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B1G // Can the Purdue Defense take a giant leap?

Let’s talk defense, as we are contractually obligated to do

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 28 Rutgers at Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images via Getty Images

Prior to the 2020 season, Purdue hired Bob Diaco as the defensive coordinator. After the 2020 season, Purdue fired Bob Diaco from the defensive coordinator position. Let’s talk about what happened between those two events.

Purdue went 2-4 and the defense was not good. Diaco ran a 3-4 scheme that failed to get pressure on the quarterback. And it also failed to create turnovers or contain the passing game. And it also let Rutgers pretty much dominate the second half in a comeback win where it seemed like they had the ball for 55 minutes of a 30 minute half.

So Diaco was fired and Brad Lambert was brought in from Marshall. Hopefully Lambert can bring some of the success he had there to at least get Purdue up to an average defense.

Let’s break down the defensive squads and see where the Boilers need to improve (spoiler alert: it’s at every position). I have tried to account for a bunch of transfer exits and entrances, but I haven’t been keeping up so I will miss some things.

Defensive Line

DE George Karlaftis, the best player on the defense, is back for 2021. He was limited in 2020 with injury and COVID. It will most likely be his last season at Purdue as he is projected by some to be a first round NFL draft pick. Hopefully he is back and healthy so that he can continue pressuring the QB as he did in 2019.

It looks like Brohm realized that help was needed on the D-Line and hit the transfer market hard, getting a player from Indiana and South Carolina. They will help, but it will take a lot for Purdue to go from dead last in the league in sacks to even middle of the pack.


Derrick Barnes was the best player on defense last season who was healthy most of the time. And he is gone to the NFL draft.

Linebacker play wasn’t great last season, and it may not improve this season. The positive of that is at least with the defense going away from the 3-4, the linebacker position will not be as important as it was last season.

Defensive Backs

Purdue managed to get just two interceptions last season and ended up in my opinion as the worst defense in the league against the pass. If the defensive line can get a little more pressure on the QB, maybe it will take some of the pressure off the DBs. If they are forced to defend for long periods of time while the QB stands in the pocket all day, things will be just as bad next season.

Cory Trice and Cam Allen look to be the main guys returning in the backfield.

Overall Thoughts

The defense is bad. A new defensive coordinator might help, but as the players will be learning a new scheme this season anything they learned in 2020 might have been a waste of time. I really don’t see the defense getting to the level of average in just one season, but as famous Purdue alum Neil Armstrong said, “This is one small step for man, one giant leap to get the defense from terrible to mediocre.”