The New York Giants deep and talented defensive line rotation has enabled them to win two Super Bowl titles in the last five years.
Purdue head coach Danny Hope believes modeling the Boilermakers’ front four in a similar manner can help lead the Boilermakers to great success as well.
“I know that their method to their madness in some ways is they believe in having more defensive linemen that can play and rotate, and keeping them fresh has certainly serviced their program well,” Hope said. “We feel like we can do the same for ours.”
Defensive tackle Kawann Short, a future first round pack in April’s NFL Draft, serves as the backbone of the defense and has already recorded three sacks despite constant double and triple-teams.
But what separates this Boilermaker defensive line from talented groups in the past is the amount of depth and quality available at all positions.
Defensive end Ryan Russell and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston are two of the best in the Big Ten at their respective positions. Ryan Issac gives Purdue optimal size at six-foot five, 294 pounds coming from the edge. Greg Latta and Jalani Phillips give Purdue pass rushing options as reserves, while Brandon Taylor has done a sufficient job relieving Gaston and Short.
“We’re very good in our defensive front,” Hope said. “Fortunately, we have enough guys that we can rotate and keep them fresh. We have half a dozen really good defensive linemen and if we didn’t have as many, we wouldn’t be as good.”
The Boilermaker front four has been equally impressive in stuffing the run and getting to the quarterback this fall.
Notre Dame managed to gain only 52 yards on 36 carries against Purdue a week after the Irish ran for 293 yards.
Purdue leads the Big Ten with seven sacks after needing seven games to reach the mark in 2011. Five of those sacks came last week against a Notre Dame offensive line with two NFL prospects in center Braxston Cave and tackle Zach Martin.
“They have a very stealth defensive line,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said.
“Obviously Short and Gaston are two very, very good defensive linemen, and as good as we are going to see during the year.”
Gaston said the defensive line feeds off of Short’s energy, but has come to a point where they are no longer just trying to let him do all the work.
“It’s great having him (Short) next to us. He’s two or three years older than the rest of us, he’s the vet,” Gaston said. “We are trying to step up, give him breaks and help out our team ... we’ve had that mentality that we wanted to be a dirty, grimy defensive line, one that everyone was going to know.”