Athlon Sports' recently released ranking of the first, second, third and fourth all-conference teams for the upcoming football season includes five Boilermakers made the ranks of the best in the Big Ten.
Athlon Sports wrote: “These are based on how players will perform in 2023. Career statistics and awards matter in the evaluation, but choosing players for the 2023 all-conference team is largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year. Also, team strength does not play a role in selections. These are the best individual players at each position in the league for '23.”
The headliners from Purdue making the second team were running back Devin Mockobee and center Gus Hartwig.
Devin Mockobee, the Boonville, Indiana, native, found himself to be the Boilermakers' leading rusher last season. He finished the year with 938 yards, breaking the record for single-season rushing yards by any Purdue freshman in history. Mockobee also broke the record for most freshman 100-yard games.
Following his game against Nebraska, where he rushed for 178 yards, and set an additional Purdue freshman record, Mockobee received Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Mockobee was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for a second time last season after rushing 99 yards against Indiana.
Mockobee was also named an All Big Ten honorable mention and College Football News' All American honorable freshman.
During spring ball, asked about his goals for the upcoming season, Mockobee said, “Of course, it's just going up from here. Obviously, I have more years in the making, so every year I'm just trying to be more consistent, not dropping off and just trying to get better.”
Entering his senior season this year, Zionsville, indiana, center Gus Hartwig has made quite the impact during his time with the Boilermakers.
In 2020, Hartwig was the first true freshman to start on the offensive line at Purdue in 12 years. He then took over the role as the Boilermakers’ starting center in 2021, starting in all 13 games on the offensive front. By the end of that season, Hartwig was named an All Big Ten honorable mention and an Academic All-Big Ten selection. His name was also on the preseason watch list for the 2022 Rimington Trophy, awarded to the best center in college football.
Last season, Hartwig started in every game, even playing with two broken hands. That was, until the second quarter against Northwestern, when Hartwig had to be helped off the field because of a knee injury. He has been out from spring ball recovering but is expected to be healthy in time for the upcoming season.
Marcus Mbow, a guard from Milwaukee, made the All Big Ten third preseason team. Mbow started all 14 games on the interior for the Boilermakers last season, made the Freshman All American Second Team, and was named an All Big Ten honorable mention.
Mbow said during spring ball how much he values the experience he is bringing in for the upcoming season.
“I noticed the difference between now and when I was a freshman, when I wasn’t playing,” he said. “It’s just like the speed of the game slows down. You feel more mature out there, you feel like you can be a leader more and you can say things, encourage people. And it honestly feels good just to have the game a little bit more slowed down, just able to be a leader and get better at the same time.”
Safety Cam Allen also made the third team, on defense.
Allen, a native of Bluefield, Virginia, led the defense in fumbles recovered last season. Allen also had the most interceptions on the team, finishing the season with 10 interceptions, which ranks 10th in Purdue football history, and 107 interception yards.
After a pair of picks against Minnesota last season, Allen received Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, the second of his career.
During spring ball, Allen said he’s in the perfect defensive scheme suited to his strengths this upcoming season.
“Y'all know me, I like to get to the ball,” he said. “So I mean, this is a perfect defense. For me, reading the quarterback can just break on the ball for real. So that's what my job is, here and there I'm gonna do other stuff. But for me personally and all the people around us, we all love this scheme and we're just invested into it.”
The fifth Boilermaker to make the preseason All Big Ten rankings is Nic Caraway, an outside linebacker from Bryan, Texas, who made the fourth team.
Caraway, the rising sophomore, turned heads during spring ball.
“If he plays like he did this spring, watch out,” Ryan Walters said after the spring season. “Talk about a guy that’s versatile, knows the ins and outs of the game, understands leverage, understands angles, is explosive trying to get to the quarterback and has a multitude of moves, and is also very fluid and disciplined when he drops into coverage. He's a guy that I'm counting on to play some significant minutes, and be an impact player for us. The sky’s the limit for him, and I’m really glad that he’s here.”