It’s been a while since Purdue has had a terror of a defensive end, but it has one this year.
George Karlaftis - Jr.
West Lafayette, IN (West Lafayette HS)
6’4”, 275 pounds
2021 Projection: Potential All-American
Sadly, Big George went the Rondale Moore route for his sophomore season. After a breakout true freshman year, injuries (and COVID) limited him to three games and four tackles with two sacks. How much of a difference was he though? Even though he played half of a six game season he still led Purdue in sacks with two (of five for the team). There is very little question that the Purdue defense was SIGNIFICANTLY better with him on the field, as he pretty much represented the entirety of the Boilermaker pass rush.
In 2019 George was a freshman All-American with 54 tackles, 17 for loss, 7.5 sacks, an interception, and two fumble recoveries. Those are excellent numbers for a seasoned veteran and fantastic for a true freshman. That’s also a large reason why he was named a Preseason 2nd team All-American last year.
Then you look at his numbers in his final season of high school, which were... ridiculous. He had 106 tackles, an astonishing 56 for loss, and 17.5 sacks in 15 games as he led West Lafayette to the Class 3A state title. He was also a two-time state champion in the shot put and would likely have three-peated had he not graduated early and enrolled at Purdue in the spring of 2019, forgoing his senior track & field season. Per MaxPreps he had 332 tackles, 84 tackles for loss, and 41 sacks in his entire high school career. Turning this kid loose on high school kids, especially at the 3A level in Indiana, was a cheat code and completely unfair. I’d imagine the best blocking strategy for some teams was to have the tackle fall down and hope he tripped over his prone body.
Oh, and for fun West Lafayette lined him up at tight end on occasion.
Purdue absolutely needs Big George healthy all season. He is a likely first round draft pick and he will make a HUGE difference defensively when he is on the field. He demands a double team on almost every play. I don't think I am being hyperbolic when I say that having him for the entire season will mean the difference between victory and defeat in at least two games.