Position Capsule: Linebacker

Purdue's linebackers have a new look with new coach Marcus Freeman. Boiler Sports Report gives a detailed breakdown of the unit in the ongoing series of position capsules.

Where they stand: Purdue's linebackers are looking to be more physical this year. The word ‘nasty' came up many times during the spring. Who better to lead them there than new coach Marcus Freeman, a standout at Ohio State just a few years ago. One of the best hires Darrell Hazell made to his new staff, Freeman brings energy and excitement for a unit that has high potential. That's exactly what the Boilermaker defense needs.

There are pieces to work with at linebacker, and Freeman must get them close to their potential. Names like Sean Robinson, Joe Gilliam and Will Lucas are being talk about the most during the spring, but there are also some other young linebackers to watch for. This spring was about molding the unit into a new defense and plenty of progress was made.

Biggest Riser: Sean Robinson was playing quarterback just two years ago. Still, that feels like an eternity ago. While Robinson still has a strong throwing arm, he sure doesn't look like a quarterback anymore. The senior has bulked up his 6-foot-3 frame to 240 pounds. His abilities at linebacker were evident during the spring, where his speed and agility make him hard to escape, and he has even become a better tackler. Robinson put together a strong spring that caught the attention of his new coaches.

Needs a big summer: Don't take this the wrong way, because Joe Gilliam is a very talented linebacker and is a sure starter this season. The junior has become a staple of the Boilermaker defense. But Gilliam didn't take that step toward becoming elite, which many hoped he would this spring. Gilliam needs to be the leader of Purdue's young defense and take charge of the linebacking core. He's a veteran with the most starts under his belt at the position. This needs to be a big season for Gilliam. This summer, he must prove himself as a dominating playmaker and leader on the Purdue defense.

Quote to note: "He's intense. He demands a certain out of you, and he's going to get it out of you. If he sees you slacking, he's going to call you out and make sure it's coached or changed." – senior linebacker Sean Robinson, on new linebackers coach Marcus Freeman.

Prediction: There's a lot to like about Purdue's linebacking core. Veterans like Lucas and Gilliam lead the way for the unit while Robinson continues to rise. Looking further into the future, Armstead Williams and Jimmy Herman could become starters—but don't count either out for roles this season. Freeman is a great coach and can develop talent. Time will tell whether the linebackers can keep improving.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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