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Position Group Breakdown: Inside Linebacker

Not much depth in the middle, let’s hope for an injury free season.

NCAA Football: Indiana State at Purdue Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Walters puts out a weird depth chart on defense (I’m not complaining, I’ll take a weird depth chart over no depth chart any day of the week). It’s weird because he lists 12 starters, and as far as I know only 11 players are allowed on the field at the same time. He lists two starting inside linebackers and 5 starters in the secondary. The actual starting lineup will be dictated by the opponent. If they’re run heavy, you get 2 inside linebackers. If they like to pass you’ll get 5 defensive backs.

O.C. Brothers could be the key to the entire defense. Last season he started at outside linebacker and did a respectable job, accumulating 42 tackles, a tackle for loss and sack. Last season at Illinois, middle linebacker Isaac Darkangelo led the team in tackles with 71 and also had 7.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Brothers is going to need to step his production up if this thing is going to work. When a back busts a run up the middle, it’s OC’s job to get them on the ground. If he can accomplish that, the run defense should be fine. At the same time, if I’m an offensive coordinator, I’m testing the middle every chance I get.

If the opponent starts running the ball, it’s finally YANNI KARLAFTIS TIME! Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the 4* recruit out of West Lafayette has been plagued with injuries during his time at Purdue. In fact, the injuries started before Purdue when he lost his senior season of high school football to a hamstring injury. Last season he played in 9 games and accounted for 4 tackles. It’s time for the redshirt sophomore to make a move.

After OC and Yanni, Clyde Washington is next up, after that, I have no idea. At least Washington has some experience (way more than Karlaftis) after playing in 9 games and starting one. He put had 14 tackles and an interception from his outside linebacker position. In 2021 he contributed an additional 6 tackles. That’s not Ray Lewis production, but it’s something at least.

Starter #1

OC Brothers - #8 - RS-Sr. - 6’2”, 245

The Titusville Florida native was originally part of Auburn’s 2019 class. Known for his speed, he ran a verified 4.5, 40 yard dash in high school at 210 pounds (not sure he can pull that off at 245). After 2 uneventful seasons of pine riding on the plains, he decided to seek his fortune elsewhere and ended up with the Boilermakers. He’s been a staple on the field the last two season, appearing in 12 games in both 2021 and 2022.

I’m going to be real with y’all, it’s OC or bust this year. Make sure you light a candle for his health. He’s the only inside linebacker with any sort of resume. He’ll be asked to clean up any running back that pops out of the line and play middle zone coverage in pass coverage. I know he’s a solid coverage linebacker, I’m not sure about the run stopper part. We’ll find out soon enough.

Starter #2

Yanni Karlaftis - #14 - RS-So. - 6’3”, 235

I’m sure Yanni is ready to be known as more than George’s little brother amongst Purdue fans and it looks like he’ll finally get the chance. The former 4* recruit from West Lafayette High School hasn’t found any traction in his first two seasons, despite there being ample opportunity to do so. It seems like he’s always been nicked up. That needs to stop this season. I expect teams to challenge the center of the Purdue defense early, and Yanni needs to be on the field to dissuade that from happening. I like Purdue’s new scheme, but if it can’t stop the A and B gap run, it’ll be gutted by any team willing to stick with the run game. It’s time for Purdue’s highest rated linebacker on the squad to make an impact. He’s got the talent, now is the time to turn that talent into production.


Clyde Washington - #42 - Sr. - 6’3”, 245

Washington has been a bit player thus far in his career, now he’s an injury away from starting. He’s listed as the backup for both “starting” inside linebackers. He’s flashed nice speed on occasion, and is decent in coverage, including an interception last season at Nebraska. Like Brothers and Karlaftis, he’s an outside linebacker by trade, forced inside by scheme and necessity. Can he consistently take on a running back in the hole? No, idea, but we’ll probably find out at some point. Like Karlaftis, he’s got solid ability, it’s all about handling the physical play inside the tackle box for Clyde.

Everyone Else

Domanick Moon - #47 - RS-Fr. - 6’2, 235

The former 3* linebacker out of Ft. Wayne has yet to see the field. That’ll change this season. If nothing else, he’ll be needed on special teams. I’m guessing he’s the 4th linebacker.

Owen Davis - #22 - Fr. - 6’3”, 235

Like fellow Ohio native Markus Bailey, Davis played on both sides of the ball in the high school. He did a little bit of everything for smallish North Union High School (between 400-500 students). He ran the ball out of the wing T, and ran well, putting up over 1000 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground. He’d get a quick drink, strap his helmet on a little tighter, and head back out to play middle linebacker. He also starred on the basketball team, averaging 13 points a game as a senior. Sounds like he’s in great shape at least. If you see him this year, something has gone terribly wrong, but if he figures out the middle linebacker position, he could factor heavily into Purdue’s future.