The Journal Gazette
Saturday, July 24, 2021 1:00 am

Boilers' emphasis placed on defense

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue's defense was not particularly good in 2020.

The Boilermakers gave up nearly 400 yards per game and almost 30 points per contest. As a result, coach Jeff Brohm shook up his defensive staff this offseason. Out is defensive coordinator Bob Diaco after a single season at the helm and in are co-coordinators Mark Hagen, Ron English and Brad Lambert.

Calling the plays will be Lambert, the new lead assistant on defense, who was previously the defensive coordinator for Marshall and Wake Forest.

“Coach Lambert, first and foremost is an amazing guy,” All-Big Ten defensive end George Karlaftis said Friday at Big Ten Media Days. “He's a lovely, caring human being and as a coach, he'll get after you. He coaches hard, he's a great coach, and I'm excited to have him.”

Karlaftis, who missed part of last season after testing positive for coronavirus in the middle of the campaign, is the best player Lambert has on his side of the ball, a pass-rushing terror who had 17 tackles for loss as a freshman in 2019.

The new defense, a 4-3 scheme with a wide variety of blitz looks, will be aggressive and allow Purdue to get after the quarterback, Karlaftis said.

In addition to overhauling his defensive staff, Brohm, who has long focused on the offense, will be taking a more hands-on approach with the defense.

“I've mostly been on the offensive side of the ball throughout my career other than bits and pieces, letting (defensive coaches) do their work to a certain degree, but now I want to be fully involved,” Brohm said. “It's going to be the terminology I believe in and all the coaches I brought in have a complete understanding of how this room is going to work.”

Karlaftis emphasized that having a gifted offensive mind in defensive meeting rooms has been a boon because Brohm is able to point out the spots he would attack if he were coaching the opposing offense.

4 in QB battle

Purdue enters fall camp with four quarterbacks competing for the starting job.

Veterans Jack Plummer and Aidan O'Connell each have starting experience and have posted big numbers in the past. UCLA transfer Austin Burton is a good athlete and much more familiar with the playbook after a year in the program. Former four-star recruit Michael Alaimo has probably the best arm of the group, Brohm noted.

“I like our quarterback room,” the fifth-year coach said. “It's a healthy room. Any time we get in the game, we feel confident they can do good things.”

Brohm said he and his staff will likely a name a starter internally after a couple weeks of camp but added he wouldn't be surprised if multiple passers got playing time.

Facing the Irish

Purdue will renew its rivalry with Notre Dame this season, taking on the Irish in South Bend on Sept. 18. The teams met every year from 1946 until 2014 but have not played since.

The Irish are coming off an undefeated regular season and a second College Football Playoff appearance in three seasons.

“It's a great rivalry that they've had in the past that really has meant a lot to the program and to the fans,” said Brohm, who was recruited by Notre Dame out of high school.

“To go to that venue and play a College Football Playoff team, one of the four, those are the games as a kid you want to play in. That's the great thing about our schedule: you're going to get a chance to play great opponents.”

Recruiting victory

Late Thursday, Purdue received a 2022 commitment from four-star defensive end Joe Strickland of Indianapolis.

Strickland, a Brebeuf standout, is the second four-star recruit in Purdue's 14-player 2022 class and is the No. 6 player in Indiana (235th nationally), per

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound edge rusher could be an heir apparent to Karlaftis, and he chose Purdue over in-state rival Indiana, which was also in his top three, along with Stanford.

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