Just like the offense, Purdue’s defense has been battered by injuries. With many new faces making starts and seeing time, Purdue has undergone a lot of adjustments.
On the defensive line, the only major change is that redshirt freshman Lawrence Johnson is now the full-fledged starter after junior Anthony Watts went down with an injury against Pennsylvania State University. Unfortunately, for the team, it looks like it could potentially be a long-term injury.
“It’s at least going to be a while,” head coach Jeff Brohm said about Watts’ injury. “We’ll know more after an MRI.”
The other starters on the defensive line will be freshman defensive end George Karlaftis and junior defensive end Derrick Barnes on the edge. Brohm has been very impressed with them, but has mixed feelings about the interior players. Joining Johnson will be senior Kai Higgins, but Brohm expects redshirt freshmen Branson Deen and Jack Sullivan to see ample time on the field as well.
“So, I see Higgins and (Johnson) being our starting defensive tackles, and we have to rotate some back-ups there,” Brohm said. “We have to get more production out of them.”
There had been rumors of senior defensive lineman Lorenzo Neal returning this week, but Brohm put those ideas to rest.
“No Neal,” Brohm said. “He’ll be out.”
The linebacker spots have also seen their fair share of injuries this year. Fifth-year Markus Bailey was lost for the season with an ACL injury and junior Cornel Jones was injured in the Penn State game. Fifth-year Ben Holt has solidified his starting spot from day one, but the other two spots have been up in the air. Jones has started multiple games this season, while sophomore Jaylan Alexander, sophomore Kieren Douglas and even Barnes have been fighting for the last spot.
Brohm is very impressed with Alexander’s play as of late.
“Yes, (Alexander) did help himself,” Brohm said. “I think that we have been looking for him to show up and be a playmaker for us. ... It was good to see (Alexander) step up and do some good things.”
The starters for this week will be Holt, Jones and Alexander.
Just like the linebackers, the secondary has been hit with the injury issues. Redshirt freshman cornerback Jordan Rucker was injured against Penn State, but it looks like he will be playing this week. Freshman Marvin Grant was recently lost for the season after a shoulder injury.
The depth chart still lists freshman Jalen Graham and senior Navon Mosley as the starting safeties, but Brohm expects freshman Cam Allen to see the field a lot. Brohm has been very impressed with the play of some of the young players.
“You look at (Allen), and you look at Graham. ... I think I would put my money that those two guys in the long run are going to be very productive, outstanding players for us,” Brohm said.
The cornerback spot has been a spot with a lot of turbulence this season, and it looks like the young guys have outplayed the veterans. The freshman tandem of Jordan Rucker and Cory Trice are now the two listed starters for this week, and Brohm has a lot of praise for Trice.
“I think right now, Trice was our most consistent guy in the last game,” Brohm said. “I think he gives us good size and athleticism, and he is great at the position. There’s not a question about it.”
Trice used to be a safety and made the switch to cornerback in August. He was a backup to start the season, and now he finds himself the starting cornerback.
“I mean, I can’t complain,” Trice told GoldandBlack.com. “It worked out (in) the end.”
Maryland boasts one of the better rushing attacks in the country with sophomore Anthony McFarland and junior Javon Leake, so Purdue will look to shut them down. Maryland’s starting quarterback, junior Josh Jackson, was injured against Rutgers University, so backup junior Tyrrell Pigrome will be the starter. They also use two tight ends regularly, so Purdue will have to adjust accordingly.