Purdue football recruiting primer: Class could really use Yanni Karlaftis, who remains undecided
In each of Jeff Brohm’s past three recruiting classes at Purdue, the program landed players who seemed to be sure-fire, can’t-miss stars.
In 2018, it was Rondale Moore. In 2019, it was George Karlaftis and David Bell. In 2020, it was Maliq Carr and Gus Hartwig. They all contributed during their freshman seasons, including All-America years from Moore, Karlaftis and Bell. And Hartwig, a true freshman this season, has been a starter on the Boilermakers’ offensive line.
In 2021, that player could be West Lafayette 4-star linebacker Yanni Karlaftis, although the younger brother of Purdue’s standout sophomore defensive end hasn’t yet made a public announcement. He was set to in early August, yet decided to push it back, opening up the possibility he could spurn the hometown school.
As it stands now, the class doesn’t seem to have the instant-impact quality of its predecessors. It’s a small class, with only 12 players likely to sign during the Early Signing Period that begins Wednesday.
Let’s take a closer look at the 2021 class:
By the numbers
B1G rank: 14
National rank: 82
Top player: Jah’von Grigsby, 3-star safety
Purdue secured a commitment from safety Jah’von Grigsby in December, landing its highest-rated commitment, per 247Sports Composite, for the 2021 class.
Grigsby, who 247Sports ranks as the No. 55 safety in the class nationally, is known as a hitter, although at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, he could stand more physical development. But he fills a need for Purdue, which is in search of playmakers in the back half of its defense.
A Baton Rouge, La., native, Grigsby had been a commitment to Michigan State before backing off the Spartans in the fall. And perhaps Vanderbilt’s issues — a winless season and dismissal of coach Derek Mason — helped push him toward Purdue as well. He also had offers from Auburn, Houston, Indiana and a bunch of others.
Purdue feels like it landed a couple of good offensive line commitments, and they just so happen to know each other well.
Offensive linemen Jaelin Alstott-VanDeVanter — a relative of former Boilermakers Mike Alstott and Anthony Spencer — and Zach Richards hope they can continue to play alongside one another at Purdue, the same as they have at Mooresville High School in Indiana. Alstott-VanDeVanter, a big 6-7, 260-pound tackle, committed to the Boilermakers nearly a year ago, becoming the second member of the ’21 class. Richards, a 6-3, 296-pound guard, followed three months later.
The Boilermakers have good young offensive linemen in their system — Hartwig is starting as a freshman, and Spencer Holstege and Cam Craig have as well, as redshirt freshmen (although Craig is out with an injury) — but it never hurts to add depth. And Purdue will soon have needs at the tackle positions, so Alstott-VanDeVanter will have an opportunity to play early, maybe as soon as 2022.
Purdue could use more beef on the interior of its defensive line, especially with veterans Lorenzo Neal and Anthony Watts set to graduate following this season.
The Boilermakers have other young defensive linemen to fill in next season, but keeping that pipeline full of developing underclassmen should be a priority.
Grading the QB class
Purdue didn’t get one.
Sam Jackson, a 4-star dual-threat quarterback from Naperville, Ill., decommitted from the Boilermakers on Dec. 1, reopening a recruiting process that has been anything but certain. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder had twice previously been committed to Minnesota, though neither one stuck.
Purdue took Jackson’s commitment on June 1, deciding on him before in-state 4-star QB Donaven McCulley had made his choice public. He did so 10 days later, picking Indiana over Purdue and a bunch of others.
Perhaps having a commitment from Brady Allen, a Fort Branch, Ind., 4-star who 247Sports ranks as the No. 7 pro-style QB in 2022, helps to lessen the sting of a QB miss in ’21.
Did they close the borders?
The potential big prize for Purdue is still undeclared, as Yanni Karlaftis hasn’t yet announced where he will attend school.
There’s a good possibility that will be at Purdue, where the Ross-Ade Stadium sits about two blocks from his West Lafayette High School campus. If Purdue gets the 6-3, 203-pounder linebacker — it’s not a certainty, considering Yanni Karlaftis is also looking strongly at Wisconsin, Cal and Oregon — then he’ll be the class’s blue-chipper and likely an instant-impact player at a position of need.
The younger Karlaftis is also the state of Indiana’s third-best prospect, according to 247sports. Purdue also got commitments from wide receiver Preston Terrell (14), Alstott-VanDeVanter (17) and Richards (19). But it missed out on McCulley, the quarterback who is the No. 2 player in the state.
The final chapter on Purdue’s 2021 class is not yet written.
The Boilermakers might still land Yanni Karlaftis, a player who very likely would jump right in as a starter at linebacker, an area where Purdue could use a significant upgrade. And if so, he’d follow in the footsteps of early contributors the last several years, like Moore and Bell, and older brother George.