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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

Gold and Black is a multi-platform media company that covers Purdue athletics like no one else.

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Page 14 of 91

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 15 Linebacker Markus Bailey and defensive tackle Loren- zo Neal are the only players in the likely two-deep on Day 1 of training camp who have started at least 16 career games. There is potential scattered among the rest of that front seven, from Kai Higgins to Giovanni Reviere to Jeff Marks to Derrick Barnes. But they'll have to prove they can perform on Saturdays. "I feel good in the secondary. It's just that up front we'll be just a bunch of no-name guys other than Markus Bailey and Lorenzo Neal," Holt said. "Just a bunch of no- name guys who are going to play hard and people are going to go, 'Oh, who's this guy? Who's that guy? Who are these guys?' "But we're going to have to do a really good job coach- ing them this year, quite honestly. We've lost a lot of guys, but everyone loses guys. It's just a big turnover. It's unfortunate, because of the history of the program not having a lot of success, we're kind of feeling some of the dregs of how bad it was. We're just going to have a bunch of guys that nobody knows about. We're just going to have to play with these guys." At least Holt and his staff proved last season they could draw every last ounce out of their players, and that was key in the unit's success. Gelen Robinson, Danny Ezechukwu and Ja'Whaun Bentley had career-type years to help the defense surge. That'll have to happen for the of- fense this year, too, for it to be the true strength — and what the team needs, considering the steep learning curve of the defense. "Last year, there were times when the offense was sputtering, and we felt as a defense that we had to play perfectly to have a chance to win it," starting safety Jacob Thieneman said. "We needed to do that. We'd have great (defensive) drives but give up one play and feel devastated. You can't succeed as a defense by doing that. We're hoping that the offense de- veloping for another year, coming out firing to start the year, will take some of the pressure off of us. Because we are going to be developing, so it'll take time. That's our hope — that there won't be as much pressure on the defense to play absolutely per- fectly with the offense playing better." The offense certainly wasn't bad last season with its top four running backs averaging a whopping 5.5 yards per carry and its quarterbacks throwing 27 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions. One crucial step to the offense's growth could be de- veloping a killer instinct, Knox said. That'd be one new lesson learned after a season that was full of them. Pur- due just hopes it doesn't need to re-learn any of those, effectively avoiding repeat mistakes from last season. That Rutgers game was exactly what the team needed in terms of an eye-opener, players said. They say they'll be consistently locked in to the details, taking practice seriously, understanding the value of offseason work and pushing beyond what they think their limits are and never relenting. "When you reach rock bottom, like things aren't go- ing well, it's understanding that you have to keep play- ing and keep going, because you've been there before," safety Navon Mosley said. "And even when you're win- ning, beat a team nobody thought you'd beat, you have to Home of Boilermaker Hospitality

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