Posts Tagged ‘Purdue Boilermakers’

weber_mike_vsOklahoma_090917 (5) TOP UNITS

Ohio State running back Mike Weber

Each year Phil Steele releases his unit rankings in his College Football Preview and given that I write the Big Ten team previews, I thought what better time to share a little insight on the reason why the units are ranked where they are.

14. Illinois Fighting Illini – Mike Epstein was Illinois leading rusher when a leg injury ended his season after five games last year. Ra’Von Bonner is the power back, while Reggie Corbin is the slasher. Epstein is a combination of the two. All three must prove they can remain healthy in the physical Big Ten.

13. Iowa Hawkeyes – Iowa has to replace two 1,000 yard rushers this year and every tailback on the roster is an underclassmen. Toren Young started one game and has power at 220 pounds. Ivory Kelly-Martin saw action in all 13 games as a true freshman and is a good change-of-pace for Young. This is a vastly inexperienced unit.

12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Jon Hilliman was added as a grad transfer after starting 29 games for Boston College. Despite being 225 pounds, Hilliman has good speed. Raheem Blackshear averaged 6.1 yards per carry as a true freshman last year and is quick and explosive.

11. Indiana Hoosiers – Morgan Ellison broke his left leg as a Sophomore and his right leg as a Junior in high school, which hurt his recruitment. He led the Hoosiers as true freshman last year with 704 yards and is naturally strong. Cole Gest provides the change of pace with great burst and explosion, while Mike Majette is a combination of the two.

10. Northwestern Wildcats – Northwestern is replacing their all-time leading rusher in 2018. Jeremy Larkin averaged 6.0 yards per carry last year and John Moten averaged 6.0 yards per carry in 2016. Jesse Brown is similar in size to Larkin and provides track speed.

9. Purdue Boilermakers – Tario Fuller started the first three games in 2017 and averaged 6.1 yards per carry before an ankle injury ended his season. Markell Jones has rushed for over 500 yards in each of his three seasons and has excellent hands out of the backfield. DJ Knox returned from an ACL injury in 2016 to average 6.2 yards per carry in 2017.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers – If this list only pertained to the starting running back, then Minnesota would be ranked higher. Rodney Smith followed up his 1,000 yard season in 2016 with 977 yards last year, battling thru a couple of concussions. With Shannon Brooks sitting this season out due to injury, Mohamed Ibrahim, Dominik London, and Jonathan Femi-Cole provide quality depth.

7. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Just how deep is the Nebraska running back unit? So deep that Devine Ozigbo, who has led the Huskers in rushing each of the last two seasons, will likely have three others in front of him for 2018! Greg Bell is the newcomer that was a two-time Juco All-American, Tre Bryant began last year as the starter before a knee injury ended his season after two games, and Mikale Wilbon is a multiple back that is also a receiving option.

6. Maryland Terrapins – After rushing for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman, Ty Johnson was the focal point for many defenses in 2017 as Maryland was devastated at the QB position. Lorenzo Harrison is elusive and powerful, while Anthony McFarland is fully healed from a high school injury that resulted in him taking a redshirt last year and has sprinter speed.

5. Michigan State Spartans – LJ Scott would’ve likely been an NFL draft pick in 2018, but opted to return to East Lansing for his Senior season. He’s a 230 pound bruiser. Connor Heyward is the son of the late “Iron Head” Heyward and has tremendous explosiveness and great hands. Weston Bridges brings a change of pace and has great vision, but can also run through would be tacklers.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions – Miles Sanders will have the difficult task of replacing Saquan Barkley as the feature running back, but is similarly built and is also a great receiving threat. True freshman Ricky Slade was ranked as the No. 3 running back in the 2018 recruiting class and has elite acceleration. Mark Allen is the veteran of the unit and will be the change of pace running back.

3. Michigan Wolverines – Michigan still ranks this high even after the recent news that Kareem Walker has decided to transfer to Juco. Karan Higdon earned Third Team Big Ten honors last year that can run inside or bounce outside. Chris Evans averaged over five yards per carry in 2017 and is the fastest of the running backs. O’Maury Samuels has great stop-start ability, and Berkely Edwards was added as a grad transfer that has excellent quickness.

2. Wisconsin Badgers – While Wisconsin just may have the Heisman Trophy winner for 2018 in Jonathan Taylor, this list is about the entire unit, not just the starter. Backup Bradrick Shaw is coming off an ACL injury, Taiwan Deal is coming off an ankle injury, and Chris James was limited to nine games last year and injured his ankle during spring practices.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes – No team in the Big Ten has more talent at running back than Ohio State. It can be argued that JK Dobbins and Mike Weber, who each has ran for over 1,000 yards in season, are the best combination in the nation. Add a pair of very highly touted true freshman to the mix along with Demario McCall, who will also play the H-Back position and it’s easy to see why this unit is ranked where it is.

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Bailey_Markus (2)RIGHT

WLB Markus Bailey and the rest of the Purdue defense will have their work cut out for them in 2018.

The Purdue Boilermakers had a magical season in 2017 under new head coach Jeff Brohm. Among the many feats accomplished were winning back-to-back games for the first time since 2012, winning on the road by the largest margin since 1999, selling out Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time since 2008, winning a game in November for the first time since 2012, the largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game since 2012, and winning the Old Oaken Bucket for the first time since 2012.

It’s no wonder why Brohm’s name was brought up for the Tennessee head coaching job. After the rumors of Brohm’s departure to Knoxville were put to rest, Purdue beat Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl. Brohm joined legendary Purdue head coach Joe Tiller in winning a bowl game in his first season in West Lafayette.

Brohm has his work cut out for him in 2018 if Purdue is to reach back-to-back bowls for the first time since 2011-’12. Known for his offense, it was his defense, coordinated by Nick Holt with eight returning starters, that showed major improvement last year in going from allowing 446 yards per game and 38.3 points per game in 2016 to 375 yards per game and 20.5 points per game in 2017. Purdue must replace seven starters from the defense including middle linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, who also led the team in tackles for loss and was drafted by the New England Patriots.

The main hurdle in front of Purdue this season is a schedule that noted college football prognosticator Phil Steele rates as the second toughest in the nation! While all three non-conference games are at home, two are versus Power Five conference schools that made a bowl last year in Missouri and Boston College. Both are expected to be improved in 2018. The Boilermakers three Big Ten crossover games are versus Ohio State, at Michigan State, and of course at Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket. All three of those teams are projected to reach a bowl with Ohio State expected to return to the playoffs.

Purdue returns nine starters on offense, including quarterback Elijah Sindelar. While the Boilermakers offense will be improved over the 2017 version, the difference is not likely to compensate for the drop-off the defense is likely to suffer due to inexperience. There’s little doubt that Holt will have the defense prepared, but the opposing offenses will be too much for Purdue to overcome and make a bowl this season.