This is good news, bad news situation for the Boilermakers. Purdue had two of its players selected in the top 100 picks in the NFL draft for the first time since 2008. The bad news is that defensive end George Karlaftis and receiver David Bell leave huge shoes to fill.
Some of the veteran players on both sides of the ball did choose to come back led by quarterback Aidan O’Connell. The offense should look pretty much the same with O’Connell completing high-percentage passes.
Purdue finished seventh in the Big Ten in scrimmage plays of 30 yards or longer and that is pretty much how the Boilermakers play. They aren’t going to stretch the field as much as other teams in the conference. However, when the offense is clicking the Boilermakers can put plenty of pressure on the opposing defense.
The schedule could play a role in the Boilermakers’ season with no games against conference heavyweights Ohio State or Michigan. Indiana State, Syracuse, and Florida Atlantic is hardly the toughest non-conference slate put together.
Purdue has seen its odds to win the Big Ten title rise from +2200 to +2800 over the last month according to the sportsbook. Purdue (+550) is tied for fourth in the odds to win the Big Ten West Division title.
- 2021 record: 9-4
- 2021 conference record: 6-3
- Head coach: Jeff Brohm
- Odds to win conference title: +2800
Marvin Grant, Purdue’s second-leading tackler, transferred to Kansas. Linebacker Khalil Saunders is also on the way out while quarterback Jack Plummer is now at Cal. The highest-rated transfers coming to Purdue are Indiana cornerback Reese Taylor, Auburn receiver Elijah Canion, and FIU offensive lineman Sione Finau along with Penn State defensive lineman Cole Brevard.
O’Connell is returning for his sixth season. After splitting time with Plummer during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, he finally won the job outright a season ago. O’Connell completed at least 65% of his passes in 11 of 12 regular-season games. One concern is that in Purdue’s first three losses, he had three touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. The interceptions tended to come in bunches with 10 of the 12 he threw taking place in four games.
O’Connell will need to find a new favorite target after Bell, the team’s leader in receptions in each of the last three seasons, is a member of the Cleveland Browns.
Receiver Milton Wright and tight end Payne Durham are back after combining for 102 catches a season ago. Broc Thompson, TJ Sheffield, and Garrett Miller also return.
Purdue added a pair of receivers from rival Iowa. Charlie Jones was fourth on Iowa with 323 receiving yards a season ago. He is earning preseason all-conference nods. He could be one of the top returners in the conference after averaging 25.4 yards per kickoff return for Iowa in 2021 and bringing back a punt for a touchdown against Michigan State in 2020. He earned second-team preseason All-American honors from the Walter Camp Foundation for his kickoff returning prowess.
Preseason All-B1G accolades for 8️⃣ Boilermakers, according to @philsteele042.
1st Team: Charlie Jones
2nd Team: Payne Durham, Gus Hartwig, Aidan O’Connell
3rd Team: Cam Allen, Jalen Graham, Spencer Holstege
4th Team: Branson Deen pic.twitter.com/pOFR58VFmO
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) June 17, 2022
Tyrone Tracy, who had 36 receptions during the 2019 season before seeing his role diminish in the next two years, comes in from Iowa. Another receiver to keep an eye on is Elijah Canion. He only had seven catches in six games during his two seasons with Auburn. However, in his lone contest against a Big Ten opponent, Canion had 80 yards on three catches against Northwestern.
Leading rusher King Doerue also returns even if he topped 15 carries just once in 12 games thanks to Purdue’s pass-happy offense. Dylan Downing, the third-leading rusher is also back.
Four of the five offensive linemen who started against Tennessee (Cam Craig, Gus Hartwig, Eric Miller and Tyler Witt) are all back so that could be a position of strength for the Boilermakers.
Leading tackler Jaylan Alexander is in camp with the Chicago Bears. It won’t be easy to replace his production. Marvin Grant and Cam Allen return to lead the secondary.
Kydran Jenkins was tied for the team lead with five sacks in 2021 and the best could be yet to come from him. Branson Deen is another player in the front seven who has shown the ability to make plays in the backfield.
The top three highest-rated incoming transfers are on defense. Former Indiana defensive back Reese Taylor has seen the most action of the three with 70 tackles and two interceptions while also contributing returning punts and kickoffs. Penn State defensive lineman Cole Brevard and Kansas State cornerback Tee Denson also join the Boilermakers.
Purdue was ninth in the Big Ten with an average of 5.5 yards allowed per play so the reinforcements will be welcomed in an attempt for Purdue to become a tougher team to play against.
Mitchell Fineran is back after connecting on 24 field goals. However, Syracuse was the only team from a Power-5 Conference to average fewer yards per punt than Purdue did.
The 2021 season couldn’t have ended much better for Purdue with three wins in a row. The Boilermakers scored more than 40 points in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2018 season when they topped rival Indiana in the regular-season finale and piled up 627 yards in a bowl win against Tennessee.
Purdue did lose top players on both sides of the ball. However, there are more than enough returning contributors for the Boilermakers to make a run at yet another bowl game.
The Boilermakers were a favorite of those who make college football predictions during the 2021 season as they covered in each of the last six games that they won and failed to cover in the last three games they lost.
Opening the season against Penn State will be no easy task. After that, Purdue could very well be favored according to the Las Vegas odds in each of the next six games. Having the bye week fall in between the Wisconsin and Iowa games could also prove beneficial for the Boilermakers.
Sept. 1 vs Penn State
Sept. 10 vs Indiana State
Sept. 17 at Syracuse
Sept. 24 vs Florida Atlantic
Oct. 1 at Minnesota
Oct. 8 at Maryland
Oct. 15 vs Nebraska
Oct. 22 at Wisconsin
Nov. 5 vs Iowa
Nov. 12 at Illinois
Nov. 19 vs Northwestern
Nov. 26 at Indiana