With the hiring of new Head Coach Ryan Walters, Purdue will feature a new look defense and one that has generated a lot of buzz in his stops at Missouri and Illinois. For first year position coach Grant O’Brien, he has the luxury of returning multiple players with starting experience while also bringing in some new players from the portal, off red shirt, and two true freshman. Let’s dive into the safety position heading into the last few days of spring football!
The safety position is one that definitely has options to choose from with what I count as nine players on scholarship on the roster right now or joining the Boilers in the summer. Even with those numbers, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see another safety targeted in the portal to try and bolster the depth or even provide another starter.
Head Coach Ryan Walters and position coach Grant O’Brien already dipped into the transfer portal to grab Arkansas redshirt freshman transfer Anthony Brown to hopefully grab a starting position or at least be an option to play a big role in the defense in 2023. The former 3 star safety out of Tennessee was rated as the 43rd player at his position as a senior while also playing quarterback. His background is very similar to position teammate Cam Allen who was a former quarterback and former Mr. Football in the state of Virginia.
Speaking of the fifth year player, Cam Allen returns for the Boilers in what he hopes will be a springboard type of year to head to the NFL. Allen has the athletic abilities and ball-hawking nature with 10 total interceptions, 22 passes defended, and 173 total tackles in his career but has seemed to give up big plays over the course of his career with a bit of a ‘feast or famine.’ With that being said, a multi-year starter and a player of Allen’s experience and ability should come in handy with the new defense that Walters will employ that brings pressure to the quarterback. Having a ball-hawking safety patrolling the back end may lead to Allen’s best season yet.
Alongside Allen, Sanoussi Kane may be the most NFL ready safety Purdue has on the roster. The 6’ and 210 pound Kane was a three star playing coming out of high school but flashed high potential early on in his career at Purdue, even showing an ability to play cornerback in Purdue’s big bowl victory over Tennessee. That combination of skill to come down and cover WR’s will play an important role in Purdue’s defense this season as Walter’s will have options when it comes to covering receivers and bringing blitzes from different angles. Kane was quiet for most of his first two seasons but broke out last season with 72 total tackles, 3 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, fumble recovery, and a sack. Another big year is expected for the senior as he likely heads to the NFL the following year.
Another set of intriguing players are Antonio Stevens and Joseph Jefferson II who, at worst, will provide a set of backup safeties with some experience and skill. Stevens showed a lot of promise in his first year of action in 2020 but experienced a massive knee injury that saw him miss the second half of the 2020 season, the entire 2021 season, and threatened the start of the 2022 season. Joseph Jefferson II is an intriguing prospect who should be able to add depth to a position that needs to have it after a few seasons of giving up big plays in the worst possible times.
Coming into the program this season are some young players in Dillon Thieneman, Ethon Cole, and Winston Berglund. Thieneman and Cole were early entrants which should help them possible see the field in 2022 but they may not be quite ready to contribute on a regular basis on defense early on. They may be players who play the second half of the season when they are able to gain experience and some more size. With those two also comes Winston Berglund who will join the Boilers in the summer and make for a trio of newcomers that should be very good for the Boilers down the road.
I’ll probably go the safe route and stick with Kane and Allen as the starters but don’t rule out Arkansas transfer Anthony Brown given his ties with position coach Grant O’Brien at Arkansas. The former SEC safety brings some needed athleticism and ability to a position that needs it. Joseph Jefferson needs to take a big step forward this season and hopefully Stevens recovers completely to form. Don’t expect the young guys to contribute much this season with this amount of depth and experience but they may end up seeing time in the later part of the season as part of their ability to retain a redshirt while playing 3 games. Don’t be surprised if the staff dips into the portal to look for another starter quality safety and there always lies the potential for a player to seek out greener pastures after getting a sense of where they stand with the new staff with spring ball almost done (Purdue is still two scholarships over the limit).