Purdue recruiting: What you need to know about the Boilermakers' Early Signing class
With Purdue set to lose its biggest stars — George Karlaftis and David Bell have already declared for the NFL Draft, as they should have given their likelihood of being first- or second-round selections — the Boilermakers need to replenish with potential Day 1 performers in the 2022 recruiting class.
And they feel like they’ve landed on possibilities as part of their 2022 Early Signing class, a group of 19 — as of now — that will ink with the Boilermakers on Wednesday. The biggest names are 4-star prospects, per 247Sports, in quarterback Brady Allen and defensive end Joe Strickland. Certainly, the latter will get a chance on Day 1, as Purdue sees big-time needs for more play-makers across its front four, especially with the biggest of all — Karlaftis — set to play on Sundays next season. Purdue won’t need Allen right away now that incumbent starter Aidan O’Connell has announced he’s returning for a super senior season.
Bell leaves a hole at wide receiver, and although Purdue has other current underclassman who are poised to break out, Jeff Brohm and Co. always put a premium on the position, and they’re set to sign a couple of 3-stars in Zion Steptoe, of Texas, and Curtis Deville, of Iowa.
Let’s take an in-depth look at Purdue’s Early Signing class as of Monday, Dec. 13.
By the numbers
Overall rank: 38th
B1G rank: 8th
Did they find a future QB?
Purdue hopes so. The search for The Man at quarterback for Brohm has been one of the biggest storylines during his 5 years in West Lafayette. Until O’Connell’s masterful performance at the end of this season — and he was recruited to Purdue only as a walk-on — Brohm had yet to land on a quarterback who he felt could do what he wanted in the offense. O’Connell is coming back for one more season. But Jack Plummer, who started the season as Purdue’s starter, won’t be as he has entered the transfer portal. Purdue still has Michael Alaimo, a former 4-star signee and current underclassman, who has shown potential.
But Brohm and Co. are also high on Allen, as they should be. The 6-5, 210-pounder looks the part: A big, strong-armed quarterback with the athleticism to escape the pocket. The 15th-ranked quarterback overall by 247Sports, Allen led his Gibson Southern team to a Indiana Class 3A state championship. He won’t need to play right away, but he and Alaimo could be battling for QB1 in 2023.
Who is the best offensive player?
The player with the best chance to play right away, given both his own ability and the current roster makeup, is running back Kentrell Marks.
Purdue played most of this season with only 2 healthy scholarship running backs, after starter Zander Horvath was hurt in Week 2. He returned late in the year, as the Boilermakers’ running game showed a bit of a pulse, but it was a struggle to run the football with consistency most of the season.
Veteran Sampson James will help — he transferred from Indiana shortly before the season — but so will Marks. A 6-1, 180-pounder, Marks has the ability to get outside the tackles and turn into the second level of the defense for bigger gains. The Boilermakers have, for the most part, lacked that kind of weapon in their running game in recent seasons. Marks, per 247Sports, chose Purdue over offers from Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kentucky and others.
Who is the best defensive player?
Strickland looks like a menace. At 6-4, 250 pounds, he’s been able to dominate at Indianapolis’ Brebeuf Jesuit, which lost to Allen’s squad in the 3A championship game.
He’s big and strong, and can get into the backfield by barreling through blockers, but also by using his speed and athleticism to get around them. Strickland will need to take a jump forward to go from dominant high school player to effective Big Ten D-end from the first day on Purdue’s campus, similar to how Karlaftis did a few years ago. But Strickland will be given every opportunity to show he can be an impact player early.
What position did they recruit the best?
Purdue needs everyone on its defensive line: Edge pass-rushers, interior muscle, depth.
And so 2022 was about finding players who it thought could come in and pad its numbers at perhaps the most important positions on defense. And the early results are positive: Purdue has commitments from Strickland, along with 3-stars Nic Caraway, a highly sought-after end from Texas; JP Deeter, also a Texan who could grow into a tackle; and Mo Omonode, a big, physical tackle from nearby West Lafayette High School.
First-year defensive line coach Mark Hagen played a big role in getting commitments from all 3 prospects, as the assistant showed his worth both as a position coach and as a recruiter. He helped to swipe Strickland out of Indianapolis at a time when it looked like the Indiana Hoosiers might be the hot B1G team within the state.
What position do they still need to recruit?
Is “all of them” too general?
Purdue has added a couple pieces to the puzzle late, with the Sunday commitment of defensive back Joseph Jefferson II from Indianapolis Pike High School. That came only a few hours after Purdue accepted a transfer portal addition from Bryce Hampton, who played at Division II Adams State last season but has also had previous stops at 2 junior colleges. Hampton will likely play cornerback at Purdue.
But the late surge on the secondary shows the Boilermakers’ need in the back half of their defense. Purdue also has a previous commitment from Jordan Buchanan, a defensive back and son of former Colt and Falcon “Big Play” Ray Buchanan.
Did they keep the best players home?
Although Purdue must recruit nationally, it felt like did a solid job inside the state, not only getting high-profile players to stay home but getting them at positions of need.
Five in-state prospects are committed as part of the current 19-player class, including the state’s 6th- and 7th-best prospects, in Allen and Strickland, respectively, and Nos. 22 and 23, in Domanick Moon, a linebacker from Fort Wayne, and Omonode. And Purdue recently picked up Jefferson, who could help in the secondary.
Overall, how you should feel about this class?
Unlike the 2021 class, which had only the punter play significantly as a true freshman, the ’22 class might need at least a couple early-impact players, likely on the edge of the defensive line, potentially in the secondary and possibly at running back.
Plus, Purdue has a strong class of offensive line prospects, it seems, with 5 commitments. Even in the transfer era, Purdue must continue to strongly recruit O-linemen, develop them, and expect them to be high-level players as upper-classmen.
Brohm will continue to scour the transfer portal, as he always should, and will likely look for more help at running back, on the defensive line and on the offensive line.