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Gold and Black Illustrated Volume 28, Digital 5

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 5 29 for us, and they're going to play a ton, if not start. I love the physicality of Major, and I love the football knowledge of Mackey. I think both of them are going to be really good players for us. They've just got to get in the game now and take their lumps like they will, but they'll get better quickly." The spring game was a good showcase. Major, a Christian County High School graduate, was frequently solid in coverage, showing off not only physicality but speed and agility. Perhaps most importantly, he was consistent — and that can't be said for Purdue's veteran options — almost always in the right place at the right time. During the chilly April 7 game in Ross-Ade Stadium, he broke up two passes, but even on the completions he allowed, like Isaac Zico's touchdown in the right front corner of the end zone, he was right there. Zico had to fight Major off. And at a position where the failure rate is high, being in position to be successful as frequently as possible is often the key. "He has shown the ability to be physical, has shown the ability to be dynamic with his movement," Jackson said. Mackey has started to reach that point now, too. But a year ago, he wouldn't have been physically capable. The Miami native came to West La- fayette only 167 pounds. It meant he needed to be as produc- tive as possible during his redshirt year, not only on the scout team but in the weight room, and at the dinner ta- ble. Mackey wolfed down peanut butter and jelly — like those pre-packaged Jif To Go cups that come eight to a box — late at night, trying to pack on more pounds. "I ate and hit the weight room," he said. "I think the late-night weight came on because I ate late at night then went to sleep, and I think that helped a lot." But he gained the weight without losing what had made him such an ef- fective player at Booker T. Washington High School. There, he was often a playmaker in the secondary, because he had solid closing speed that helped him break on balls late. One play during the spring illustrated that charac- teristic. Dropping back into his soft zone as the right- side cornerback, a receiver in the flat had about five yards of cushion. But on the release of the ball from the quarterback's hand, Mackey attacked, going from a near standstill to launching himself toward the re- ceiver. And at the last moment, Mackey reached with his left hand to knock the pass away. During his redshirt year, he worked not only to gain weight — he's up to about 182 now — but also on those breaking drills. He did the same at Booker T., where his coached called them "EDDs" or "every day drills." "It became natural to me," Mackey said. "I think I do a great job anticipating the ball, anticipating the receiver's route, so that gives me a chance to make a play on the ball." Jackson says it's reminiscent of Kevin Johnson, a former player he coached at Wake Forest who is now Home of Boilermaker Hospitality

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