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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 8 VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 8 5 Stay healthy: Purdue doesn't have a lot of depth, particularly at several posi- tions (like linebacker), so keeping the front-line players healthy is a must. The drop-off from Markus Bailey, for instance, to the No. 2 is significant. 4 Get defen- sive: Nick Holt faces a major chal- lenge in Year 2, as he tries to mold a group of inexperienced defenders into his vision. They're unlikely to match last season's production, but they've got to be able to limit mistakes and get stops for Purdue to have a chance. 3 Stay aggressive: Pur- due had to man- ufacture offense at times last season, using a variety of trick plays — and trick plays set up by other trick plays — to move the ball. That'll need to contin- ue, especially if Purdue needs more points to win this season. 2 QB play: As always, the play of the quarter- backs will matter. In this case, that's regardless of the starter, likely either Elijah Sindelar or David Blough. Both had their moments last season, but consistency was a concern. 1 Fast start: With four games at home to start the season, Purdue needs wins early. None of the first four are more important than the opener, with conference rival Northwestern coming Thursday night to Ross-Ade in a primetime matchup. An opening-night win would get the Boilermakers off on the right foot. — Kyle Charters Which takes a bigger step: The offense forward or the defense back? Kyle Charters It seems almost impossible that the defense won't take a significant step backward, considering all that it lost: The bulk of its line, its interior linebackers and its two starting cornerbacks. How can it replace all of that? Well, it can't. Now, Purdue has talent — the younger guys in the system appear to have ability, and already have good size — but replicating experience is impossible. And because of it, the Boilermakers will take their share of lumps, especially early in the season. My concern is assignment mistakes, the simple result of players not having enough reps to recognize changes quickly, which can lead to big plays. That was an area the defense excelled last season, as it didn't have a propensity for allowing big plays for scores. If the inexperienced Boilermaker defense can't stop the big play his year, then it'll really put Purdue in a bind. Stacy Clardie Jeff Brohm understands his personnel better than ever, and the key pieces to Purdue's offense have been in his system for a year-plus, allowing them to fully grasp their roles within each play, not just in the general hierarchy of the two-deep. So it'd be disappointing if the offense didn't surge in 2018. Especially considering the personnel that returns. The running back room is ridiculously deep (love the Markell Jones-D.J. Knox combination); the tight ends could be special; the line has more experienced depth; and the quarterbacks are talented, and the one Brohm chooses has won games, too. Even the biggest question mark, receiver, has a handful of potential- packed players who just need to follow through and emerge. Brohm isn't sure there are enough playmakers, especially at outside receiver, but if some develop, this could be an explosive group. Photos by Tom Campbell Musts For A Bowl Return T O P

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