Preseason Review: The secondary
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With Saturday's season opener against Indiana State approaching, GoldandBlack.com takes a position-by-position look back at preseason practice. Here's the secondary.
Much-maligned a year ago and now nearly completely overhauled, the Boilermaker defensive backfield will be under great scrutiny this season.
Strong safety Torri Williams has the potential to stabilize the secondary, as he's a very talented player.
He never dominated practice during the preseason, but it probably wasn't fair to expect him to, considering he didn't play last season.
Williams certainly made his share of plays, though, with several interceptions, and was stout against the run more often than not. He did miss some tackles, but again, there had to be some rust involved. It may simply take him some time to get it completely shaken off.
Opposite Williams is true freshman Brandon Erwin, who's secured a place on the field with his sheer speed and ability to learn very quickly. As would be the case with any rookie, you can probably expect Erwin to make a mistake here or there, and may not yet be physically equipped to be a flawless tackler, but he appears to be the best of what the Boilermakers have right now at free safety.
Erwin will start, but he could just as soon share the job with junior college transfer Justin Scott, a big hitter who may be better against the run than he is the pass. Scott laid some big hits during preseason practice, sometimes getting a little overzealous in doing so, popping players out of bounds or in limited-contact drills. He may need to curb that ferocity, before the yellow flags start flying.
Purdue's other viable options at safety are few.
Redshirt freshman Adam Wolf, a walk-on who did some good things in camp, is listed as the Boilermakers' second-team strong safety.
Junior college transfer Brandon Blackmon, though he was on campus in the spring, never saw much first- or second-team action in training camp and may be headed for a redshirt year.
Junior Paul Long, a converted cornerback, doesn't appear to be in the "varsity" mix, nor does senior Pat Kohtz, who played some last season.
Walk-on Frank Duong packs a wallop for a 5-foot-8, 176-pounder, but the chances of seeing him on the field this season are slim.
At cornerback, Purdue's numbers are better, but that doesn't make the position much more of a known commodity than safety.
Junior Aaron Lane and sophomore Zach Logan are the starters, making for an undersized pair of corners.
Lane, a converted running back who earned a scholarship this year, is a good athlete, quick and fast, and seems to have a knack for being in the right place. But he has difficulty matching up with bigger receivers, as his daily practice-field jousts with 6-foot-4 Greg Orton demonstrated.
The same could be said for Logan, but he's helped himself by having a great off-season in the weight room and greatly improving his strength. That's allowed him to become more of a willing tackler, and he laid some of the bigger hits of the preseason.
Watch out for true freshman Royce Adams, who will play a lot; some think he may even push for a starting job early in the season. Coaches are ecstatic with the rookie, who's currently the Boilermakers' third corner and nickel back.
Purdue likes junior college transfer Jonte Lindsey and he often excelled on the practice field. But he's also on the smaller side and he missed quite a bit of camp with a bad shoulder.
Fellow JUCO Terrell Vinson did some good things in practice and has playing experience from Wyoming. But, he's lost the past two weeks of practice to a snafu with the NCAA's eligibility clearinghouse. Whether he could hit the ground running is debatable.
Sophomore Fabian Martin has yet to be able to translate excellent speed and athleticism into actual football production, so his role this season will likely again be limited.
Freshman David Pender is very promising, but isn't viewed as being ready to play this year, as he's still raw physically and football-wise.
Senior Paul Dubler has long been a very solid practice player, but likely doesn't project as seeing any action beyond mop-up duty. Plus, he's been hurt.
One thing for certain about the secondary: Expect to see a lot of players against Indiana State, as this unit remains very much a work in progress.
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