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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 45 ductive sophomore year — and that could leave Barnes battling Jones for the other inside spot. Perhaps Barnes develops more into the role Ezechukwu played in 2017, as a pass-rushing hybrid, because he may grow into it size-wise. However it shakes out, Holt likes the prospects. "I think all three guys are very good prospects for us," Holt said. "You look at them — they look like they're supposed to look as 18, 19 year olds. They don't look out of place. They got in the games and they've been productive on special teams. What's hindered their de- velopment is they're behind three potential all-confer- ence-type guys. But I think they're going to be just fine." McCollum, arguably, was Purdue's most important newcomer addition. Had he not missed four games with an ankle injury, he likely would have led the team in tackles. Whenever he was on the field, he was ag- gressive, decisive and a playmaker (69 tackles, six TFL, three sacks). Secondary Essentially, there weren't enough snaps to go around at Purdue's cornerback spots — not with senior Da'Wan Hunte and graduate transfer Josh Okonye — for the Boiler- makers to burn a redshirt on their three freshman corners, Dedrick Mackey, Ja- cob Abrams or Kenneth Major. But, position coach Derrick Jackson said, that wasn't necessarily indicative of the trio's readiness to play in Year 1. Injuries, though, played a role with Abrams needing knee surgery in train- ing camp and Major fighting a hamstring injury for a multiple-week span, too. So all three were given a year to de- velop and should be primed to be major factors in 2018. "Looking at the team we have now, we have a lot of guys that are playing cor- ner that I don't know, instinctively, are better than what our young guys have shown us in terms of feel for coverage, gauging the ball in the air, tracking the ball," Jackson said late in the regular season. "I think these guys have receiv- er backgrounds and return backgrounds whereas Josh and some of those guys, that's not what they did. So when you get guys with ball and playmaking skills on the perimeter, it upgrades your defense because, all of a sudden, hopefully, PBUs become interceptions. Those guys have shown traits that they're going to have play- making ability and be very instinctual. "When you look at those three guys, the ability to red- shirt them was critical for us because you didn't waste a year playing minimal snaps because Da'Wan and Josh have been healthy most of the season. Rather than play- ing these guys 20 and 30 snaps and it be special teams, now you're sitting here saying, 'Now we have a four- year window to really see how much these guys can de- velop and compete to maybe be the answer a year from now in our program.'" Abrams and Major appeared to come to Purdue phys- ically ready to play in Year 1. Major was up to 197 pounds and Abrams about 198 late in the season — that's nearly the size of Purdue's safeties. Abrams has uncommon length for a corner there, too, and Major has uncommon speed. Home of Boilermaker Hospitality

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