Purdue football: 5 Boilermakers who will make a difference in November
If Purdue is to win the West, it might need a little help.
Not from others in the Big Ten — Purdue, like Illinois, can go undefeated through its 4 November games to become division champs — but from within its own ranks. The Boilermakers have areas, like in the secondary and at receiver, where they need a boost. And maybe they’ll get it in November, when they take on Iowa, travel to Illinois (for a gigantic game vs. the Fighting Illini), host Northwestern, then go to IU.
Let’s take a look at 5 Boilermakers (outside the typical ones, like Aidan O’Connell, Devin Mockobee, etc.) who could make a difference down the stetch as Purdue comes off its bye:
WR Broc Thompson
Maybe the veteran wide receiver can make a return to give the Boilermakers’ receiving corps a much-needed boost.
Junior Broc Thompson hasn’t played since the first couple games of the season, and even then it was apparent that he wasn’t feeling the best, as he was still recovering from double shin and knee surgeries during the offseason. Thompson tried to power through the pain, like he did in his incredible performance (7 catches, 217 yards, 2 TDs) in the win over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl, but it became too much.
A shame, because Purdue’s offense could use a consistent 2nd perimeter target to complement the outstanding play of Charlie Jones. Thompson, who has missed the last 6 games, might be the perfect man for the job. The 6-3, 190-pounder doesn’t have blazing speed, but he has the ability to break away from defenders — Purdue’s receivers hadn’t gotten the kind of separation as Aidan O’Connell has benefited from in years past — and pick up yards after the catch.
No official timetable has been given for Thompson’s return, but it’s thought that he could be back soon.
DB Bryce Hampton
The Boilermakers have major issues in the back end of their defense.
Even with healthy, front-line players, the Boilermakers have been gashed by big plays of late, particularly in their past 3 outings — vs. Maryland, Nebraska and Wisconsin. And now Purdue is banged up, with cornerbacks Cory Trice and Jamari Brown leaving the Wisconsin loss early, although neither injury is expected to cause an extended layoff. But the Boilermakers are also without versatile safety/nickel Chris Jefferson, who has missed the last 2 games to focus on mental health, sapping them of one of their bigger play-makers.
Purdue is suffering coverage breakdowns and missing tackles, about the worse combination of issues a secondary can suffer.
Maybe a bigger role for Bryce Hampton, who transferred to Purdue from Adams State, will help lessen some of the issues. Hampton, at 5-11, 200 pounds, has primary played cornerback for the Boilermakers, but Purdue might shift him to safety for snaps, seeing if he can hit opponents and — most importantly — tackle them. In a limited role this season, primary as Purdue’s 4th corner, he has a productive 15 tackles, including 2 for loss.
DB Reese Taylor
Reese Taylor has been reliable at Purdue after transferring from Indiana during the offseason, giving the Boilermakers a veteran presence in the secondary.
But the Boilermakers might need more out of the 5-11, 190-pounder, especially as a couple of his position-mates — Trice and Brown — are nicked up. It can be hard to step into a leadership role as a transfer, particularly when your position has other veterans, but Purdue needs someone to keep the Boilermakers organized in the secondary, especially with personnel moving in and out.
Maybe Taylor can be that voice.
DL Khordae Sydnor
Khordae Sydnor has been one of the biggest breakout players defensively for the Boilermakers this season, bursting out to have 5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks as part of Purdue’s 11-player rotation on the defensive line.
Sydnor certainly looks the part, being an athletic 6-4, 265-pounder. Only a redshirt freshman, Sydnor has needed time to develop and might be in the early stages of his impact at Purdue. Maybe in November, he can take another big step forward.
K Mitchell Fineran
Purdue’s margin for error this season has been narrow, with 6 of its 8 games being decided by a possession.
And that trend is likely to continue in November, especially in these first 2 games after the bye, vs. Iowa Saturday, then in Champaign the following week vs. Illinois.
Every point matters.
Senior place-kicker Mitchell Fineran has been OK this season, hitting 9 of his 13 attempts, but he’s yet to get dialed in as consistently as he was last year, when he capped his 1st year as a Boilermaker by hitting the game-winner in double-OT vs. the Volunteers in Nashville. He’s been money (6-of-7) from 39 yards and in, the miss an ugly 26-yard attemmpt against Wisconsin, but has missed 3 of 5 from 40-plus yards.
Purdue might need a big kick in November, and Fineran will need to deliver.