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Monday Thoughts: Looking For The Bright Spots

Purdue didn’t have a shot on Saturday, but a few young players flashed.

Illinois v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Saturday was rough.

This Purdue team doesn’t have the talent to compete with Ohio State. That played out on the field. Their wasn’t a moment in the game where it felt like Purdue was in position to challenge the Buckeyes.

It shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

There’s not much analysis needed. When a team has a talent and experience advantage to the extent that Ohio State has over Purdue, blowouts happen. Getting into the details isn’t important because it didn’t matter what Purdue attempted, they were never going to be good enough to consistently pull it off.

It’s easy to slip into college football indifference because of games like these. If your team doesn’t have a chance, what’s the point?

That’s fair.

Football tickets, and everything that surrounds attending college football games, is expensive, and attending a game takes up your entire Saturday. Even if you watch from home, you’re still making at least a 3 hour commitment. I’m busy, you’re busy, and watching Purdue get inevitably slaughtered by Ohio State or Michigan isn’t a great investment of time. I get it. While I was watching the game on Saturday, I was thinking of everything else I could be doing.

I, of course, am contractually obligated to watch Purdue play sports (not a bad gig). I watch games like Purdue vs Ohio State differently than I watch other games. I don’t worry about the outcome, because the outcome was determined before the teams entered the stadium. Instead of spending the entire game being mad about the inevitable, I look for the bright spots. It keeps my blood pressure in check and allows me to somewhat enjoy the game, despite the disparity in talent and the disparity on the scoreboard. It’s not my favorite way to watch, but it’s better than hate watching. There is way too much to be mad about than to be mad about college football.


Devin Mockobee - So

That was the Mockobee we’ve been waiting for. He made decisive cuts, got into the second level of the defense, and Ohio State safeties and linebackers had a hard time getting him on the ground. 110 yards on 18 carries, with a long of 21 yards is a good day at the offense for a guy that has struggled at times this season. Purdue needs Devin to find his form, not just for this season, but for the future as well. He was the bright spot on offense Saturday and still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Deion Burks - So

Granted, this is a stretch, because Burks only had 3 receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown and 1 carry for six yards, but Deion passed the eye test. Athletically, he looked like he belonged on the field. Out of everyone on the offense, Burks has the explosion to compete against elite defenses.

I was skeptical about Burks at the start of the season. I saw him as a decent slot receiver, but not much else. Essentially a slightly faster T.J. Sheffield. T.J. Sheffield is a fine college football player, but he’s not a game changer. Burks not only has the physical ability to be a top notch Big 10 receiver in the future, but has the mentality of a big play receiver as well. He expects to make big plays. Granted, those big plays haven’t been consistent this season, but Coach Harrell has two more seasons to extract production out of Deion’s potential. They’ll need to put more talent around him, because he’s not a boundary receiver, but he could be an elite slot or field receiver.


MLB - Yanni Karlaftis - So

He’s still a work in progress, and makes the occasional mistake in filling run lanes and in coverage, but he belonged on the field against Ohio State. Jeff Brohm’s staff couldn’t figure out what to do with Yanni. He played some outside linebacker, he played some defense end, but now it’s clear he belongs at inside linebacker. He led Purdue in tackles with 9, including 6 solo tackles against the Buckeyes and recovered a fumble.

Yanni reminds me of former Purdue star linebacker Markus Bailey. He’s got a nose for the ball, tackles well in space, and has the speed to chase plays down from the backside. Physically, he has everything Ryan Walters needs in a middle linebacker. At 6’3”, 235, he should continue to fill out his long frame. It wouldn’t surprise me if Purdue ends up with a 6’3”, 250 pound 1st or 2nd team All-Big 10 linebacker on their hands in two season, if, and this is a huge “if”, he has the injury bug in his rear view mirror.

S - Dillon Thieneman - Fr

You need to be strong in the middle of the field on defense, and Purdue has something cooking with Yanni, a sophomore, at middle linebacker and Thieneman at free safety. Purdue looks to be set at two key positions for the long term. Thieneman tied Karlaftis with 9 tackles with 4 solo tackles.

Like Karlaftis, Dillon has a nose for the ball. At 6’0”, 205, he’s not the biggest guy but has room to grow. I’d love to see him play around 220-225, similar to Bernard Pollard, by the end of his time in West Lafayette. Still, even at 205 Thieneman is both fast and fearless. He’s another guy that looked like he belonged on the field, athletically, with the Buckeyes.

OLB - Nic Scourton - So

The defense, despite struggling this season, has young play makers. Scourton passed the eye test on Saturday. The 6’5”, 280 pound outside linebacker passed the Ohio State eye test. He wouldn’t look out of place on Ohio State, both in terms of size and ability. He showed up 3 tackles, including a sack and a tackle for loss on Saturday.

He still doesn’t make as many plays as I would like, and drifts in and out of games on occasion, but when he’s on, he’s one of the best in the Big 10, and he’ll only continue to get better with experience in this defense. He has 1-4 round NFL talent and should be All-Big 10 by the time he’s a senior.

If I’m going tamper with one player on the Purdue roster this off-season, I’m going after Scourton. At the same time, this defense is perfect for his skill set. He’d be a defensive end in a 4-3 and I like him as an outside linebacker. I think outside linebacker better fits his skill set in the NFL as an outside linebacker in a 3-4.

Hopefully that is enough to keep him because he’s going to be special.

Other Young Players to Watch

QB - Hudson Card - So

I’m still a believer in Card, despite his struggles this season. He’s trying to make plays, but doesn’t have enough talent around him to make it happen. When he throws picks, they tend to be picks where he's pressing to make a play that’s not available...because someone needs to make a play.

I need to see him with a better line and a more diverse receiver group before I anoint him Purdue’s savior, or a bust. Right now it could still go either way, but when he’s on, he looks like an elite quarterback. He needs to be “on” more.

DB - Botros Alisandro - So

A late addition from junior college to the 2023 Purdue recruiting class, Alisandro started out slow, but has started to flash. He has an interception and has made a few key plays in coverage. He’s also a decent tackler. At 6’1”, he has height Coach Walters likes at corner, and is an interesting piece on the outside. I want to see how he stacks up athletically against a few of Purdue’s stud DBs currently committed in the 2024 class.

DB - Derrick Rogers Jr. - Fr

Another long defensive back, the 6’1”, Rogers got a taste of big time college football against Ohio State and held up well. Like Alisandro, Rogers has the ideal build to play corner in the Walters defense. At 170 pounds, he needs to add some size, but athletically, he looks smooth. If he can do at 190 what he’s able to do 170, he could be a good one.


There’s only one more game on the schedule (Michigan) that I plan to watch for future. I expect the Boilermakers to show up and try to beat Nebraska. The details will matter against the Corn Huskers, and hopefully, in a season or two, that will be the case against Ohio State and Michigan.

Until Purdue has more raw talent to work with just know there are going to be a few games like this. The good news is they tend to be predictable. You can watch the games like I do, for the future, or you can skip them.

Either way, being upset that Ohio State crushed Purdue is silly.