Purdue Week: DiPrimio Q & A, Part 2

Our preview of the Boilermakers concludes with the second piece of Badger Nation's Q & A with Fort Wayne News-Sentinel college football beat writer Pete DiPrimio.

In addition to a well-balanced, productive offense, Purdue also led the league in defense. Did that come as a surprise?


"They have been strong the last three years. And they return a significant number of guys. They should be very solid again. They have about nine starters back. They will cause a lot of problems. They have speed, they can cover, they can hit. They have good leadership and this is more of a veteran defense. The last couple of years, a lot of their starters were young, now they are veterans."


The team has a lot of four-year starters as well—


—Stuart Schweigert has started a lot, Antwaun Rogers has started a lot. They have a lot of veterans, absolutely. They have everything you want. Maybe they don't have the superstars, but at the level they are playing, and this is a very good level, they have everything they need. You can always have more talent but they are in pretty good shape.


The defense was obviously very productive, yet aside from Schweigert the unit doesn't seem to receive the acclaim it deserves. Why haven't they received their due in this regard.


"(Defensive end) Shaun Philips is All Big Ten. (Linebacker) Gilbert Gardner is very good. Landon Johnson is very good. There is a perception that they are an offensive, throw it around team. But when they went to the Rose Bowl it had a lot to do with their defense. They have been a top three defense the last three or four years."


On a very good defense, the linebackers in particular look impressive. With players like Landon Johnson and Niko Koutouvides, just how good is this unit?


"Gilbert Gardner too. All thee of the them are very good. That should be one of the best linebacking groups in the Big Ten. Landon Johnson has a lot of speed, a lot of athleticism.


"Niko Koutouvides is the best hitter, he is very aggressive. Maybe there is a better group of linebackers out there but they are right there."


How does the defensive line look?


"I know it will be strong. Maybe they don't have one guy who is unstoppable in terms of sacking the quarterback, or someone who is just a beast inside, like a Warren Sapp or something like that. (Defensive end) Kevin Nesfield is good one. Craig Terrill and Brent Grover are good inside. They are all very, very solid. With a strong linebacking corps behind them, they can be a little more aggressive."


Purdue has the luxury have having linebackers who can cover. How does the team look in coverage?


"Landon Johnson and Gilbert Gardner in particular can cover people. They have the speed to do so. Stuart Schweigert is a Thorpe Award candidate. The corners are good. Dante Ferrell at strong safety is solid. Schweigert was banged up a lot last year, so he is not as effective. He is healthy now, so they are looking for a big year out of him."


Deaunte Ferrell has some pretty big shoes to fill. How will he do replacing Ralph Turner?


"He will do alright. He got significant playing time last year. He will be fine. They are all solid. The secondary will not be a weakness."


Purdue was 7-6 last year, will they improve? If you had to pick a final season record for the Boilermakers, what would it be?


"They should certainly be better than 7-6. I know Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin were picked 1-2-3 in the conference. I don't see any reason why Purdue shouldn't be third or maybe better than that. They have the talent to contend for a Big Ten title. Michigan has a lot of people back. Ohio State and Wisconsin have a lot of people back. Purdue has more guys back than anybody.


"They should finish 9-3. They are good enough to win nine games, and maybe win more than nine games. Four of their first five games are at home, and Wake Forest, who they play on the road, is not exactly going to be playing for a national title. They have to play at Michigan and at Ohio State. And they have to go to Wisconsin. Those games would be tough for anybody. They could start 6-0, assuming they don't self destruct again, and then if they split the rest of their games, they would finish 9-3."

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