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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 6:10 pm

Purdue reels in No. 5 class in Big Ten

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue continued its road back to the upper echelon of the Big Ten on Wednesday's National Signing Day, putting together a 2019 recruiting class that is in line to be the program's best since the 2004 group that included Cliff Avril and Curtis Painter, among others.

The Boilermakers, who will play in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 28, received letters of intent from 22 recruits, compiling a class that ranks No. 25 nationally, per 24/7 Sports and No. 5 in the Big Ten, behind only Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska. 

"We're excited about these incoming freshmen that are going to be here," coach Jeff Brohm said. "We think they're outstanding players. We really feel they can add a lot of value to our team. They'll come in, they'll love football and quite a few of them can be difference-makers for us."

Purdue could still add more commitments before the February National Signing Day, but if this class's current No. 25 ranking holds or improves, it will be the first top 25 class for the Boilermakers since that 2004 class under Joe Tiller was No. 17. For comparison, the first full class under Brohm in 2018 was No. 51 nationally, despite the presence of four-star receiver Rondale Moore.

It's unlikely that any of the players from this class will be the immediate superstar that Moore was this season, but there are a handful of players who could contribute right away. Among those are four-star wide receiver Milton Wright out of Louisville and four-star safety Marvin Grant from Detroit.

The crown jewel of the class, however, is a local product. Defensive end George Karlaftis hails from West Lafayette and is the No. 48 player nationally. He led his West Lafayette Red Devils team to a Class 3A state title as a senior, a season that included a win over Bishop Luers at semistate. Karlaftis had two sacks in that game and 17.5 for the season. He plans to enroll at Purdue in January so he can participate in spring practice.

"We're thrilled to death to have George joining our program," Brohm said of Karlaftis, who is 6-foot-4, 260 pounds and the top 2019 recruit in Indiana . "He's a guy who's going to take a lot of pride in representing Purdue and he's going to work extremely hard. Without question, he can play right away. ... He's a guy who plays with a lot of energy, a lot of toughness."

For a Purdue program that had gotten used to bringing in classes ranked in the 60s and 70s nationally, the rise in recruiting circles has been meteoric in Brohm's time as the head coach. Signing Moore last year was the first real sign that the Boilermakers would be recruiting on a national stage and this class has solidified that commitment.

"I've never seen a program that I can remember change the face of their recruiting as quickly as Jeff Brohm has done at Purdue," said Gerry DiNardo, a Big Ten Network analyst and former Indiana football coach. "This is so drastic. ... I mean that's dramatic."

The Boilermakers emphasized depth on the defensive front, an area where they have struggled at times this season. In addition to Karlaftis, Purdue also brings in four-star defensive tackle Steven Faucheux from West Chester, Ohio and six other players combined at defensive line and linebacker. 

With David Blough finishing up his time with the Boilermakers, the quarterback position will once again be open next year, as well. Though Elijah Sindelar will be the favorite to start, the Boilermakers added another name to the mix when they signed three-star pro-style passer Paul Piferi from Villa Park, Calif., the No. 29 quarterback nationally.

dsinn@jg.net