2007 Purdue Preview - Defense

Posted May 8, 2007

Preview 2007 Purdue Boilermakers Defense Preview

Purdue Boilermakers

Preview 2007
- Defense

- 2007 Purdue Preview | 2007 Purdue Offense Preview
2007 Purdue Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Purdue Preview 

What you need to know: The Boilermakers haven't played defense for two years, and now the hope is for experience to turn into production with nine starters returning. Stopping the run will be priority one after finishing last in the Big Ten allowing 191 yards per game. The porous secondary should be better with all the young, inexperienced prospects of last year ready to shine as veterans. Overall, the pillow-soft D needs to find a nasty streak and start to play far tougher.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Dan Bick, 95
Sacks: Cliff Avril, 6
Interceptions: Justin Scott. 3

Star of the defense: Senior DE Cliff Avril
Player that has to step up and become a star: SophomoreDT Mike Neal
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Anthony Heygood
Best pro prospect: Junior DT/DE Alex Magee
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Avril, 2) Magee, 3) CB Royce Adams
Strength of the defense: Experience
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
The line got to into the backfield last season mainly because Anthony Spencer was an unstoppable machine. Now he's gone leaving senior Mike McDonald with the unenviable task of taking over at end after making 12 tackles and a sack in a limited role. The former JUCO transfer  has decent size at 250 pounds and he's a pass rusher, and while he won't be Spencer, he'll be quick enough to make plays behind the line on a regular basis.

251-pound senior Cliff Avril benefited from all the attention paid to Spencer finishing third on the team with 84 tackles with six sacks and 15 tackles for loss playing a little at linebacker and spending most of the year at end. Now he'll be the main man with all the focus on him, and he has to come through with generating consistent pressure all season long.

6-4, 295-pound junior Alex Magee isn't physical enough at tackle and isn't quite quick enough to be a regular end, but he'll play some on the outside because of his size and his relative athleticism. He'll start off the year inside coming off a 33 tackle season, and now he has to use his quickness to start being more of a factor. He has the talent; he just has to produce as well as he did in spring ball when he played on the outside.

6-4, 293-pound sophomore Mike Neal will start at the other tackle spot coming off a nine tackle season as a reserve. A great defensive end prospect when he first came to Purdue, he's extremely quick on the inside, but he has to prove he can hold up against the run on a regular basis.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-5, 288-pound junior Ryan Baker could start at tackle either in place of Magee or next to him. He started 11 times last year making 25 tackles and six tackles as the team's best interior pass rusher. The former tight end is a bit streaky and not nearly strong enough against the run, but he's a strong veteran for the rotation.

Junior Jermaine Guynn could become the team's best run stopper with a strong 298-pound frame and a non-stop drive. Always working and always active, he made 38 tackles and three tackles for loss in a reserve role and now will rotate in behind Neal.

Senior Eugene Bright looks the part of a top pass rusher with good athleticism and strength, but he has yet to put it all together with just eight tackles despite playing in almost every game.

Watch Out For ... Avril to be the next in line. It was Rob Ninkovich two years ago who was the unstoppable pass rusher, it was Spencer last year, and now it's Avril's turn as the number one disruptive force if the back problems that plagued him this spring don't turn into a regular problem.
Strength: Overall quickness. Everyone can move and all four spots should, theoretically, be threats to get into the backfield. There's no reason to not generate consistent pressure.
Weakness: Run defense. The front four has been steamrolled over the last few years and this season might not be any different without any true run stuffers to count on. It's not a small line by any stretch; it's just not good at slowing down anyone's running game.
Outlook: Purdue always finds ways to get to the quarterback and is active enough to cause opposing lines some concern, but it just can't hold up against the run. That's not a plus in the Big Ten. Anyone with a pulse of a ground game ran for close to 200 yards, and that'll happen again this year even with all the returning experience.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters
Senior Dan Bick started off last season on the middle before moving to the weakside. Now he'll move back to the middle after leading the team with 95 tackles to go along with four broken up passes. He's more of a natural on the inside with good toughness and sideline-to-sideline to range. He's not much in pass coverage and isn't going to get to the quarterback, but with his experience and toughness, he'll be one of the leading tacklers.

Fifth-year senior Stanford Keglar will take over the full-time job on the weakside after behind moved around a bit  and making 69 tackles. Even at 247 pounds, he has the speed and athleticism to move well in space and make the play. He's been around long enough to know what he's doing at any of the linebacking spots.

Junior Anthony Heygood will step in on the strongside after making six stops in a limited role after moving over from the offense. The 230-pound former running back was never going to get the ball, and it took a while for him to figure out what he was doing on defense, but now he appears ready to be a breakout star after a great spring. With the speed and range to play on the weakside, he showed off the toughness on the strongside the team's been missing.

