To paraphrase Mugatu from Zoolander, “It’s that damn Purdue! They’re so hot right now!”
Turns out assembling a young, ambitious, and un-weird coaching staff has its advantages. Purdue is reaping those benefits without the benefit of on-field results. If (when) those come, recruiting is going to take another huge step forward. From what I see right now, if Purdue can show progress on the field, Coach Walters will elevate recruiting to a level we’ve never seen.
Enough with the platitudes though, let’s get to work.
Shamar Rigby - Wide Receiver - 6’4”, 170 - St. Petersburg (FLA), Lakewood High
Shamar added the first spark to Purdue’s raging recruiting conflagration. If you read my film break down (if you didn’t click here), at the end I mention that Purdue needs a boundary receiver. Rigby, unfortunately, won’t be able to help out this year, but if he stays with Purdue, he’ll be fighting for playing time the first day he steps on campus.
As a junior, Rigby pulled down 42 passes for 632 yards and 8 touchdowns. He’s the definition of a down field threat with a solid combination of size, athletic ability, and hands. His film package reminds me a little of Clemson’s (and now Cincinnati's) Tee Higgins. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying Rigby is a 5*, top 20 receiver recruit, but he has some of the traits that made Higgins a star. Rigby is a go up and get it type receiver who eats up smaller corners 1-on -1 because even if he’s covered from the neck down, he’s open from the head up (if that makes sense). He also plays basketball, and you can tell by his outstanding body control in the air.
There are a bunch of 6’4 basketball guys that are making the move to wide receiver. When you watch the film, you can usually pin point a basketball guy because there isn’t much after the catch. They’re plenty athletic, but don’t have the dog in ‘em. Rigby has that dog. He’s a physical runner with the ball in his hands and isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder and truck a defensive back. You don’t see many blocking situations for receivers on highlight film, but I assume that physicality holds over as well. If you’re a receiver that doesn’t like to block, Purdue isn’t your place.
As of now, he is considered a high 3* recruit, but he has the potential to crack 4* status because of his measurables. He’ll need to put together a monster season (and Purdue will have to hold on for dear life if that happens) but that’s certainly not out of the question. The eye test says 4*, but let’s see if his production on the field can catch up.
Caleb Mitchell - DL/Linebacker - 6’2, 255 - DeSoto (TX), Parish Episcopal School
The staff hit the road hard in Texas and managed to haul in an edge rusher/defensive end with a slew of top tier P5 offers. His primary recruiter, Brick Haley, coaches the defensive line, and did a great job of selling Mitchell on fit. He plays defensive end in a 3-4 system in high school, and he’ll get the chance to play defensive end in a 3-4 in college.
I talked about this a while back, but last season Coach Walters used his defensive ends as disruptors, not block eaters. His two starting defensive ends were both in the top 5 for tackles and were 1 and 2 on the team in sacks. That’s what Mitchell brings to the party. He’s a bully on the edge, with the power to go through tackles and the speed to go around them. This is a great fit for what Purdue will do on defense.
Mitchell holds offers from all the players in Texas, including Texas, Texas A&M, and TCU. As I say with every recruit, I have no idea if those are actual offers or “wait and see offers” but either way, the dude doesn’t lack for choice, and at this moment, he’s choosing Purdue. He’s currently rated as a high 3* prospect, but much like Rigby, has the opportunity to move up with another stellar season. As a junior he put up 96 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. He’s filled out significantly (some recruiting sites have him at 220, but I’m confident he’s close to 260 now) and if he can use that extra size and strength to bump up his sack totals, the 4th star will come.
Spencer Porath - Kicker - 6’0”, 185 - Brownsburg (IN), Brownsburg High
I would be remiss if I left the kicker out of this round up. Everyone overlooks the kicker until the game is on the line and the least football looking dude on the squad strolls onto the field. If you’re a fan of his team, you’re making deals with your deity of choice for a make, and if you’re a fan of the opposing team, you’re making a deal with the deity of your choice for miss. Kicker may be the most prayed about position in sports.
Purdue needed a kicker in this class and managed to snag the best one in Indiana. He’s got some work to do on the field after hitting 5/10 field goals with a long of 44 yards (no info on his misses), but he did hit all 11 extra points (seems low for a high school season) and he hit 59 out of 82 kickoffs into the end zone.
