games and has basically started in every game he has been healthy. At left tackle, that is huge. Like Watts above, he is a player that could return, but may test the NFL waters instead.

J.D. Dellinger – K – Come at me if you think Dellinger sucks after his rough game at Minnesota. He is one of the very few kickers at Purdue with two game-winning kicks in his career, at Illinois in 2016 and at Northwestern in 2019. He kicked as a true freshman in 2016, split time with Spencer Evans in 2017, redshirted (except for one game when Evans was ill) in 2018, and has been relatively solid the last two years. He now has 37 made field goals and 104 PATs. That is 215 points scored, good for 8th all-time at Purdue, and by the end of the year he should pass Jerod Void (216) and Leroy Keyes (222). I look for him to return next year.

Semisi Fakasiieiki – LB/DE – I admit I had very low expections for him. He was one of the lowest rated recruits in Hazell’s very bad final recruiting class. He has developed into a solid reserve each of the past three seasons with 52 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and a sack. He has also been an off and on starter.

Nick Zecchino – LS – You only notice the long snapper if he screws up, and no one has noticed Zecchino since he joined the program last year from UConn. He plays a tough role as a specialist, but has been virtually perfect for two years.

Derrick Barnes – LB – Barnes has never taken a redshirt and is the one 4th year senior on the roster. He has also been excellent this season. He has a whopping 216 career tackles, 10.5 sacks, an interception, four pass break ups, a forced fumble, and a fumble recover. He has contributed since day 1 on campus and will unfortunately have to sit out the first half tomorrow after a borderline targeting call last week. This season he might be Purdue’s best defender, and he has some NFL chances.

Thank you to all of these guys. They have been through so much and have seen their final seasons completely uprooted. I know they can all come back next year, but there is a good chance that half or more will be gone. Hopefully they can leave as winners tomorrow and find a way to get the Bucket back next week.