The Boiling Point: All eyes will be on Purdue’s defensive tackles, including Kawann Short, below, to anchor a defensive line trying to replace Ryan Kerrigan.
The beauty of having Ryan Kerrigan come through your program is enjoying him week after week terrorize defenses that gameplanned for him. The brutal part is trying to replace his production once his career is over. Well, that’s what Purdue has to try and do. The Boilers might not be able to do it at his defensive end position, but the pieces exist on the interior of the line to give it a shot.
What we know: The interior of the defensive line is a strength. There lurks junior stud Kawann Short and sophomore standout Bruce Gaston. Short has shown his ability to be an All-Big Ten caliber player and turned some of his fat into muscle to become more of a force. Gaston saw a good amount of time as a true freshman, which is impressive for a defensive tackle, and should be a starting force. Giving the Boilers depth behind those two are sophomores Ryan Isaac, Justin Kitchens and Kevin Pamphile.
What we don’t know: The defensive end spots have a lot of unknowns. We do know that the beast known as Ryan Kerrigan is gone. With one of the most successful defensive ends in Purdue history moving on to Sundays, there is a lot of production to be made up for. Before, the Boilers could rely on Kerrigan to cause so much havoc in the backfield they didn’t have to blitz as much. Now, blitzing will have to be more frequent or senior defensive end Gerald Gooden needs to finally become a consistent factor. It’s been thought Gooden could become a dominant player, but Purdue hasn’t seen it yet. Factoring in at the other starting d-end spot is junior Robert Maci, redshirt freshmen Rashad Frazier and Ryan Russell, as well as senior Adam Brockman and junior Eric Mebane.
Moving forward: It wouldn’t be surprising to see Purdue tinker with some 3-4 formations given the ability to line up with Short, Gaston and Gooden with linebackers coming off the edge. Another possibility could be moving a linebacker or two to the defensive end position if the Boilers can’t get enough production rushing from the edge with who they have. Undoubtedly, Purdue will have to try a number of things to replace Kerrigan and search for his type of production.