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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 6 45 and the Clay Matthews and the Lofa Tatupus. But wheth- er he does it or not remains to be seen." Bailey thinks his comfort started to show late last season, like in the finale against Indiana when he col- lected a pair of interceptions. "I've been on the field and seen the kind of offenses teams like to run," Bailey said. "A lot of offenses run variations of the same type of plays. And since I've seen those plays, I can register what it is. … I'll be able to re- act quicker because I have seen it before." Bailey should have linebacker help, especially if Bent- ley has the type of season many think he could as a se- nior. The veteran captain labored down the stretch last season, fighting his surgically repaired knee — an ACL tear in 2015 forced him to the sideline — that kept him from being 100-percent. Bentley missed four of Purdue's 12 games, but even in the other eight, he didn't appear to be himself. He was out of shape and a step slow. But Bentley has had a strong offseason following a solid spring, sticking around through Maymester and re- shaping his body. Although he's probably not cut weight from his 6-2, 250-pound frame, he's cut his body fat. "He looks really good and he feels better about him- self," said Holt, who coaches the linebackers. "You can see his self image is up. He feels good and is smiling. He just doesn't look like a big boy, he looks cut, for him. "… He's a really good football player as it is; now I think he'll be really, really good if he continues (for the rest of the summer) like he has (in June). I never saw him play (before the injury), but I think he can be one of the better guys too at the inside position. You have to stay on him, but he's smart, a very intelligent football player." McCollum will work his way in, perhaps into a ro- tation but probably as a starter. It's hard to keep pro- duction off the field. As a junior last season at Western Kentucky, he had 85 tackles, four for loss and three pass breakups. The 6-3, 240-pounder missed the Boca Raton Bowl after he was injured, a severely dislocated left elbow, in the Conference USA championship game. Had he not been hurt, McCollum probably would have been the second Hilltopper linebacker with more than 100 tackles, joining Keith Brown, who had 131 tackles, 13 TFLs, six sacks, nine pass breakups and a fumble recovery. Perhaps that's the type of production a Purdue player can expect. After surgery, McCollum participated in only light drills during the spring at Purdue, but was held out of contact. His familiarity with Holt's defense, however, should allow him to quickly integrate during training camp. "I like what I see out of T.J.," Ezechukwu said. But after the first four, Purdue has little depth. Back- up middle linebacker Garrett Hudson has started three games, doing so in 2015, when Purdue faced mounting injuries. It could look to get one of its promising young freshmen on the field early, perhaps Derrick Barnes, Cor- nel Jones or Tobias Larry. Barnes, who has Big Ten-ready size at 6-2, 245, says he's willing to learn from the veter- ans. "I like being a good follower, coming in and listening to the older guys, being a guy they can depend on," the Kentucky native said a few days before arriving on cam- pus in mid-June. "I'll work as hard as I can just to show I deserve to play and deserve to be with the older guys." But the top group will get a bulk of the work, and they're ready for it. As part of the scheme, Holt estimates he'll blitz his linebackers about 60 to 70 percent of the snaps, giving them a chance to get to the ball. "We work on our pass-rush moves," Bailey said. "And Tom Campbell Da'Wan Hunte didn't have the kind of junior season he envisioned, partially because he was hurt at the start of the year.

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