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Big Ten Football Preview 2015: Three Key Players for Purdue Football

The Boilermakers will need improved quarterback play and contributions from their defensive line to give themselves a chance to climb out of the cellar in 2015.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

We kick off our Big Ten Conference preview coverage today, which means football is just around the corner. Every Monday, we start the week by taking a look at three key players for each team in the conference based on their finish last season. Seeing as Purdue was last in the Big Ten in 2014, our preview will start with them.

Austin Appleby, Junior Quarterback

The starting quarterback spot for the Boilermakers is still somewhat up for grabs heading into 2015, but many expect junior Austin Appleby to begin the season under center leading the charge. After inconsistent play from Danny Etling, Purdue went to Appleby, who led the team to a win over Illinois and Darrell Hazell's first win in conference play at the school.

However, Appleby went on to struggle mightily down the stretch, as the Boilermakers scored only 60 points in their final four games. He finished the year 144-of-272 for 1,449 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

The Purdue offense should be improved due to experience this coming year, but its success will certainly depend on what they are able to get out of the quarterback position. Offensive Coordinator John Schoop would surely like to see the Appleby that led the team to 107 points in his first three starts as opposed to what he saw down the stretch.

Frankie Williams, Senior Defensive Back

Frankie Williams was the sole Boilermaker to make the All-Big Ten team in 2014 as a second teamer. He was third on the team with 74 tackles and hauled in three interceptions last season and will anchor an inexperienced secondary.

Purdue's pass defense was ranked 10th in the Big Ten last season, but 55th nationally, which is not too bad considering the season they had. Williams will be a big part of maintaining and perhaps even improving those statistics this season.

Defensive Line

Okay, I am aware this is a three key players article, but the defensive line for Purdue as a whole is really going to have to step up its game in 2015.

Defensive ends Ryan Russell and Jalani Jenkins are both gone from a unit that was the 91st-ranked run defense in the country last season. The efficiency of this group in 2015 will largely depend on the development of sophomore Gelen Robinson and junior Evan Panfil.

Purdue has a pair of really solid defensive tackles that made some strides this spring. Junior Jake Repolgle had 40 tackles (10.5 for loss) and senior Ryan Watson had 17 tackles (5.5 for loss) in 2014.

That'll do for the Boilermakers. Be sure to check back in next week as we take a look at three key players for the Indiana Hoosiers.