Front FourPurdue lost one key member of its front four from 2009: 5th-year nose guard Mike Neal, a second-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers.
- Defensive End – #94 Ryan Kerrigan: Undersized at End, undervalued and underappreciated nationally…Kerrigan is one of the best defensive ends in the country; a relentless player that impacts games on a weekly basis. Finished 2009 ranked 3rd nationally with 13 sacks and was a wrecking crew vs. the Irish left side of Sam Young and Trevor Robinson, recording 8 tackles including two for lost yardage and a quarterback sack.
Kerrigan led the nation with 7 forced fumbles last season while totaling 18.5 tackles for loss for an aggregate 113 yards behind the opposing line of scrimmage. IrishEyes will have more on Kerrigan in its forthcoming Players to Watch feature published Thursday late afternoon.
- Defensive Tackle – #91 Justin Kitchens: A 6'4" 271-pounder from Warner Robbins, Georgia did not play as a true freshman last season. Kitchens is tasked with replacing standout Mike Neal, who found a home on the Green Bay Packers roster as a rookie this season.
- Defensive Tackle – #93 Kawaan Short Recorded three tackles as a redshirt-freshman last season in the Boilers loss to the Irish. The 6'4" 305-pound Short, who lined up as a three-technique tackle last season, will move to the nose with Kitchens taking his spot in the alignment.
- Defensive End – #2 Gerald Gooden Returning 12-game starter is a defensive Co-Captain for 2010. Gooden finished third among Boilers in sacks last season with 4.5, notching one against the Irish in West Lafayette. The veteran of 24 games and 14 starts generally lines up at right defensive end, though can move when Kerrigan sets up inside in certain packages.
- Top Reserves: 6'3" 260-pound junior defensive end Adam Brockman appeared in 12 games last season as a member of the Boilers special teams. Also listed on the official two-deep depth chart is true freshman defensive tackle Bruce Gaston. The 6'2" 300-pounder from Chicago was recruited by former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis prior to his dismissal.
Sophomore Robert Maci, a 6'4" 241-pound end will spell Kerrigan as needed. Maci was the Boilers' Co-MVP of the special teams last season, appearing in all 12 contests. 6'1" 280-pound redshirt-freshman Brandon Taylor rounds out the reserve front four.
LinebackersThe entire 2009 unit returns, reinforced by the maturation of former reserve middle linebacker Dwyane Beckford and true sophomore Antwon Higgs.
- Weakside – #30 Joe Holland: A high school teammate of Notre Dame's new starting left tackle Zack Martin at Bishop Chatard in Indianapolis, Holland finished second on the team in tackles last season with 81 total stops. At his best in rivalry games and in difficult spots, Holland finished with two tackles-for-loss at Oregon; 10 tackles (1 for loss) vs. Notre Dame; and 8 tackles in mid-October upset of Ohio State last fall. The 6'1" 225-pounder finished with 23 total tackles vs. home state schools Notre Dame and Indiana in 2009.
- Middle – #3 Dwyane Beckford: Sophomore was voted Team MVP in the spring and is listed ahead of veteran MLB Chris Carlino as a result. Finished with 34 tackles (3 for loss) last season as a 12-game reserve after missing the 2009 spring session. The 6'1" 228-pounder adds speed to an already quick – and already undersized – linebacker group.
- Strongside – #24 Jason Werner: A rare 6th-year senior, Werner brings quickness and coverage skill to the perimeter of the Boiler's front seven. The 6'4" 234-pound defensive Co-Captain finished third on the squad in tackles last season with 77, including an impressive 14.5 behind the line of scrimmage (second only to Kerrigan's 18.5 TFL). Werner finished with 7 tackles and two sacks vs. the Irish last September. Werner will occasionally miss in space, but the dedicated veteran rarely stays blocked at the second level in run support.
- Top Reserves – #47 Chris Carlino:Started 12 games last season, finishing fourth on the squad in tackles while notching four pass breakups and an interception. Carlino will see plenty of action in relief of Beckford. The 6'2" 226-pound junior recorded six tackles last season in the loss to the Irish.
Also in the mix in the middle 6'3" 254-pound thumper Antwon Higgs, from Pompano Beach, Florida. Higgs was a January enrollee in 2009, finishing with 9 tackles (1.5 TFL and 1 sack) as a true freshman last fall.
Defensive BackfieldThe Boilers must replace the entire secondary from 2009, a group that ranked 4th in the Big 10 in Pass Efficiency Defense.
- Cornerback – #15 Charlton Williams: Named the team's most improved player in the spring, the 6'2" 197-pound junior appeared in eight games last season. Speculation exists that Williams will become the team's nickel back if true freshman Ricardo Allen continues to improve through September.
- Cornerback – #28 Josh Johnson: Sophomore appeared in 11 games as a freshman reserve last season. At 5'11" 191 pounds, Johnson could have his hands full with bigger Irish receivers on Saturday. He's the position's leading returning tackles leader with a mere 7 in 2009.
- Safety – #32 Albert Evans: Recorded 32 tackles as a reserve last season. A 6'0" 206-pounder from Gary, Indiana, Evans played linebacker in 2008 but moved back to safety last season.
- Safety – #35 Logan Link A favorite of head coach Danny Hope, the 6'2" 204-pound Link can hit, but it was his attention to detail and presence that Hope mentioned help him earn the job for Game One. The former walk-on has yet to play in a college game, but earned the team's "Hammer Award" as its hardest hitter in the spring.
- Nickel Back – #21 Ricardo Allen According to Hope, the 5'9" 175-pound true freshman has "shined" since his arrival on campus. Lauded for his toughness, speed and work ethic, expect to see Allen as a 3rd starting cornerback on Saturday vs. Notre Dame's spread attack (Hope declined to name his starting nickel defender in Tuesday's press conference, though acknowledged he had indeed decided on the player).