Spring football returns to the B1G this weekend, with Purdue taking advantage of the first weekend in April to host its annual Black and Gold Game. It will be the only spring game in the B1G this weekend, which is an added bonus for the Boilermakers.
With Purdue bringing in a high quality recruiting class and returning Heisman hopeful Rondale Moore, there is a lot of hype circling around West Lafayette entering the 2019 season. We’ve got a few things to watch during Saturday’s scrimmage as the Boilermakers wind down the spring season.
Impact George Karlaftis has on the defensive line
Landing Karlaftis was one of the bigger recruiting wins for Jeff Brohm, with the West Lafayette native being the highest-ranked prospect in Purdue’s 2019 class. As an early-enrollee, the defensive end has a chance to get a jumpstart on his college career.
Purdue’s defensive line feasted on weaker offensive units, but struggled against some of the beefier groups in the B1G, which isn’t all that surprising considering the youth the Boilermakers had up front. Obviously Karlaftis is new and inexperienced, but he’s expected to be an impact player early in his career. Saturday gives us our first look at the freshman and how quickly he’s adjusted to the challenge.
Running back situation
D.J. Knox and Markell Jones have departed, meaning Purdue is without its top two running backs from last fall. Tario Fuller has suffered another injury this spring and won’t participate in Saturday’s scrimmage. Right now, depth and experience at running back are serious concerns entering the fall.
Richie Worship and Alexander Horvath are likely to have expanded roles in 2019 and could very-well be dependable guys out of the backfield. There’s just not a whole lot to base that on just yet. Those two will have an opportunity to shine in the spring game and show that they can provide stability at running back. But that’s still a position of concern for the Boilers.
Who steps up at receiver
We all know what Rondale Moore is capable of, but the big question is who will help him out in 2019? Purdue has lost two of its top three receivers from last year and needs to find more options in a pass-heavy attack. There’s a lot of hype surrounding incoming four-star prospect David Bell, but he won’t be on campus until the summer.
Jared Sparks could be a guy who becomes a deep threat for the Boilermakers, much like Isaac Zico was a year ago. He came to West Lafayette as a quarterback and has had to transition into a receiver role. After a few years on the learning curve, he has the potential to be a big-play guy in Brohm’s offense.
How much improvement the secondary has made
Pass defense was horrendous a year ago. Purdue ranked last in the B1G and 128th nationally in that category — there are 130 FBS programs. This is another major area of concern for the Boilermakers heading into the season.
The poor numbers were a culmination of inexperience in the secondary, the inability to consistently get pressure on the quarterback and one of the worst turnover margins (-5) in the conference. For Purdue to be successful next season, the secondary has to be a lot better. We’ll see what kind of steps that unit has made on Saturday.