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Revamped Secondary: Purdue Looking to Fresh Faces to Shore Up Defensive Backfield

Purdue will feature new cornerbacks this season after losing the entire room to graduation and the transfer portal.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

In past seasons, a new coach would largely be stuck with the players that had been in the program from his predecessor and it took time to get the players into the program to fit your system. When that program had a struggling position group, there wasn’t much to do but hope your developmental program could help them make the jump. In today’s college football landscape, new coach doesn’t have to wait and evidence of that couldn’t be stronger than what Purdue Head Coach Ryan Walters has done with his cornerback room in his first spring.

Although Purdue had a draft worthy cornerback in Cory Trice Jr. (Pittsburgh Steelers-7th Round) and UDFA Reese Taylor (Kansas City Chiefs), the Boilermakers often struggled against the pass in 2022 and lacked any sort of depth at the position. Head Coach Ryan Walters noted the lack of depth at the position and looked to bring in as much talent as possible and it looks as though he was able to do that with five new players coming in from the transfer portal along with one high school recruit to join the lone holdover from last year in Jamari Brown.

Ryan Walters clearly has a type that he wants to see in his cornerbacks in his unique style of defense. With his help, the Illini were able to develop two top flight cornerbacks in Devon Witherspoon (Round 1, Pick 5) and Jartavius Martin (Round 2, Pick 47) who are both bigger cornerbacks.

Jamari Brown, the lone holdover at the position, started games last season for Purdue as Cory Trice Jr. rounded into form from injury and injuries took others out. He is a quality player with the length and size that Ryan Walters appears to value in his cornerbacks. At 6’3 and 205 pounds, Brown is able to use that size to his advantage against smaller receivers as he was able to grab 3 interceptions and 2 tackles for loss with multiple passes defended. His experience at Purdue and Kentucky likely vault him into an early starting position.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Outside of Brown, the Boilers feature six players who will be new to the program but none likely as heralded as Penn State transfer Marquis Wilson. Brown is a bit shorter at just 5’11 but has immense athletic ability that saw the defensive back used as a wide receiver at Penn State. Being able to solely focus on the cornerback position should bode well for Wilson as he could be an All B1G type of cornerback for the Boilers. He likely locks down one of the starting position as long as he stays healthy.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Boilers were also able to grab two corners from SEC territory as new position coach Sam Carter seemed to sway former Ole Miss corners Markevious Brown and Braxton Myers to commit to Purdue. The two corners were major recruits out of the south as Markevious Brown was a top 50 corner prospect out of IMG Academy in 2021 and Wilson was a top 160 national recruit in the 2023 class. Markevious appears ready to jump into a starting role while Myers may need a redshirt season to adjust to the college game (don’t forget that players can play up to 4 games and maintain their redshirt). Myers will be a really good player sooner rather than later.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first players to commit to Purdue with the coaching changes from the portal was former Stanford cornerback Salim Turner-Muhammed and the former 4 star high school recruit out of Virginia may be poised to be a key piece for the Boilers. A three year contributor at Stanford, Salim’s experience could be a boost to a room with so many new faces trying to come together.

The other transfer is junior college player Botros Alisandro who is likely to serve as much needed depth for a room that saw almost all of the players it had leave. Alisandro has had quite the journey to make it to major football as he if from New Hampshire from the 2020 class but saw his first two seasons with ASA Brooklyn (JUCO) cancelled due to Covid and played in Utah at Snow College last season.

A wild card continues to be Shon Stephens who is searching for a hardship waiver from the NCAA following his needed departure from football to help his mother who suffered a heart attack. That forced Stephens to step away from football for nearly three years but his first appeal for a hardship waiver with the NCAA was blocked. He is currently in the appeals process of that first denial.

Depth Chart Projection:

Coach Walters will likely play 5 defensive backs in his scheme and Purdue is very solid at the safety position with Sanoussi Kane and Cam Allen but the two cornerback positions and nickel corner are truly up fro grabs. Marquis Wilson is good enough to be a number one corner for a program like Purdue and being able to focus solely at cornerback will inevitably help him make a jump while the second corner and nickel remain wide open. Likely, Jamari Brown, Markevious Brown, and Salem Turner-Muhammed, and eventually Braxton Myers battle for those final two positions.

Cornerback: Marquis Wilson | Markevious Brown | Braxton Myers

Cornerback: Jamari Brown | Salem Turner-Muhammed | Botros Alisandro

Nickel Corner: Markevious Brown | Salem Turner-Muhammed | Braxton Myers