Purdue Preview 2006 - Defense
Purdue Boilermakers
Posted Aug 5, 2006

Purdue Boilermakers Preview 2006 - Purdue Defense

What you need to know ... The defense was one of the 2005 season's biggest disasters thanks to a porous secondary that never had a reliable starting foursome and finished last in the Big Ten. There are plenty of good defensive back prospects, but it's still a shaky situation going into the season needing several untested prospects to instantly become reliable playmakers. The front seven should be fine as long as everyone stays healthy early on with pass rushers needing to emerge to replace Rob Ninkovich and Ray Edwards. The linebacking corps won't have any all-stars, but it'll produce.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: George Hall, 77
Sacks: Anthony Spencer, 3
Interceptions: Several at 1

Star of the defense: Sophomore SS Torri Williams
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Brandon King
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Eugene Bright
Best pro prospect: Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams, 2) LB George Hall, 3) DE Anthony Spencer
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Proven defensive backs, overall depth

Defensive Line
Only one starter returns to a line that was a disappointment only because Ray Edwards didn't have a huge season. Losing tackle Brandon Villarreal and pass rushing blur Rob Ninkovich will be a big problem, but there are several great prospects appearing ready to shine. Anthony Spencer is the only returning starter and a good enough veteran to build around. Eugene Bright is a strong-looking young pass rusher and tackles Ryan Baker and Alex Magee are active tackles who should grow into the starting jobs. It'll be up to several very talented redshirt freshmen and JUCO transfers Jeff Benjamin and Mike McDonald to provide the depth.
The key to the unit: Quickly fill in the gaps and find a pass rusher to replace Rob Ninkovich and Ray Edwards and hope for the young backups to be good enough to push for time.
Defensive Line Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- DE Eugene Bright, Jr. - 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL
A fantastic athlete with a good speed burst and decent size at 6-4 and 254 pounds, Bright should be an adequate fill-in for Rob Ninkovich. He has the potential to become a top pass rusher.

- DT Ryan Baker, Jr. - 10 tackles
The former tight end and Academic All-Big Ten performer got a little bit of work last year as a reserve on the inside and should be an athletic interior pass rusher. He's one of the line's biggest players at 6-6 and 282 pounds and has to grow into a good run stuffer

- DT Alex Magee, Soph. - 18 tackles, 1 TFL
The 275-pound sophomore has the potential to be a great one. He's not huge at 275 pounds, but he's very active and experienced after a good year as a reserve with one start.

- DE Anthony Spencer, Sr. - 23 tackles, 3 sacks, 7.5 TFL
Spencer needs to come up with a great season as the only returning starter to the front four. While not a pure pass rusher, he's able to get into the backfield on a regular basis and can be a dangerous playmaker when he gets on a roll. With 23 career starts, he's an experienced defender who does a little of everything well.

Top Backups
- DT Jared Zwilling, RFr.
One of the team's star scout teamers last year, the 281-pound Zwilling should be a key reserve behind Baker and should grow into a starter at some point. He's fast enough to play end if needed.
- DT Mike Neal, RFr.
One of the team's top defensive end recruits a few years ago will see plenty of action in the middle playing behind Alex Magee. He has the potential to be a strong pass rusher with good speed and quickness in a 6-4, 270-pound frame.
- DE Keyon Brown, RFr.
Brown needs to grow into his potential as a speed rusher pushing for time behind Anthony Spencer. He's a fast, active end who's the cousin of former Northwestern star and current NFL linebacker Napoleon Harris.

It's a better situation than it'll appear on paper. George Hall is a rock-solid defender in the middle who'll be an intimidating force. There are several options on the outside with Stanford Keglar a longtime veteran getting pushed by the speedy Dan Bick on the weakside. Jason Werner is a lightning fast reserve on the strongside behind the 240-pound Cliff Avril, who's in for a big season if his back can stay healthy.
The key to the unit: Using the combination of speed and size on the outside to consistently make big plays around George Hall in the middle.
Linebacker Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- Dan Bick, Jr. - 40 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 1 interception
Bick grew into a solid reserve and reliable spot starter as last season went on turning into a good tackler. He's a safety-sized 218 pounds with good speed and a nose for the football. He'll combine with the bigger Stanford Kegler on the weakside.

- George Hall, Sr. - 77 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 broken up passes
Hall finished second on the team in tackles for the second season in a row, but he wasn't nearly the disruptive force he was as a sophomore. He's a strong 243 pounds who hits like a ton of bricks, and will be the tone-setting leader for the defense. He has the quickness and range to make more big plays both in the backfield and against the pass.

