Purdue’s high-powered offense under head coach Jeff Brohm has been compromised the last two seasons by porous defense and shoddy special-teams play.
As a result, the Boilermakers have been unable to build off their landmark home win over Ohio State more than two years ago. Purdue has failed to reach the postseason since the 2018 Music City Bowl, going 6-12 over its last two seasons.
Another offseason resulted in another change at defensive coordinator, as Bob Diaco was jettisoned for Marshall defensive coordinator Brad Lambert. A Broyles Award nominee in 2020, Lambert helped guide Marshall to the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense (13 ppg) and fourth-ranked run defense (95.5 ypg).
Purdue returns seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense. The top returning offensive threat for the Boilermakers, wide receiver David Bell, has posted 139 catches for 1,660 yards and 16 TDs in his two-year career (15 receiving, 1 rushing). The quarterback spot, though, remains unsettled, with Jack Plummer, Aidan O’Connell and Austin Burton battling for the job again this fall.
On defense, junior defensive end George Karlaftis has posted 9.5 career sacks, but questions remain at linebacker and in the secondary.
Here’s an early outlook for Purdue heading into the 2021 season:
WHAT THEY LOST
Speedy receiver Rondale Moore, who posted a combined 2,163 rushing/receiving yards and 17 TDs, declared for the NFL Draft, where he was taken in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals. Linebacker Derrick Barnes was taken in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions after a solid career at Purdue that included 24.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Steady 6-foot-7, 305-pound left tackle Grant Hermanns, who made 32 starts over four seasons, signed as a free agent with the New York Jets after declaring for the NFL Draft.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
Tyler Witt, a grad transfer from Western Kentucky, projects to start at right guard. OC Brothers, a transfer from Auburn who was a former, first-team all-state high school linebacker in Florida, could help immediately on defense. Defensive back C.J. McWilliams, a transfer from Florida with four career pass breakups, will help in the secondary.
PROSPECTS FOR 2021
Brohm, an offensive mastermind, needs to prove in his fifth season that he’s a program builder. Too often, Purdue has lacked the toughness on defense or execution on special teams needed to win Big Ten conference games.
The Boilermakers will get an early non-conference test at Notre Dame on Sept. 18 and have trips to Iowa (Oct. 16), Nebraska (Oct. 30) and Ohio State (Nov. 13) on their Big Ten schedule. Purdue could get back to a bowl game if a stable quarterback emerges to get Bell the football and the defense can transform into a more reliable unit under Lambert.