That was a fun pallet cleanser. I wish that Purdue opened with Indiana State, knocked the rust off, and then played Penn State, but such is life. Indiana State isn’t a good FCS opponent, they’re not even a marginal FCS opponent. Purdue’s talent advantage was insurmountable, which is one of the positive takeaways from the game. I understand the importance of scheduling small in-state teams, in terms of handing out paychecks, but this mismatch made me feel uncomfortable.
At the same time, the Purdue players have no control over the schedule. They came out swinging and didn’t let a Penn State hangover keep Indiana State in the game. This thing was a foregone conclusion, but the Boilermakers ended it early, and in style. The defense didn’t bust any coverage or let Indiana State pop any big runs. They stayed focused and disciplined even when the coaching staff was churning through the depth chart. The guys further down the line knew the assignment, which is one of the signs of a well coached team.
Speaking of Depth Charts
I will once again release the official Purdue defensive depth chart for the Indiana State game. It’s tough to sort out the reserves, because the staff was trying some stuff out, but I’ve got a decent read on the starters. Barring an injury in practice, these should be the same 11 that start against Syracuse.
LEO (Blue Dot) - #44 - Kydran Jenkins
Defensive Tackle (Red Dot) - #93 - Prince James Boyd Jr.
Nose Tackle (Orange Dot) - #90 - Lawrence Johnson
Defensive End (Yellow Dot) - #99 - Jack Sullivan
I’m going to start off by contradicting myself. I expect Jenkins, Johnson, and Sullivan to start against Syracuse. It’s a toss up between Prince James Boyd Jr. and Branson Deen at defensive tackle. Deen was the presumed starter coming into the season, but battled injuries all through camp. Boyd Jr. outplayed him in the Penn State game. I’m not sure if this is a permanent change to the starting lineup. Boyd and Deen both played well against Indiana State, but again, that’s not saying much.
Middle Linebacker (Blue Dot) - #43 Kieren Douglas
Weak Side Linebacker (Greenish Dot...sorry, I only have so many colors) - #20 - OC Brothers
Jalen Graham was injured in the Penn State game, and will be out of commission for...who knows how long...I’m sure we’ll start getting “maybe next week” or “he’s close” updates in 3 weeks. That could mean he’s ready to go, or that could mean we’ll never see him again. It’s hard to tell.
Graham is a hybrid linebacker/safety and Purdue doesn’t have another one of those on the roster. I expect them to use nickel (4-2-5 or 3-3-5 depending on how you define Purdue’s defensive front) as their base defense until (if?) he returns. Against Indiana State, defensive coordinator Ron English (not sure if he is in charge of personnel, but that’s the way it works at most schools) decided to play an extra safety.
If a team wants to try and run over the Boilermakers, you’ll likely see another linebacker on the field. My guess is Clyde Washington Jr. based on the Penn State game but I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it.
From Top to Bottom
Boundary Corner (Green Dot) - #23 - Corey Trice
Safety (white dot, barely in the screen) - #21 - Sanoussi Kane
Nickel Back/Safety (Purple Dot) - #10 - Cam Allen
Nickel Back/Safety (Pink Dot) - #17 - Chris Jeffererson
Field Corner (Red Dot) - #1 - Reese Taylor
Graham’s spot in the starting lineup went to safety Sanoussi Kane in this game. Kane has received high praise from the coaching staff for his athleticism when healthy. He looks recovered from the hip injury that plagued him this off-season. He started the game off on a great note when he came up and popped the Indiana State running back, forcing a fumble, on the first play of the game.
Having 2 other experienced safeties on the field is a big help for the defense. Cam Allen and Chris Jefferson are versatile enough to play either nickel back or safety. Allen more-so than Jefferson, but both are fine in coverage. The only issue I have with playing 3 safeties full time is Purdue’s lack of back-up safeties. If one of the 3 go down, it’s back to the drawing board because I don’t see another safety on the roster ready to play unless Antonio Stevens is back to full strength after his devastating leg injury against Nebraska in 2020.
Corner is interesting. Corey Trice is Purdue’s big corner, and they like to keep him on the boundary when possible. Reese Taylor is more of a slot corner than an outside corner, but he’s earned the nod at the field corner spot over Jamari Brown in the first two games. Brown will get ample playing time, but this isn’t the role I expected to see Taylor fill when he transferred in from I.U. He struggled to make tackles against Penn State, and Syracuse will try and isolate him next Saturday until he proves he can get a receiver (or running back or quarterback) on the ground.
We learned 2 things about the defense on Saturday. The defensive tackle position is up for grabs (Boyd Jr. and Deen will both get plenty of PT) and Purdue will play 3 safeties until Graham returns.
Other than that, it was fun to see some of the young guys on the field. Khordae Snydor continues to flash at defensive end. He and Sullivan give Purdue 2 different styles of defensive end to deploy depending on the opposition. Yanni Karlaftis was finally unboxed and managed 1⁄2 a sack, and more importantly, no injuries. Linebackers Jacob Wahlberg and Ben Kreul looked functional, which is important, because Purdue’s depth at linebacker is untested.
It’s hard to gain more insight from a game where Purdue had a physical advantage at every position no matter how deep into the depth chart the coaches dug. Hopefully the shutout buoyed their confidence going into the Syracuse game. Cuse thinks their offense is good after putting up 31 on Louisville in their opener and 48 on UCONN last week, and will be riding high at home in the dome on Saturday.