#89 Purdue Football 2016 Preview

Purdue Boilermakers
Overall Rank: #89
#14 Big Ten
This is a big year for Coach Darrell Hazell and Purdue. The Boilermakers have to show significant improvement or it is very likely that Purdue will be rebuilding yet again under a new coach. Coach Hazell did move things around on his staff quite a bit. In total five assistants are gone, including both coordinators. Former tight end coach Terry Malone steps up into the offensive coordinator position, while former Nebraska linebackers coach Ross Els takes over the defense.
2015 Record: 2-10, 1-7
2015 Bowl: None
Coach: Darrell Hazell (6-30 at Purdue, 22-40 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Terry Malone
Defensive Coordinator: Ross Els
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Markell Jones, RB, 875 yards
Passing: David Blough, QB, 1,574 yards
Receiving: DeAngelo Yancey, WR, 700 yards
Tackles: Leroy Clark, S, 88
Sacks: Antoine Miles, DE, 4.0; Evan Panfil, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Leroy Clark, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB D.J. Knox, WR Cameron Posey, LB Danny Ezechukwu, LB Andy Garcia, DL Jake Replogle, S Robert Gregory
Key Losses: QB Austin Appleby, WR Danny Anthrop, CB Anthony Brown, CB Frankie Williams, K Paul Griggs
The numbers are not very good, but this offense actually has some potential. Running back Markell Jones is back after rushing for 875 yards and ten touchdowns as a freshman. He has the potential to be a very good running back in the Big Ten. D.J. Knox saw over 100 carries last year too, rushing for 409 yards and two scores on 108 carries. Those two can only do so much though and Purdue must find some consistency under center. And, of course, there is a quarterback controversy. That is fine for now, but the Boilermakers cannot afford to continue to switch quarterbacks throughout the season yet again. David Blough stepped into a starting role last year for Austin Appleby, who since transferred to Florida. Blough threw for 1,574 yards and ten touchdowns and eight interceptions. His completion percentage was at 57.7 percent, which is alright but obviously there is a lot of room for improvement. The future appears to belong to highly touted redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar, but it remains to be seen if he is ready for game action. With a receiving corps that is led by deep threat DeAngelo Yancey, Purude does not lack for talent at the skill positions. But that’s never been the problem. The problem has been running up the gut four times in a row from the one yard line and getting stuffed every time. That falls on the offensive line, which is breaking in a new coach and lost their best two players. Tackle Martesse Patterson needs to have a big year and this team needs to find quality run blockers or the offense will continue to be stuck in neutral.
The line on the other side of the ball was no better. The unit ranked dead last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing 214.9 yards per game on the ground. Even the worst running teams in the conference had field days against the Purdue front seven. The good news is there is experience on the front line now with Ra’Zahn Howard, Antoine Miles, Evan Panfil and Jake Replogle leading the way. This group may lack a superstar, but they should be improved in 2016 and hopefully for Purdue that leads to more pressure in the opposing backfield. Danny Ezechukwu and Andy Garcia are the top linebackers and ranked second and third on the team in tackles in 2015, respectively. The secondary will have to build around safety Leroy Clark, but cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams are gone. All things considered, Brown and Williams played very well during their careers at Purdue. Replacing them will not be easy and that is why getting pressure on the opposing quarterback will be so important this year. Yet, if the opposition does not need to throw the ball and can just run through the Purdue defense anyway, it will not really matter.  
The Bottom Line:
If there is reason to be optimistic in West Lafayette, it is because of the schedule. Purdue plays Maryland, Indiana and Penn State out of the tough Big Ten East. Getting Rutgers in there would be nice, but avoiding Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State is even nicer. That means the toughest games on the schedule could be Nebraska and Wisconsin, and that is a Nebraska team that Purdue managed to beat last year and a Wisconsin team they held to just 21 points. With winnable home non-conference games against Eastern Kentucky, Cincinnati and Nevada, the Boilermakers could have somewhat realistic bowl dreams in October, which will then disappear in November.
Projected Bowl: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 131.3 (108th in nation, 13th in conference)
Passing Offense: 237.3 (54, 5)
Total Offense: 368.6 (95, 11)
Scoring Offense: 25.1 (92, 9)
Rushing Defense: 214.9 (108, 14)
Pass Defense: 243.4 (89, 10)
Total Defense: 458.3 (110, 12)
Scoring Defense: 36.5 (111, 13)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (100, 12)
Sacks: 1.75 (90, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 2.50 (93, 13)