The easy answer is George Karlaftis.
But, as we all know, George gets doubled, hell, even triple teamed, often.
With that happening, we needed a linebacker to dominate and step up, if two or three are blocking George, no one can get up to all of the Linebackers.
Enter 3 year starter, Jalen Graham, who has grown tremendously from year 2 to year 3. I think there are a few things that have happened for his growth to occur.
- A new defensive scheme, that is aggressive and has linebackers playing down hill.
- Graham’s growth as linebacker, stems from dedication in the weight room and film room. He was recruited as a strong safety, but in year one at Purdue, he made the shift to OLB under then DC, Nick Holt.
In a game that needed our defense to play as well as possible, it was Jalen Graham that made a game changing play against Nebraska. His Pick 6 sparked the team, and further showed why he has been so vital to the team.
At 6-3, 220 pounds, he isn’t the normal size for a strongside outside linebacker. But, he makes up for his lack of weight with speed, strength and skill. Similar to the Colts star Linebacker, Darius Leonard.
Leonard has made his career, both in college and in the NFL as being the fastest linebacker on the field, being as fast or faster than running backs and some wide receivers. I think we are seeing the same thing with Jalen, a guy that is big enough to defend some of the best tight ends, but is skilled and savvy enough to make plays in the box against the run.
He can run sideline to sideline, cover the flats and fit in on the run.
Jalen is actually our most veteran player on the defense, he has started a couple more games than George, as George dealt with injuries in 2020.
People are starting to realize how good he is too. His name is starting to pop up on national conversations and some draft boards as a late pick.
After his performance this past week, he was named B1G Defensive Player of the week.
He had two interceptions, another pass break up and 6 tackles in our win at Nebraska. He becomes the latest Boilermaker to be named DPOW since Came Allen, just a couple weeks ago against Iowa.
Look for the Jalen Graham stock to keep rising. While Big George may be the best player on the team and a future 1st round pick, Jalen Graham has quietly been an X-Factor for this very solid Purdue Defense.