How many times have we heard it as Purdue students and fans? Purdue just isn’t ‘cool.’ It doesn’t have flash or swagger like Ohio State, Georgia, or Oregon and it certainly doesn’t have tradition like Michigan, Notre Dame, or Alabama. Purdue, in all regards athletically, seems to be the little engine that could when it comes to recruiting and competing. Always doing more with less and building their swagger on being underdogs. Heck, it’s the reason we have taken the moniker ‘Spoilermakers’ to heart over the last several decades. It comes with the territory of being in the smallest B1G market and let’s be honest, West Lafayette, Indiana isn’t a hub of entertainment, nightlife, or ‘cool’ energy.
Something has changed of late. Purdue appears to have a coolness to it. Jeff Brohm, brought in a young recruiting coordinator in 2018 to kick-start the recruiting that had been abysmal under the previous staff. In the four years under Darrell Hazel, Purdue’s classes were 61st (2013), 70th (2014), 67th (2015), and 80th (2016) and there was zero pull with players considered at the top of their classes. Under the guidance of Eron Hodges in 2019 and 2020, Purdue had the 25th (2019) and 32nd (2020) ranked recruiting classes. They did not rank above 38th (2022) in any of the other classes during the rankings on 247 Sports.
The throne awaits— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) June 4, 2022
Official Visit Weekend for some future Boilermakers. ⬆️ pic.twitter.com/YiNQkv0R9I
During Eron Hodges’ time at Purdue, he twisted the narrative when it came to recruiting and pushed to make Purdue a destination for big time recruits. David Bell, George Karlaftis, Rondale Moore, Milton Wright, Gus Hartwig, and Abdur Rahman-Yaseen were all major recruits in those 2019 and 2020 classes. He brought the famous Boilermaker Throne that is still being used in most of the recruiting photos since 2019 and partnered with Cliff Avril to bring the GoldRush Rally to Purdue that featured super cars in front of Ross Ade Stadium.
It seems this new staff is taking that groundwork and making Purdue cool to this first recruiting class in 2024. Right now, Purdue is ranked 19th in 247 Sports Team Rankings with a total of 16 commits. Four of these commits are considered four stars with Koy Beasley checking in as the 124th overall recruit according to 247’s composite score. Beasley clocks in as the 6th highest rated Boilermaker recruit of all time, coming in just behind David Bell. The other major recruits, WR Keonde Henry (12th), QB Marcos Davila (16th), and ATH Luke Williams (38th), are also high on Purdue’s all time recruiting rankings.
On top of these, Purdue is still trying to gain the commitment of numerous high priority targets who would bolster an already impressive list of recruits. Former LSU commit Tight End Tayvion Galloway (4 star 247/11 pos), ATH Tra’Mar Harris (3 star 247/100 pos), CB William Nettles (3 star 247/64 pos), ATH/Linebacker Demeco Kennedy (3 star/75 pos), Edge/DL Jaylin Jones (3 star/55 pos), S Leontre Bradford (3 star/76 pos) and former Texas Tech commit WR Ivan Carreon (4 star/35 pos) are all still targets. Obviously Purdue will not get all of these players but some are considered heavy leans to Purdue. Adding a few more top talents would solidify Purdue as a top 20 class for the 2024 class.
The playing style Brohm brought was fun, at times, but the program as a whole seemed ‘flat.’ The energy of the new staff is clearly evident from their increased presence on social media and the style of the visits. Using Purdue’s aviation footprint, they recently put on an official visit breakfast at the airport featuring Purdue’s single prop planes and university jet.
The staff also partnered with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and brought one of their promotional cars to Ross Ade Stadium as part of those visits. The photos that came from them are truly unique.
Tight End Tayvion Galloway also showed a part of his recent visit where recruits are able to choose their own ‘entrance theme’ to walk out from the concourse area under the press box with the coaches. It is the end to this video that shows the ability of this staff to connect with recruits and likely the strength they posses early on in the Ryan Walters era. This is clearly playing out to recruits both in the transfer portal and in high school.
The other major piece to this newfound coolness is the increased freedom the Purdue Creative team is being given. Purdue has also enjoyed the fruits of labor from these ultra talented individuals but when given the chance to let their juices flow, you get incredible pieces like what we saw from the commitment video from Luke Williams.
For any #Purdue fans that missed it or don’t have Instagram, here’s a look at the commitment video for Naperville (Ill.) North four-star safety Luke Williams (@lukewilliams_17).— Mick Walker (@MickWalker247) June 13, 2023
Straight gas from @Vuhdo and the whole @purduecreative team…
- Lukewilliams_05/IG pic.twitter.com/b41GV2yczW
Purdue’s new coaching staff is young, likely the youngest overall staff in the entire country, and there will be learning curve on Saturdays. At a place like Purdue, those learning curves can be incredibly steep, especially with a schedule featuring the likes of Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
The one thing that seemed to hold Purdue Football back in the past was the inability to sustain the ‘cool or ‘it’ factor. Tiller couldn’t consistently parlay his on-field success into big time recruits at major positions of need, especially wide receiver. Danny Hope didn’t get the financial help he needed (how he was able to succeed is a testament to him). Brohm, for everything he did right in getting Purdue out of the depths of college football purgatory, seemed like he couldn’t sustain the recruiting success he built with the early classes at Purdue.
Head Coach Ryan Walters has an aura of cool about him. Confidence exudes from an individual who knows he is in the right place, at the right time, with the right people around him. He wears his hat backwards and isn’t afraid of who he is and who he isn’t. He is more Katie Geralds than he is Matt Painter or Dave Shondell, but he has taken the lessons those two have provided in how to build a winner at Purdue. Katie made women’s basketball at Purdue cool again with her bravado and simply being who she is.
That is something Ryan Walters said he would so at Purdue recently in an interview with 247 Sports:
“I just think we offer a unique experience,” Walters told 247Sports. “It’s been fun to run a program the way I feel should be ran in today’s college football. I think when recruits get here, when they see the facilities, see the town, they see the setup and then they see the people inside the building, I think we offer a unique authentic experience. What you see is what you get. It’s not fabricated or rehearsed. I’m trying to create an environment where people are comfortable in their own skin.”
The Ryan Walters Era officially begins September 2nd against Fresno State and the cool factor that is Purdue Football is being driven by the head man himself. For the first time in a long time, Purdue fans can look around and have a chance to say it isn’t “the little engine that could”. It’s on they way to legitimately being a ‘cool’ place to play.