The Boilermakers are without several key defensive players this spring but are making strides.
All of this information is from listening to different press conferences over the last few days. I catch Coach Brohm’s presser every week, but I’ve also caught up with Coach Hagan and Lambert recently. As usual, Coach Brohm acts like he is protecting the location of the Holy Grail with every answer, but I was impressed with the candor of Coach Hagan and Lambert. They answered a few questions the Coach Brohm refused to discuss.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always hard when you bring a new staff together that has never worked together in the past, and that’s what Purdue is dealing with this spring. The coaches have to learn to work as a cohesive unit, just like the players. To compound matters, we’re a coach short at the moment, spreading everyone thin on defense, but I like what I’m hearing from Coach Hagan and Lambert in terms of the coaching staff coming together.
Biblical Plague of Defensive Injuries
Purdue can’t catch a break when it comes to injuries and spring football. It seems like every season, key contributors are out of the lineup. That’s not helpful when you’re trying to install your 3rd system in as many seasons. Spring is the perfect time to install things and let them simmer over the summer. Coach Lambert said that he’s installed a big chunk of his defense already, which had to happen, but you wish you had more starters on the field during install, if only to get some stuff on tape to coach up in the fall.
The Boilermakers, unfortunately, appear to be snake bit. Maybe this is a cosmic balancing for knocking off Ohio State, but whatever is going on needs to stop. We’ve paid enough for that amazing victory.
As of now, the defense is missing the following players
DT – Lawrence Johnson (?)
DT – Anthony Watts (Ankle)
LB – Yanni Karlaftis (Hamstring)
LB – Jaylan Alexander (?)
LB – Clyde Washington (Mono)
S – Marvin Grant (Shoulder)
S – Cam Allen (Shoulder)
S – Antonio Stevens (Ankle/Leg)
CB – Geovonte’ Howard (Ankle)
Watts, Grant, Allen, and Stevens are all recovering from injuries they sustained last season, or random stuff they needed to get cleaned up before next season. Washington hasn’t practiced either because of his illness.
Howard, Johnson, and Alexander received a little burn before going down in practice.
Stevens, in particular, is concerning after his gruesome injury late in the year. He’s already had 2 surgeries this offseason. It’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be back for next season. My guess is a redshirt season is in his future, but I have nothing to base that upon.
Grant’s shoulder is also concerning because this is the second straight spring he’s missed because of his shoulder. I’ve injured my shoulder before, and it’s a pain you can’t get away from. Hopefully this last procedure has him on the way to 100% because nagging shoulder injuries suck.
Yanni is still dealing with the hamstring injury that cost him his senior high school season. It’s surprising to see a kid that young have such a long term hamstring problem. It sounds like Purdue found a more significant injury in their medical evaluation. He’s a guy that Purdue needed to hit the ground running, and right now, he’s still limping.
I guess we’re going to find out if we’ve got any depth at defensive tackle. There are plenty of bodies, but none of them have proven anything on the field. Branson Deen is a name that’s brought up a good bit by the coaching staff as a steady performer, and his quickness adds something that Johnson and Watts don’t bring to the table. Bryce Austin is a young guy that Purdue needs to be good at nose tackle, maybe not this season with Johnson and Watts on the roster, but in the near future. Steven Faucheux was well regarded by the scouting services coming out of high school, but has yet to see a snap in two seasons, and has dealt with injuries. You’ve got to hope these extra reps are helping get him back on track because a 6’5”, 300 pound defensive tackle would be quite handy to have available.
Safety is a disaster, with walk-ons having to eat up snaps in practice, but Sanoussi Kane is a name you’re going to need to learn how to pronounce, because he’ll be the third safety for Purdue and he’s a hitta.
Finally, while Yanni missing reps this spring hurts, Auburn transfer O.C. Brothers is making the most of his opportunity. Coach Lambert likes the idea of Brothers and Alexander on the field at the same time as sideline to sideline outside backs, and that’s something to look for in the fall. Lambert’s Marshall defense was built around fast linebackers, and Tavante Beckett was a 5’10”, 210 pound heat seeking missile in his system. He thinks O.C. is a comparable to Beckett, and that’s high praise considering how prolific Beckett was for the Thundering Herd.