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Purdue Boilermakers 2023 Football Preview

With only nine returning starters and a new coaching staff, 2023 looks like a rebuilding year in West Lafayette.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Nebraska at Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Let’s give Jeff Brohm credit for turning a football program that was, well, PurDON’T into a competitive football program. The cast of characters post-Joe Tiller arguably did poor enough that you had to wonder if Purdue actually cared about football. Brohm was one of only three Purdue head coaches to have a winning record during the last 50 years. Brohm took the Boilermakers to Indianapolis and the Big Ten title game in 2022, but now he’s off to his alma mater. Replacing him is Ryan Walters, who developed a strong reputation the last two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Illinois.

A bigger question is how Purdue is going to replace 13 departing starters. It’s not anything like the roster turnover that Colorado is attempting, but only returning nine starters from a team that won the West division is a sign of a rebuilding year...especially with a brand new coaching staff.

Aiden O’Connell is finally out of eligibility, and I’m not referring to Social Security either. But the Boilermakers likely have an upgrade in talent (though not experience) with Texas transfer Hudson Card (6’2” 201 lbs.), who completed 65% of his passes in five career startrs for 1,521 yards, eleven touchdowns and just two interceptions. Card arguably outplayed the Bovines’ Quinn Evers last year, completing over 69% of his passes for 928 yards, six touchdowns and one interception...but with Arch Manning arriving on campus, Card decided to head elsewhere than sit behind the top two high school quarterbacks the previous two years. If Card gets injured, though, there’s a bunch of inexperience on the bench.

At running back, walkon sophomore Devin Mockobee (6’0” 185 lbs.) took advantage of injuries to rush for 968 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Former Iowa wide receiver Tyrone Tracy (6’1” 205 lbs.) slashed between receiver and running back last season, but is making the fulltime transition to running back for 2023. Last season he averaged 8.1 yards per carry on 17 carries and caugh 28 passes for 198 yards. Junior Dylan Downing (6’0” 210 lbs.) started four games before getting hit by the injury bug, rushing for 351 yards and four touchdowns last season.

Junior wide receiver TJ Sheffield (5’11” 190 lbs.) caught 46 passes for 480 yards and four touchdowns last season while junior Mershawn Rice (6’2” 205 lbs.) caught 23 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown. They’ll be joined by Marshall transfer Corey Gammage (6’4” 220 lbs.) and FAU transfer Jahmal Edrine (6’3” 214 lbs.). Gammage earned honorable mention All-Sun Belt honors in leading Marshall with 52 catches for 774 yards and six touchdowns last season. Erdine was second on the FAU roster with 39 catches for 5706 yards and six touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Good additions, to be sure, but they hardly fill the gap left by the departures of Charlie Jones and tight end Payne Durham to the NFL.

Three starters return on the offensive line, led by sophomore right guard Marcus Mbow (6’5” 305 lbs.) and junior center Gus Hartwig (6’5” 310 lbs.), who were honorable mention All-Big Ten last season. Sophomore left tackle Mahamane Moussa (6’4” 285 lbs.) also returns after starting nine games last season. The Boilermakers added transfer guards Jalen Grant (6’3” 280 lbs.) from Bowling Green and Preston Nichols (6’2” 290 lbs.) from UNLV. Nichols was a third team All-Mountain West honoree last season.

Only four starters return for Purdue’s defense, and with junior Kydran Jenkins (6’1” 270 lbs.) being repositioned as a outside linebacker, there are no returning starters on the defensive line in Ryan Walters’ 3-4 defense. The Boilermakers did pick up transfer defensive tackles Isaiah Nichols (6’3” 315 lbs.) from Arkansas and Malik Langham (6’5” 308 lbs.) from Vanderbilt. Nichols has 79 career tackles while Langham has 25 tackles the last two seasons.

Jenkins had 32 tackles and four sacks last year, Joining him in the linebacker corps is junior inside linebacker OC Brothers (6’2” 235 lbs.) and senior star linebacker Cam Allen (6’1” 195 lbs.). Brothers had 42 tackles last season while Allen had 49 tackles six pass breakups and three interceptions, earning him honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.

The only returning starter in the secondary is junior safety Sanoussi Kane (6’0” 205 lbs.), who led Purdue with 72 tackles last season, earning him honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Stanford transfer cornerback Salim Turner-Muhammad (6’0” 193 lbs.) has seven career starts with the Cardinal with 34 tackles.

The schedule makers didn’t do Purdue any favors either in 2023, replacing Penn State and Maryland with Ohio State and Michigan from the east division, plus swapping Indiana State and Florida Atlantic for Fresno State and Virginia Tech. A tougher schedule, huge graduation losses and a new coaching staff will undoubtedly lower expectations for Purdue football in 2023. That being said, Purdue has won four out of the last five against the Huskers, who simply can’t look past any team anymore. (Remember, Trey Palmer is also gone from the Nebraska roster as well.)


What happens when Purdue returns to Memorial Stadium?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    PurDON’T do it again! The Boilermakers keep their winning ways alive in Lincoln.
    (33 votes)
  • 54%
    Two rebuilding teams play it close, but the Huskers come away with the win.
    (143 votes)
  • 33%
    The Blackshirts derail the Purdue train as the Huskers win big.
    (87 votes)
263 votes total Vote Now