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8 Days to Purdue Football: T.J. Sheffield

The Boilermakers lost their two leaders in receiving yards to the NFL draft. Number three is back for one more year.

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

T.J. Sheffield - RS Senior

Thompson’s Station, TN (Independence High School)

Wide Receiver

5’11”, 190 lbs.

2023 Projection: Starting slot receiver

This mainstay has big expectations in 2023. The former four-star recruit out of Tennessee started his career dazzling Boilermakers faithful with his speed. Down the track, his receiving skills have caught up with his engine.

T.J. Sheffield maintained his redshirt after appearing in three games as a true freshman, hauling in two receptions for 12 yards against Minnesota.

As a redshirt freshman, his speed and vision established him as one of the most reliable kick return men in college football. Despite limited targets on offense as a wide receiver, his 2020 season involved 412 all-purpose yards and only 11 of those were receiving yards. He rushed for four. That means 397 return yards on 19 kickoffs for 20.9 yards per return. Pretty good start.

As a redshirt sophomore, he not only found his role in the offense but expanded his role on special teams, returning 14 punts for 109 yards. Sheffield had fewer kickoff returns in 2021 because “DON’T KICK TOWARD THAT GUY” but still returned seven kickoffs for 75 yards. While leading the Boilers in punt and kickoff return yards, he only started in three of twelve games as a wide receiver, still catching 36 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns (including the game-winner against Illinois). That ended up being third-most on the team.

Last year, he solidified his role as one of the most reliable passing targets, racking up 480 yards on 46 receptions with four touchdowns.

Note: Part of Purdue’s athletics website says it was 840 yards last season and I was thinking “I watched all of last season, 18 yards per catch cannot be correct.” It was not correct. T.J. Sheffield had 480 yards at 10.4 yards per catch, which is still pretty sweet and good for third in reception yards on the team (again) behind NFL draft picks Charlie Jones and Payne Durham.

The coaching staff basically took him off of return duty last year, but it’ll be interesting to see how often the new staff wants to use such an explosive player who also serves as a damn-near-every-down receiver at this point in his career.

My guess: probably prioritizing his role on offense so he can play more snaps and not get gassed with returns. But! The option is still there. Sheffield is too fast and good with the football in his hands to keep off the field and it’ll be fun to see how the last year unfolds for a jack-of-all-trades offensive veteran.

Who knows? Maybe this year, that yardage total will surpass the 840 typo on Purdue’s website.

Additional Note: I have never made a typo in my life and I most certainly have not accidentally written “Jordan Ivey” instead of “Jaden Ivey” so let’s all point and laugh at them to divert attention away from me.