(Ed note: In years past this feature has been taken on by the venerable DGDestroys, one of the most plugged in recruitniks in the Michigan blogosphere. I will be writing this feature for the foreseeable future, and I have never been called a recruitnik, much less venerable. WIth that caveat emptor out of the way, let's begin)
Purdue doesn't have the lowest rated recruiting class in the Big Ten coming in this year — that honor goes to Illinois, which failed to bring in even one four-star prospect this season — but for a team that could desperately use a lot of help now, bringing in a class composed almost entirely of borderline MAC kids isn't a great sign for the immediate future. That isn't to say Purdue's 2014 class is destined to fail. On the contrary, there are some quality pieces there that could develop into good players down the road. Purdue just can't afford to look down the road too far. It already can't help tripping over that which is right at its feet.
The lone four-star in Purdue's class, DE/LB Gelen Robinson (6'1, 231lbs) is a name Michigan fans should know well. He was pursued by Michigan for a while as a recruit. Oh yeah, and his brother played a little basketball at Michigan last year. Maybe you've heard of him. Glenn something or other.
Anyway, the younger Robinson doesn't have his brother's height and length (or, according to his own mother, any basketball skill whatsoever: "For one thing, he can't play basketball. It's probably the only sport he can't play."), but his freakish athleticism — a Robinson family tradition — finds ways to shine anyway. Gelen is an accomplished wrestler and track & field athlete off the football field. According to Maxpreps, Gelen runs a 4.5 40 yard dash, bench presses 340lbs and has a 35-inch vertical jump (meanwhile, I'm 29 years old, my knees and ankles crack incessantly and I'd need two jumps to tally 35 inches of vertical. Youth is wasted on the young I tell ya).
At 230lbs already, Robinson could be one Purdue freshman that finds his way onto the field early. Purdue will look to replace a few impact players on defense, including three of the top five players in tackles for loss a year ago. With his mixture of athleticism and linebackers size, Purdue has a potential answer this year and beyond. Once Gelen starts packing on weight and developing as a football player there is no reason he can't be an all-Big Ten caliber player.
Help on the Way?
One team in the Big Ten last year gave up more sacks than Michigan. That was Purdue.
Purdue doesn't seem to have much in the way of experience along the front line (Purdue's official website is laughably incomplete, not even listing any accomplishments in 2013 for any players. I mean, I get that last season was bad, but refusing to talk about it isn't going to make it go away entirely), and for a team that averaged 2.5 yards per carry (almost a full yard per carry less than Michigan. Think about that), even staying steady won't be enough.
Purdue did mine the Juco ranks to bring in a couple linemen that could fight for a role in the offense right away. Corey Clements certainly looks the part at 6'8 330 lbs. He was a three star recruit transfering from Mesa C.C. in Arizona. David Hedelin is smaller at 6'5 285 lbs, but could also be a factor. He too is a three star recruit.
Purdue also has three other incoming offensive linemen joining the team striaght out of high school. Martesse Patterson is a three-star with college ready size to play inside (6'3, 310 lbs) and Kirk Barron isn't far off at 6'2 294 lbs.
Size on the Back End
Purdue lists four defensive back commits, and three of those players are listed at 6'0 tall by Rivals. Michigan has also shifted in the type of defensive back that it targets in recruiting, and Purdue could be valuing the same size/physicality ideal over the speed/agility combo that smaller players more easily bring.
Tim Cason and Juan Jenkins, both three star recruits headline this group. Both are bigger safety/linebacker types that should be comfortable helping fill against the run. While these players are normal safety size, they also are the kind of player that teams can use in different ways on defense. Dealing with a wide variety of looks from opposing offenses week to week that include a lot of spread passing and running concepts means that having players that can both play pass defense in the field and attack the box are important. Purdue seems to be looking to find that with these players.
Other Early Contributors?
Going off of Purdue's need for defensive playmakers, it would seem that Gelen Robinson isn't the only player that could see time on the defense. Purdue also brings in linebacker recruit Ja'Whaun Bentley and defensive end recruit Will Colmery. Don't let those positional designations fool you too much, as neither would likely play as an every down option. However, they both weigh in at upwards of 240 lbs and are three-star recruits. Purdue could turn to one or both alongside Gelen Robinson to get a pass rush on passing downs and use the players in situational roles.