It’s always tough to tell what a high school kicker will look like when the goal posts narrow and the tee goes away, but such is life. The kid has a live leg and wants to play for Purdue, despite holding early offers form Army and Air Force. He’ll be a nice piece for the future.
Earl Kulp - Defensive Back - 6’0, 175 - Ft. Lauderdale (FL), St.
When you hire one of the premier secondary coaches in the nation, and he’s coming off an NFL draft that saw 3 of his former charges selected, recruiting defensive backs gets much easier.
Kulp is a low 4* prospect with offers from Michigan, Miami, Penn State, and Tennessee amongst others. Interestingly enough, he plays at powerhouse Miami Central after transferring in from St. Thomas Aquinas after his sophomore year. He shared a defensive backfield with several high level talents at Miami Central which limited his overall production, but he still managed to break up 4 passes as a junior. He’ll be expected to step up and take a leadership role at Miami Central this year as they attempt to defend their state championship.
Even though he doesn’t have a ton of experience, he oozes potential. He’s a smooth 6’0” corner with long arms that he uses to break up passes without drawing flags. He’s the type of long corner teams want on the outside to compete with guys like Shamar Rigby. If the other team has guys on the outside that can go up and get it, you better have guys on the outside that can go up and knock it down (or better yet, pick it off).
Consider him a low floor, high ceiling player that checks all the physical boxes but needs some development as a corner. Purdue happens to have a head coach that is known for developing players and a corner back coach with a history of putting together tough units. He’s a “good clay” sort of player waiting to be molded, and the Boilermakers have a couple good sculptors on the staff.
Keonde Henry - Wide Receiver - 6’2”, 185 - Lake Dallas (TX), Lake Dallas High
Last but not least, Purdue managed to haul in a 4* wide receiver to go with their 4* quarterback and 4* defensive back. Henry, a former Texas Tech and Boston College commit, pulled down 30 catches for 626 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a robust 21 yards a catch, and 1 to 3 catch to touchdown rate. He doesn’t get a ton of chances, but when he does get a chance, he makes the most of it.
Like fellow Purdue wide receiver commit Shamar Rigby, Henry is at his best when the ball is in the air and everyone is holding their breath, trying to figure out if the quarterback just threw a touchdown or an interception. If you throw it up, he’s going to go up and get it. He’s another boundary guy for Harrell to split out wide and tell to go deep, or pull in a wide receiver screen on the boundary and fight for tough yardage. He’s fast, but he doesn’t shy away from contact.
Speaking of fast, Henry is a also a track guy. He ran a somewhat impressive 11.21 100 and an even more impressive 49.46 400. His 400 time is telling because he’s a long strider with building speed. Once he gets his long legs churning, he eats up ground without looking like he’s doing much until you notice the corner 3 steps behind. I’ll show you Coach Harrell’s power outside screen game (I showed you the boundary tunnel screen earlier) at some point this offseason, and I love Henry in the role. Sometimes in short yardage, Harrell has his QB rise up and throw it to the boundary receiver, and the boundary receiver is responsible for getting the yard instead of pounding it between the tackles. Purdue’s going to move the line of scrimmage to the outside on occasion, and when they do, Henry is the type of tough, determined runner that can drag a DB 2 yards for a crucial first down.
Needless to say, scooping up a 4* receiver out of Texas is a huge get for the Boilermakers. The new staff have flexed their recruiting muscle in the Longhorn State, utilizing several assistants with ties to one of the richest recruiting grounds in the nation.
It’s early, but this is shaping up to be one of Purdue’s best ever recruiting classes. This class is currently ranked 27th in the nation, and that’s not just because of quantity. Brohm’s 2019 class ended up 26th but was bolstered by two stud in-state guys in Karlaftis and Bell. Coach Walters doesn’t have that advantage this year, but he’s going out and bringing in guys from Texas/Florida instead of New York/New Jersey (no offense to those guys, but most didn’t pan out).
If these guys stick, you’re going to see some freshman on campus that have played and won at the highest level of high school football. They won’t back down from anyone and that’s the sort of attitude that helps you compete against the Big Boys of college football. If Walters is able to keep this up, he’ll quickly move Purdue to the top of the “not Ohio State, Michigan, or Penn State” tier. If he can get there, anything is possible.