- Cliff Avril, Jr. - 33 tackles, 2.5 TFL
The 240-pound junior is a big run stopper on the strongside with enough starting experience to be one of the team's top tacklers, but he has to stay on the field for a full season after having problems over the last year with a back injury. If healthy he'll be a consistent, dependable defender.

Top Backups
- Stanford Keglar, Jr. - 50 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 3 TFL
Mostly a speedy defender who makes plays because of his athleticism, now he's up to 240 pounds and should be a more consistent run defender. He's a talented veteran with 18 starts and enough career tackles and time to get a starting spot somewhere on the outside.  
- Josh Ferguson, Jr. - 8 tackles, 1 interception
A quality reserve last season, the 234-pound junior is going to get better and become a good backup in the middle behind George Hall.
- Jason Werner, Soph.
Werner is a former safety and a special teamer who has the best speed in the linebacking corps. Even though he appears to be a weakside linebacker because of his range and 208-pound size, he'll also get a look on the strongside.

Defensive Backs
It's saying something on a team with little to no depth anywhere that the backup situation in the secondary is the shakiest situation. The pass defense was torched last season for 287 yards per game with injuries and a glaring lack of experience contributing to the problem. There's the potential to be far better in time, but things might be a little rocky early on if Torri Williams can't get and stay healthy and if the top JUCO transfers Brandon Blackmon, Justin Scott and Jonte Lindsey don't turn into instant contributors. This will be the focus of the team throughout the off-season with plenty of shakeups in the lineup.
The key to the unit: More production is needed from every position and depth needs to quickly develop.
Secondary Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- CB Brandon King, Soph. - 4 tackles
The former quarterback was impressive in practices last year and grew into a reserve while learning the position. Now he's expected to be a steady corner with his great athleticism and smarts overcoming his inexperience.

- FS Brandon Blackmon, Jr.
The JUCO transfer is getting every shot at winning the free safety job over Brandon Whittington. He didn't do too much at Mt. San Antonio College last year, but he has the athleticism and potential to grow into a top producer once he figures out what he's doing.

- SS Torri Williams, Soph.
Williams will be one of the team's best players if he can stay healthy. He's fast enough to be a top free safety and physical enough to be one of the Big Ten's top strong safeties. He missed all of last year with a broken leg and had back problems all spring, and now the former wide receiver has to get on the field and take over for tackling machine Bernard Pollard.

- CB Zach Logan, Jr. - 43 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 5 broken up passes
Logan turned into a good cover-corner as the season went on, but he needs to be a more secure tackler. He's one of the team's fastest players and has the experience to be better. Now he has to do all the little things right to be a number one-caliber corner. Unfortunately, he has had problems this off-season with his consistency.

Top Backups
- CB Aaron Lane, Jr.
The walk-on turned into the surprise of spring ball showing great speed and quickness. The former running back was moved into the first team as the off-season went on and should, at least, be a major factor in the rotation. Was the promotion to light a fire under Zach Logan? Wait and see.
- CB/S Paul Long, Sr. - 8 tackles, 2 broken up passes
Long went from being on the verge of starting at corner to being a little used backup. He's more of a safety than a corner and saw time this spring at strong safety, but his size should be an asset behind Brandon King on the outside.
- FS Brandon Whittington, Soph. - 15 tackles, 2 broken up passes
The former wide receiver got a little bit of starting time last year and was starting to grow into a good player before getting hurt. He's a big 6-2 and 206 pounds with good range. He should be strong against the pass and needs to be one of the team's leaders in interceptions.
- CB
Jonte Lindsey, Jr.
The team's top recruit this season, Lindsey is a speedy JUCO transfer who made 64 tackles for Riverside CC in California last year. He has 4.55 speed and the talent to take a starting role early on.

Special Teams
The kicking situation is a major question mark hoping for true freshman Tim Dougherty to come aboard this fall and take over the placekicking duties while needing JUCO All-American Jared Armstrong to be great right away as the new punter. Dorien Bryant is a great kick returner, while Desmond Tardy will take over the punt return duties. The kickoff coverage unit has to be far better.
The key to the unit: The inexperienced kickers have to be good from day one.
Special Teams Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- PK Casey Welch, Sr.
The Boilermakers will rely on a walk-on to replace Ben Jones, who alternated between being outstanding and inconsistent. Freshman Tim Dougherty was recruited specifically to be the starter right away, but he'll have to contend with walk-ons Casey Welch and Kyle Mossbrucker. 
- P Jared Armstrong, Jr.
The punting situation was one of the team's strengths last season thanks to Dave Brytus, but Armstrong should be even better. He's a JUCO All-American with a huge leg and can be a long field goal kicker if needed.

Related Stories
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Purdue Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Purdue Preview 2006 - Offense
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