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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 43 juries to upperclassmen, how do they develop? You're 19 years old. We're not the NFL where they're over here 24 hours a day. They have to go to class, they have girl- friends, flunk a test, have a tutor appointment, there's a lot of things off the field they have to navigate and then they have to come out here, and that's why it's tough to be a freshman to play in the Big Ten, because of the fact it's a long season, it's a grind. You can see the guys who are still performing for us at a high level are older kids. "If you're going to win, you're going to win with older kids." The biggest piece of production from newcomers up front came in the form of graduate transfers, exactly what Purdue hoped when it brought in Rhode Island graduate Dave Steinmetz and Northern Illinois grad Shane Evans. Steinmetz and Evans, who will be back next season, were starters from Week 1 on, and Steinmetz unofficial- ly missed only eight snaps on offense during the regular season at right tackle. "It's not an accident that I'm here," Steinmetz said during the season about what he learned in his one year at Purdue. "I belong at this level. I'm as good as I believed I always have been. "I came here because it's a lot bet- ter competition, and I'm finding that. I think of it as exciting. It's one of those things you always dream about as a little kid. Being able to have the oppor- tunity to do it is almost mind-blowing to me. It's really fun. I'm really glad I'm here and glad I've got these opportu- nities to play one-on-one with these really good pass-rushers." DEFENSE Linebacker This was the one position Purdue bucked conventional wisdom in re- gards to redshirting. Linebacker, arguably, was its most talented starting position group with senior Ja'Whaun Bentley, grad trans- fer T.J. McCollum and sophomore Markus Bailey. The issue coaches were worried about, though: What if one of those guys got hurt? Purdue didn't have much experienced depth beyond those starters, other than se- nior walk-on Garrett Hudson. So, ultimately, the decision was made to not redshirt a single freshman linebacker, meaning Derrick Barnes, Tobias Larry and Cornel Jones were all going to be a fac- tor on, at least, special teams. But when injuries started to pile up to the starters — McCollum's high ankle sprain cost him four games and Bentley had ankle issues for the second half of the season — the coaches looked like geniuses. Barnes actually started two games, in place of McCo- llum, and had the most defensive snaps of the group of rookies. He recorded 16 tackles, including a half for loss, which also factored in special teams tackles. "I think it went pretty well," Barnes said during bowl prep. "(The season) was very fast. In a snap of a finger, I wasn't expecting it. But it was amazing. It was good to be out here with these guys. "It gave me a lot of experience, especially playing with the guys we have. They're role models. If I watch the older guys, come out and compete, I just think based For Online Quotes: or In-Home Quote: 317-520-9820 2 Great Locations: Lafayette and Indianapolis

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