By: Ken Thompson
Purdue has been one of the surprises of the summertime college football recruiting landscape.
ESPN placed the Boilermakers at No. 22 and sixth in the Big Ten following the commitment of ESPN 300 safety Koy Beasley, ranked 140th overall.
“New coach Ryan Walters and staff used June to add multiple commitments, including a pair of four-star defensive prospects in Koy Beasley and Earl Kulp. … Beasley brings big-play range to the Boilermakers’ secondary, clocking a 4.41-second 40 this spring at the Ohio UA camp. Kulp comes out of a top program in Florida, St. Thomas Aquinas, and is a smooth cornerback with good length and quickness.
“Purdue pulled quarterback Marcos Davila – a passer who can put some zip on the ball, make tough throws and has thrown for nearly 6,000 yards heading into his senior season – out of Texas. Athlete Jaheim Merriweather is a versatile player who projects as a running back and has good ball skills to also be utilized in the passing game.”
Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State rank 3-4-5 in an ESPN Top 25 that has seven Big Ten teams overall. Nebraska is 18th, Minnesota 20th and Wisconsin 23rd.
Other recruiting services have Purdue’s class ranked 23rd (247 Sports and Rivals.com) and 25th (On3.com). The Boilermakers have four, four-star ranked recruits in the 247 composite: Beasley of Cincinnati LaSalle, wide receiver Keonde Henry of Lake Dallas, Texas; Davila of Midland, Texas and athlete Luke Williams of Naperville, Ill.
No. 2 in Big Ten
Phil Steele, publisher of the most detailed college football preseason magazine I’ve ever read, rates Purdue fifth in a Top 25 most head coaches want no part of: most difficult schedules.
Only Michigan State at No. 3 has a tougher schedule in Steele’s rankings. Florida and South Carolina are 1-2, with Iowa State fourth.
“Looking through Purdue’s schedule, the Boilermakers won’t likely be an underdog in a game until October, since they get lowly ACC clubs Virginia Tech and Syracuse in the non-conference along with their mid-major cupcakes,” writes Steele, who obviously has low regard for Fresno State, a 10-game winner a year ago that included a 29-6 victory against Washington State in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
“But starting Oct. 7, Purdue may not be favored in another game until mid-November, since they face, in a row: Iowa on the road, Ohio State at home, Nebraska on the road, and then Michigan on the road. After that, it’s Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana to finish it off.”
Minnesota comes in at No. 7 but the next Big Ten team ranked by Steele is Indiana at No. 16. The Hoosiers open at home Sept. 2 against Ohio State, welcome former Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and Louisville on Sept. 16 in addition to the final season of the Big Ten East gauntlet of at Michigan and at Penn State.
Former Carmel star Will Heldt and Westfield graduate Dillon Thieneman are among 10 true freshmen projected by On3.com to make “noteworthy contributions” this fall in the Big Ten Conference.
On3.com rated both Heldt and Thieneman three-star prospects.
“The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Heldt is viewed at Purdue as a good fit for new head coach Ryan Walters’ scheme on defense,” writes On3.com’s Matt Zenitz, who also notes Heldt is “very long and athletic” and as someone stature-wise who “doesn’t look like a freshman.”
“I think his potential is limitless,” first-year Purdue head coach Ryan Walters said during the spring.
Thieneman, the third member of his immediate family to suit up for Purdue, made an impression at safety during spring practice.
“Dylan Thieneman has been incredible on the back end,” Purdue defensive coordinator Kevin Kane said during the spring. “He might be one of our bigger surprises of the spring.”
Incoming Indiana freshman Jordan Shaw also had a strong spring practice and could fill a void at cornerback. The Hoosiers could have two freshmen playing key roles in the secondary with safety Amare Farrell getting some first-team action in spring ball.
Maui field set
Purdue’s rapid ascendancy to the top of The Associated Press college basketball rankings began last season in Oregon with a surprising 84-66 victory against Gonzaga in the Phil Knight Legacy.
The two schools will meet again almost a year to the day, this time in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. The game, set for Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. on ESPN2, will be the second in an opening day lineup that will include Tennessee-Syracuse in the opener, Kansas and host Chaminade at 9 p.m., followed by Marquette-UCLA.
You can bet ESPN will be hyping this field, five of whom appear in the network’s top 10 of the “Way Too Early Top 25.” Kansas is No. 1, Purdue 3rd, Tennessee 6th, Gonzaga 8th and Marquette 10th.
Purdue holds a 3-0 series lead over the Bulldogs with wins coming in 1998 (83-68) and on its path to the Elite Eight in the 2000 NCAA Tournament. Purdue has never won the Maui Invitational, going 2-1 in 1999, 2006 and 2014.
Purdue center Zach Edey and Boilermaker legend Glenn Robinson now share two awards in common.
Edey was selected the Big Ten Conference’s Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year for 2022-23, matching the feat accomplished by fellow College Basketball Player of the Year Glenn Robinson in 1994. Purdue Olympic gold medal winning diver David Boudia also won the Jesse Owens award in 2011.
Edey is also one of 25 semifinalists for the Sullivan Award, given annually to the most outstanding U.S. athlete at the collegiate or Olympic level.
Only three men’s basketball players have won the Sullivan Award: Bill Bradley (1965), Bill Walton (1973) and J.J. Redick (2005).
Edey will return for his senior season after averaging 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He was the nation’s second-leading rebound and ranked sixth nationally in scoring.
Only Carsen Edwards (1,920), Robinson (1,706) and Rick Mount (1,615) have scored more points through their junior season than Edey’s 1,553.
Former Purdue passer and head coach Cecil Isbell is among the 31 Seniors semifinalists who will be considered for the main Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot.
To be eligible, the Seniors semifinalists played their last professional game no later than the 1998 season.
Isbell, who previously was on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2022, had four Pro Bowl appearances in his five seasons with the Green Bay Packers (1938-42). A member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1930s, Isbell retired at age 27 holding records for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (23), single season touchdown passes (24), career TD passes (59) and was the first NFL player to pass for more than 2,000 yards in 1942.
The Seniors Committee will meet Aug. 22 and may select up to three Seniors for final consideration as members of the Class of 2024. Expansion of the Seniors pool for election to the Hall was approved in 2022 for the Classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025.
– Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.