Purdue Football – Citrus Bowl Opt Outs – Defense

Garrett and I covered the opt out on offense here. It’s on to the defense, and while Purdue will be without several key starters, the defense is in a better place than the offense. Oddly enough, despite being considered a first team offense, the Boilermakers have better, more proven depth, on the defense.

I’m confident in the starters at most spots (with one glaring exception), the depth will be the question. LSU is a punishing team, and if you don’t use your depth on defense, their offense will blow you off the field in the second half. College football is a “next man up” sport, but in this case, it’s also the next, next man up that will have to play a key role if Brian Brohm’s team wants to pull the colossal upset.

There are conflicting reports regarding Deen and Lawrence Johnson. The J&C and Indy Star seem to think they’re not playing. Same with the LSU 247 site. The Purdue Rivals site seems to think they’re playing. I desperately hope that the next staff does a better job of giving out basic information. I’m leaving them in this article, but it’s possible (hopeful?) they play. I’ve never seen a player enter the transfer portal and still play in a bowl game, but we’re in a brave new world of college football.

Defensive Opt Outs and Transfers

Exit Branson Dean

Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Stats

Branson Dean – 2022

Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks
Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks
11 17 10 27 4 2.5

Assessment

Deen was named Honorable Mention All Big10 the past two seasons and was a crucial piece of the defense. The tweener defensive tackle/defensive end found his place on the field as a defensive tackle in Purdue’s 3 man front. His stats don’t show his true worth to the team, and they’re suppressed after missing 2 games to injury and struggling through a few more while banged up. He provided a solid run defender and while not putting up big numbers, a disruptive part of the pass rush.

Enter Sulaiman Kpaka

Penn State v Purdue

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Stats

Sulaiman Kpaka – 2022

Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks
Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks
11 10 8 18 1.5 0.5

Assessment

Kpaka saw his first significant playing time this season and held up well at defensive tackle. At 6’2″, 280, like Deen, he’s the perfect fit as a defensive tackle in a 3 man front. There isn’t a huge drop off between Deen and Kpaka stat wise. Based on what I’ve seen on tape, Deen is a little more disruptive in the passing game and Kpaka holds up better at the point of attack in the running game.

Next – Next Man Up

Look for Prince James Boyd Jr. and freshman JP Deeter to see more playing time against LSU. Boyd Jr. has played in 11 games this season and acquitted himself well. Deeter is a true freshman. He redshirted this season, but will utilize the NCAA’s ruling that bowl games won’t affect redshirts (although, since he didn’t play in 4 games anyway, I’m not sure it matters).

Exit Lawrence Johnson

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Purdue at Indiana

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Stats

Lawrence Johnson – 2022

Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks
Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks
13 15 13 28 2.5

Assessment

Johnson has been a rock at the nose tackle spot the last two seasons, starting 26 games over the last two seasons. His main job is to force a double team and keep the linebackers clean. He does that reasonably well, but his best attribute is his ability to get into the backfield. He’s a big man, but moves well on his feet and has a nasty swim move he occasionally employs to jump into the backfield and disrupt a play.

Enter Cole Brevard

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Big 10 Championship - Michigan vs Purdue

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Stats

Cole Brevard

Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks
Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks
13 5 4 9 0 0

Assessment

Brevard was considered one of the best players in Indiana coming out of high school. After a short stop at Penn State, he returned home and has played well backing up Johnson this season. He’s bigger than Johnson, and plays more like a typical nose. His stats don’t look impressive, but nose guards don’t tend to put up big numbers. His job is to anchor and hold the middle of the line so the linebackers can make players. He’s been good in that role, and this should be a preview of the next season. This is a big drop in experience, but could be a step up in talent.

Next-Next Man Up

LSU has big angry dudes at defensive tackle. Brevard is going to need help. That help should come from freshman Mo Omonode. At 6’0″, 285 Mo is a different type of nose guard than the 6’3″, 315 pound Brevard, but plays a similar role. He’s less of a giant, and more of a stump that’s impossible to push out of the way. Prince James Boyd Jr. could also fill in at this spot if Brevard and Omonode get worn down.