Projected Top Reserves: With Bick on the sidelines this spring with a neck injury, it's Josh Ferguson's chance to make a name for himself as he tries to come back from a broken hip that ended his season after seven games. He's been a good reserve with the size at 242 pounds to add more bulk to the middle.

Sophomore John Humphrey was a good recruit for the program and now needs to use his speed and pass rushing ability on the weakside behind Keglar. The 223-pound former star high school sprinter should grow into a disruptive playmaker.

Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to play around with the lineup all year long. Finding a true middle linebacker to replace George Hall is job one, but Bick wasn't able to play this spring and still might project to be better on the outside.
Strength: Options. Bick and Keglar can play any of the three spots, and Ferguson and Heygood are versatile. The job will be to find the best three linebackers and get them on the field at all times.
Weakness: Production. Oh sure, the stats will be there with plenty of tackles, but will they mean anything? The linebacking corps has to do more to take the fight to the offense.
Outlook: The coaching staff is looking for a nasty attitude from its defense, and it has to start with the linebacking corps. Injuries prevented any sort of cohesion in spring ball, so every practice this fall will be vital to see who can start changing things around for the struggling D and which combination works best.

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
All four starters return to the secondary, for good or bad, led senior corner Terrell Vinson. The team's fourth leading tackler last year, with 73 stops, and leading pass defender, breaking up seven passes, he came over from the JUCO ranks as was an instant playmaker. While he's not all that big, has a great athlete and has the ball skills to do far more against the pass as long as he doesn't have to spend so much time dealing with the running game. On the other side is sophomore Royce Adams, a top punt returner who came on in his true freshman season to make 37 tackles with an interception. He'll be a mainstay of the defense for the next three seasons.

The safeties will have far more responsibility this year now that the training wheels have come off. Senior strong safety Justin Scott was the team's best all-around defensive back last season with 60 tackles, three interceptions and five tackles for loss. A seasoned veteran having come over as a JUCO transfer, he knows what he's doing, is a great hitter, and can jump out of the stadium. Sophomore Brandon Erwin had a nice true freshman season at free safety making 46 tackles and recovering four fumbles. He might have come up with some nice stats, but he also played like a freshman when the ball was in the air. That seemed to change in spring ball and now he should come up with several interceptions.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior strong safety Torri Williams is arguably the team's most talented defensive back, but the former wide receiver suffered a knee injury early last season after missing all of 2005 with a broken leg, and now has even bigger problems having been suspended from the team after being arrested for driving drunk. If and when he's back, he'll be behind Scott. Sophomore corner David Pender has good size and some of the best wheels on the team. He made 13 tackles in a reserve role and now will combine with Adams at one spot. Junior corner Aaron Lane is a bit limited, but the former walk-on is smart and tough making 14 tackles despite missing half the year with a broken collarbone. He's quick enough to see plenty of action behind Vinson.

Watch Out For ... the secondary to be head-and-shoulders better. This was a sore spot all of last year, but now all four starters know what they're doing and there's good depth to rotate in.
Strength: Experience. Besides the four returning starters, Lane, Williams and King could all start at any time.
Weakness: Proven production. Yes, everyone should be better, but now they actually have to go out and stop someone. After giving up 200 yards or more in ten games, and only picking off 11 passes, everyone has to start producing.
Outlook: Purdue might have been 104th in the nation in pass defense, but at least things improved allowing 46 fewer yards per game than it did in 2005. The corners have to start concentrating more on pass defense and the safeties have to start getting to the ball on a more consistent basis. Both things will happen as this could be the team's most improved area.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Sophomore placekicker Chris Summers has to be far better after a rough first season hitting just eight of 20 field goals. He has a big leg, but it's just not accurate. A little confidence boost would be a big help. It might be as simply as hitting one big kick to turn things around. Backup option Tim Dougherty will continue to fight for the job, but he doesn't have the same leg as Summers. There aren't any concerns with the punting game with the return of senior Jared Armstrong, who bombed away for a 43.1-yard average putting 16 inside the 20 and forcing 12 fair catches. He's an all-star candidate with a tremendous, accurate leg.

Watch Out For ... Summers and Dougherty to be in a battle all season long. The coaching staff has to find confidence in one of them.
Strength: Armstrong. Considering how shaky the defense is, having a punter who can pin teams deep is a major bonus.
Weakness: The return game. Royce Adams only averaged 6.2 yards per try on punt returns and Dorien Bryant and Kory Sheets led the way for an 18.7-yard kickoff return average.
Outlook: The return game should bounce back in time, there's too much talent to be that average again, but the placekicking could prove costly. The coverage units were an unsung strength last season and need to be again to give the defense as much help as possible. Armstrong will be in the hunt for All-Big Ten honors.
Rating: 6


Related Stories
2007 Purdue Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 7, 2007
2007 Purdue Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 7, 2007
2007 Purdue Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 7, 2007

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > Purdue
[View My HotList]