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Gold and Black Illustrated Vol28, Digital1

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Page 22 of 74

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 1 23 BY STACY CLARDIE T hey were one of the few units that provided no cause for concern entering camp. Markus Bailey, Ja'Whaun Bent- ley and Danny Ezechukwu weren't only linebackers returning with starting experience — Bentley and Ezechukwu have more starts than anyone on Purdue's roster — but they were players who have pro- duced, too. They've been embedded in game situations, made tackles against the Big Ten's best backs, made plays in space against wide- open offenses, aggressively pur- sued ballcarriers and quarterbacks. Bailey led the Boilermakers in tackles and interceptions last sea- son as a redshirt freshman and could be the most talented of the group. Bentley was an all-league-player- in-the-making before suffering an ACL injury as a sophomore and lag- ging through lingering effects last season. Ezechukwu, the fifth-year senior, may be the mentally toughest play- er in the unit, sustaining through adversity of position switches and decreased game snaps only to be named a captain. And, then, Purdue went and add- ed a graduate transfer last spring from Western Kentucky, a phys- ically mature fierce tackler with intimate knowledge of Nick Holt's defense in T.J. McCollum. And the corps that already was projected to do big things got an immediate boost. But none of that would have Defense, especially front seven, impresses in camp Stacy Clardie T.J. McCollum and Purdue's linebackers made their presence felt during training camp as the defense's most experienced group. Tone Setter Tone Setter

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