Jalen Graham

Purdue v Indiana

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Stats

Jalen Graham – 2022

Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended
Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended
9 37 18 52 5 1 1 5

Assessment

I’m at a loss on this one. Graham is the most versatile player on the roster and plays the hybrid S/LB “Star” spot in the defense. He missed 4 games this season and was still second on the team in tackles and third in passes defended. I liked the idea behind Purdue’s 3-3-5 with Graham playing either a linebacker or extra safety depending on the offense, but not having another player with Graham’s skill set makes things difficult when he can’t play. He’s essentially irreplaceable with one player.

Enter Jacob Wahlberg/Bryce Hampton

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Purdue at Maryland

Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Purdue at Indiana

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Stats

Jacob Wahlberg/Bryce Hampton – 2022

Player Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended
Player Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended
Jacob Wahlberg 13 23 13 36 1 0 0 0
Bryce Hampton 13 24 10 34 2 0 0 3

Assessment

Earlier in the season, Purdue either deployed an extra linebacker (Jacob Wahlberg) or an extra safety (Chris Jefferson) depending on what the opposing offense was. Against a heavy team run, or on a run down, Wahlberg was on the field. Against a heavy team pass, or on a down pass, Jefferson was on the field.

I expect something similar on Monday. Wahlberg probably gets the start because LSU is a physical team, and Bryce Hampton (Jefferson somewhat retired in the middle of the season) will take the field on passing downs to give Purdue 3 safeties.

Next Next Man Up

Since this is a time share position anyway, injury, and not fatigue would necessitate a sub, it depends on who gets injured. Ben Kreul is the logical replacement for Wahlberg and Antonio Stevens could see more time if Hampton goes down. Yanni Karlaftis could also make an appearance on pass rush downs.

Exit Cory Trice

Syndication: The Herald-Times

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

Stats

Cory Trice – 2022

Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended
Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended
13 28 6 34 2 0 2 10

Assessment

Trice was Purdue’s CB1 this season. I don’t necessarily think he’s a CB1, but he filled the role well for the most part. His opt out, more than any other, was a bit of a head scratcher. After an injury plagued career, he needs more good tape, but I’m not Cory Trice. I wish him luck in the NFL draft.

He’s a big, physical corner with atypical size at 6’3”. He matches up well with larger boundary receivers and has a nose for the ball. He led Purdue with 10 passes defended, but some of that is a product of covering the other teams best receiver most of the time. His pick 6 against Indiana was a thing of beauty.

Trice also grabs too much and is prone to the occasional brain glitch. Michigan went to him Physically, he has most of the tools (will be interested to see his 40 time) but he’ll need to work on the mental and technical side of the game if he wants to stick around in the NFL.

Enter Jamari Brown

Syndication: Journal-Courier

Noah Padilla/Journal and Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK

Stats

Jamari Brown – 2022

Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended
Games Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended
13 14 1 15 2 1 2 3

Assessment

Brown, a Kentucky transfer, started in 2021 with Trice on the shelf. He took a step back this season, backing up Trice at the boundary corner position. This is a like for like trade for Purdue. They’re replacing the 6’3, 215 Trice with the 6’3”, 205 Brown. Trice is a little more physical, Brown, in my opinion, is a little faster. I don’t expect a huge drop off, and the fact that LSU star receiver Kayshon Boutte is a late scratch for the Tigers, should help immensely.

Next Next Man Up

The coaching staff has been talking up sophomore corner Brandon Calloway. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t played this year, but Purdue is desperately thin in the secondary. He has decent size at 6’1″, 195 but LSU in the Citrus Bowl is a hell of a place to make your college football debut. Good luck young man.

Overall

I’m more optimistic about the defense than the offense. The defensive line has nice depth, and I’m looking forward to seeing players like JP Deeter, Nic Carraway, and Khordae Syndor on the field more.

There is no replacing Graham, but I hope we get a chance to see Yanni on the field as a pass rusher at some point. Purdue needs difference making athletes on the field, and Yanni is an athlete.

The secondary is a close your eyes and pray situation, but it’s been that way all season. Purdue’s recruiting at one of the easier positions to recruit in college football makes no sense to me. I’m looking forward to the new defense.

If Purdue wins this game, it means the defense will hold LSU somewhere in the 20’s. That’s a tall task considering the Tigers are close to full strength, and coming off a season where they put up 32 points on Alabama and 30 on Georgia, but it’s bowl season, and stranger things have happened. If nothing else, we’re going to get a sneak peak at a few players that are going to play an important role in the 2023 defense.

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