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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 1

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Page 39 of 78

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 1 40 E van Panfil wants Purdue to be a smash- mouth, physical defense that will "just freaking hit somebody every play, whether they have the ball or not." Late in camp, there were signs that identity may not be far-fetched. Though Ross Els' defense is pass-first and often will have five defensive backs on the field, the front four was par- ticularly active at getting into the backfield throughout camp. In the jersey scrimmage, that showed up in the form of delivering blows for tack- les for loss. The quarterbacks are off-limits, but the "sack" totals were high over camp's 19 practices, including a whopping 11 in the scrimmage. That's good: Getting pressure/disrupting the QB is a pri- ority for a unit that has struggled to do so the last several seasons. Using more two-man games and slanting fronts appeared to help bring life to the line- men, and twists seem to be an especially interesting tactic when Panfil is at tackle in the speed-rush package that also features ends Gelen Robinson and Austin Larkin. … Tackle Jake Replogle, not surprisingly, was one of the most dominating players during camp. His explosive first step and ability to shock linemen with his strong hands give him an edge, and his relentless motor means he's in the backfield a lot. He appears primed for a big sea- son, though there's no doubt he's going to get extra attention from opponents. … That'll mean Eddy Wilson needs to rise. He could, even this early in his development. At 300 pounds, the true sophomore has nose tackle size but also uncommon quickness for that size and an ability to contort his body and turn his hips to get through gaps. … Da'Wan Hunte doesn't have Brandon Roberts' 4.3-type speed or safety-type strength. And yet he just may be Purdue's best defensive back because of what he offers instead: A scrappy, fighter mentality with great anticipation skills that almost always have him in the right place to make a play. Hunte said because he doesn't have elite-level athleticism, he needed to find a way to "cheat." That's been in the film room, dissecting offenses and opponents' tendencies, study- ing technique and absorbing every assignment in Purdue's defense to see the big picture. That knowledge allows him to play faster. … Exiting camp, there's still concern regard- ing the other cornerback spot, though. The top three options were Myles Norwood, who was playing receiver last year at this time, converted safety Tim Cason and junior col- lege transfer Kamal Hardy. Norwood is raw but drew praise from Els for knowing exactly what his responsibili- ties were in every defense and in relation to the rest of the defense. Having someone who won't make mistakes could be the most important consideration for that spot right now. And Norwood's length and willingness to be physical showed up at times, too, in camp. … Roberts' shift from safety to nickel back may have been the best move of the summer. With freshman safety Navon Mosley wowing team- mates with speed, instincts and willingness to work and senior Robert Gregory as another option at that safety spot, Roberts hasn't been missed there. But he has shown skill playing inside. It's so criti- cal for a nickel to be physical enough to hold up in the run game, when needed, but also have speed to cover smaller, faster slot receivers. Roberts seems to fit the bill perfectly, and he could be a dynamic player in Purdue's pressure packages, too, as an edge blitzer. … Purdue incorporated more screens into its offense this camp, and Ja'Whaun Bentley seemed to know when every one of them was com- ing. The junior linebacker showed great instincts but maybe better yet he didn't look limited in movement after missing the second half of last season with a knee injury. Bentley's ferocity fits in with Panfil's "smashmouth" goal, and even if the linebackers are looking to cover first, Bentley's going to pin back his ears and charge at the ballcarrier as soon as it's handed off. His presence on Purdue's defense is invaluable. j Analysis 40 GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED BY STACY CLARDIE

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