Fueled by the excitement and anticipation of the start of the Big Ten football season, Purdue’s defensive line worked through multiple transitions in style and coaching staff to face the new challenges that will come its way this season.
Head coach Jeff Brohm and his coaching staff decided to move in a different direction on defense after the loss of key starters last season, hiring former Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and former Air Force defensive line coach Terrance Jamison, who both saw success in their programs.
After Diaco orchestrated the transition of Louisiana Tech’s defense to a 3-4 formation in his lone season as defensive coordinator, the hiring of Jamison could make a major difference considering he ran a similar system at Air Force under coordinator John Rudzinski.
Jamison, who has experience working with lines at Florida Atlantic University and Texas Tech University, led last year’s Air Force defensive line to a Top 20 mark in rushing defense, defensive touchdowns, scoring defense and total defense.
Jamison said he feels very comfortable with his new group on the defensive line, noting multiple key contributors that have shown improvement during the offseason.
“This group is tough and physical with guys that love football,” Jamison said in a Monday night press conference. “It’s what you would expect coming back to the Big Ten. We’re glad to have guys like (fifth-year defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal) back and healthy, getting reps and getting into rhythm. It’s been great.”
Neal, a projected first round NFL Draft pick before an injury in the 2018 Old Oaken Bucket game, told reporters he feels “good, great and ready to play football,” and is more determined than ever to bring the Boilermakers back into Big Ten Championship contention.
“I have eligibility left and I haven’t played a whole season. I needed to get back out here and play again with my guys,” Neal said. “For me, that was a question I never really had to ask myself. There was work I needed to get done here, and there are still games I need to win.”
Sophomore defensive end George Karlaftis said he noticed some positive changes in a variety of new techniques between this year’s defensive coaching staff and last years’s, and that he feels he and his teammates will be “more fit” for any challenge that comes their way.
“As all of us evolve, we all get to be older and get to be veterans,” Karlaftis said. “We keep learning more and more and we keep getting more advanced, from Football 101 to Football 102.”
While Purdue’s linemen have shown improvement under the new coaching staff, Jamison spoke about the need for improvement in the team’s most recent scrimmages.
“We definitely have some things we need to work on,” Jamison said. “But we got better. It was another opportunity to get out there and practice and rep our calls. We approach every practice that way: to try to get 0.001% better.”
Purdue starts its season on Oct. 24 at home against Iowa, hoping to regain bowl contention and start off strong against a tough Iowa offense.