Much like most everything else on the 2012 Purdue roster, the defensive unit left something to be desired last season.
The defense gave up over 400 yards of offense per game. The Boilermakers allowed 181.92 rushing yards per contest, which placed them ninth in the Big Ten in that department. The pass defense didn’t fare any better, conceding 233.9 yards per game through the air, the third worst mark in the league.
Put the two together, and the results are not pretty. Only Indiana finished lower in total defense during the 2012 season.
The good news for this squad is that, unlike the offense, there is a certain level of continuity that has already been established. Last year, 16 different players saw action in all 13 games, nine of those players will be back for 2013, including the top-two leading tacklers.
The defensive line is likely the biggest hole on this side of the football. The fact is: Kawaan Short was the only man up front who made any noise a season ago and he is off to bigger and better things in the NFL. Someone is going to have to step up and wreak some havoc in the trenches. That, in turn, ought to free up the secondary and the linebacking corps to focus on their own responsibilities and opportunities to make plays rather than picking up the slack, as they were forced to do much of last year. If the Boilermakers cannot find a way to ratchet up the pressure on the line, it is going to be a long season (again).
Will Lucas will undoubtedly be expected to be the anchor among the linebackers this season. His 66 tackles were the second highest total on the squad. However, depth may be a bit of an issue for this group. Joe Gilliam and Sean Robinson were also contributors last year, combining for 84 tackles. Each member of this trip played in every game last year.
Given the changes in the way defensive schemes are constructed, this stat may not be as foreboding as it used to be, however it’s still hard not to cringe when a safety sits atop the tackles column at the end of the season. No offense to Landon Feichter, but he shouldn’t be (more importantly, shouldn’t have to be) leading the team in tackles. He is a talented young man with the ability to make plays, but his full potential cannot be freed up until he gets some help from the men in front of him.