As the regular season concluded on Saturday, it is now time for the annual Big Ten Honors and Purdue has several recipients. Today, the All-Big Ten teams on the defensive and special teams aspects of the game were named by the media and coaches.
George Karlaftis led the way for the Boilermakers as the lone player to be named All-Big Ten First Team for his performance this season. He finished the year with 39 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. In addition, he also had 4 passes defended, 2 fumbles recoveries, and forced fumbles with his first career touchdown. His statistics are not eye-popping compared to some other players, but the coaches and media know just how much he impacts the game by the mere presence on the defensive line.
One would assume this was Karlaftis’ last season with the Boilermakers as he will declare for the NFL Draft, but he had an impact on the Boilermakers’ defense similar to many of the legends before him.
Along with Karlaftis, 6 other Boilermakers were named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention as well. This list of players includes Jaylan Alexander, Cam Allen, Branson Deen, Jalen Graham, Dedrick Mackey, and Mitchell Fineran.
Jaylan Alexander, Cam Allen, and Jalen Graham not getting to an All-Big Ten team as opposed to honorable mention is a bit head-scratching with their level of play this season. Each defender made massive improvements over the previous seasons and was an integral part of Purdue’s success.
Alexander’s omission is most surprising given he was the heart and soul of this defense in 2021. Coming into the season he was being asked a lot more and exceeded expectations in a big way. He led the team in total tackles with 94 and added in 8.5 tackles for loss which was third on the team behind Karlaftis and Deen.
In just 9 games, Allen finished tied for second in the league with a career-high 4 interceptions from the safety position. He was also third on the team in tackles with 56 total and added in a pair of passes defended too.
Jalen Graham is a swiss army knife-type player for Jeff Brohm’s defense, doing just enough of everything. In 2021, he tallied 52 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and a touchdown. The safety/linebacker hybrid has been all over the field and was able to adapt to different roles depending on the game plan.
The other three Boilermakers, Deen, Mackey, and Fineran were all deserving of recognition as well. Deen and Mackey were amongst the supporting cast that were a part of the best defense in Jeff Brohm’s tenure at Purdue, while Fineran was lights out for much of the year in the kicking game.
As mentioned above, Branson Deen was second on the team in tackles for loss behind the All-Big Ten performer Karlaftis. He was stout in the running game which allowed for Purdue to have multiple guys on the defensive line that were impact players.
Mackey had his struggles this season but had some great moments during his senior season too. The Florida native was second on the team with three interceptions, which all seemed to be in clutch time when the Boilermakers needed a big stop.
Mitchell Fineran transferred in this year to fill Purdue’s void at the kicker position and did a tremendous job. Aside from the cold stretch he had in the middle of the season, Fineran was close to perfect. The Samford transfer connected on 20/25 field goal attempts and 32/34 extra point opportunities.
Congratulations to all seven of the Boilermakers who received recognition today and contributed to one of the most special seasons in program history! The offensive awards will be released tomorrow around the same time as today.