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True freshmen making a big impact

End George Karlaftis has played 207 of a possible 248 defensive snaps.
End George Karlaftis has played 207 of a possible 248 defensive snaps. (Krockover Photography)

This summer, Purdue welcomed a ballyhooed 2019 recruiting class that ranked No. 26 in the nation by

Much was expected from the collection of 26 signees, hailed as a foundational collection of talent for Jeff Brohm as he headed into this third season in West Lafayette. Now, three games into the 2019 season, we are getting a sense of how impactful this collection of talent is.

Purdue already has played nine true freshmen through the first three games. And seven freshmen appear to be ticketed to use a season of eligibility in 2019: receivers David Bell and Milton Wright; safeties Jalen Graham and Marvin Grant; defensive end George Karlaftis; running back King Doerue; punter Brooks Cormier.

Three true freshmen have started each game: Karlaftis, Graham and Cormier. Jeff Brohm figured this was coming. Here is what he had to say about his freshmen as camp was opening:

"So, a lot of guys could see the field, and they're going to have to, and they're going to have to be ready to play because we are going to be a little bit young,” said Brohm in August. “But I think they've worked hard to this point and they understand that we need those guys to step in and be ready to go. And while they're going to have to learn on the job a little bit, I do think they can improve and they'll be up to the challenge.”

Players are permitted to play in as many as four games in a season--any four games--and still retain a redshirt. But play in a fifth game, and a player is unable to redshirt. That rule began in 2018.

Brohm never has been shy about playing true freshmen since taking over Purdue in 2017. But last year, only three freshmen used a year of eligibility: wideout Rondale Moore, linebacker Jaylan Alexander and defensive tackle Jeff Marks. In 2017, Purdue played five true freshmen: linebackers Derrick Barnes, Tobias Larry, Cornel Jones, tight end Darius Pittman and wideout KeyRon Catlett. This season, Brohm will play his most true freshmen ever.

Karlaftis has been the most productive. The West Lafayette High School product was a four-star recruit with a who's-who collection of offers. He graduated early and took part in spring drills. The moment the 6-4, 265-pound Karlaftis stepped on campus, he has been a starter. He ranks fifth on the team in tackles (14) and leads the squad with 3.5 TFLs to go along with 1.5 sacks and an interception.

Like Karlaftis, Graham graduated high school early and participated in spring drills. The 6-3, 215-pound Detroit native has tallied nine tackles from his starting strong safety spot.

Cormier has had some consistency issues but has shown a strong leg and potential. The Tuscaloosa, Ala., native is averaging 40.9 yards on 12 punts.

The four receivers Purdue signed received a lot of attention: Bell, Wright, Sheffield and Mershawn Rice. Bell was the top signee in the 2019 class. The Indianapolis native was rated the No. 1 player in Indiana by He has made six catches for 130 yards (21.7 ypc) with a TD. But Bell appeared to sustain a shoulder injury vs. TCU, so his status moving forward could be murky. Wright has four grabs for 30 yards (7.5 ypc) and figures to see his role increase. Sheffield played a handful of snaps in the opener but appears destined to redshirt playing a loaded slot receiver position. Rice has been derailed by injury and figures to redshirt.

Will Brohm and Co., debut anymore true freshmen moving forward? There is a chance a true freshman tight end could be used in 2019 since Pittman left the program after the first game of the season. Kyle Bilodeau and Garrett Miller both have impressed the staff, which is playing with just two tight ends at the moment: fifth-year senior Brycen Hopkins and redshirt freshman Payne Durham.

Keep an eye on linebacker Khali Saunders. Brohm said last week they will get the Elmhurst, Ill., native ready to play with the loss of linebacker Markus Bailey for the season with a knee injury last week.

Purdue (1-2) is off this Saturday before playing host to Minnesota (3-0) in its Big Ten opener on September 28.

True freshman participation
Name, Position Games played Season snaps

Cam Allen, CB

Vanderbilt, TCU


David Bell, WR

Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU


Brooks Cormier, P

Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU


King Doerue, RB

Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU


Jalen Graham, S

Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU


Marvin Grant, S

Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU


George Karlaftis, DE

Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU


TJ Sheffield, WR



Milton Wright, WR

Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU


There have been 214 offensive snaps and 248 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

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