Purdue is once again not blowing away football recruiting experts with its efforts, this time for its start to the Class of 2017.
That, of course, is not the objective as coach Darrell Hazell prepares for what looms as a make-or-break season.
When you have just six wins in three years, you need impact players and, at least on the surface, it’s so far so good.
The Boilers have five committed players, four on offense, including a potential difference-making running back and a state title-winning defensive end, and that’s enough to rank No. 74 nationally according to Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service.
The problem -- that ranks last in the Big Ten.
The reality -- this is way early in the recruiting process. Signing day isn’t until next February, and a lot can and will change.
For now, Ohio State is first in the Big Ten with the nation’s No. 2 class, just behind Alabama. Michigan is next with the No. 4 class nationally.
Here’s the rest of the Big Ten -- Northwestern (No. 16 nationally), No. 20 Maryland, No. 21 Nebraska, No. 23 Michigan State, No. 26 Rutgers, No. 29 Wisconsin, No. 33 Iowa, No. 37 Penn State, No. 60 Illinois, No. 69 Indiana and No. 69 Minnesota.
As for Purdue, let’s start with Florida quarterback Griffin Alstott. He was the first player in this class to commit, doing so in late March, and if he has as much impact as his father, Mike, did for the Boilers, look out.
Mike was a standout fullback at Purdue (he’s the career rushing leader with 3,635 yards) who later starred for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The older Alstott coaches at St. Petersburg’s Northside Christian High School, where Griffin plays. Griffin isn’t as big as his father. He’s listed at 6-2 and 195 pounds. Mike was 240 at Purdue.
The younger Alstott threw for 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns last season as a dual-threat, two-star prospect.
The Boilers got a commitment from another quarterback, Nicholas Sipe of California. The 6-4, 190-pounder is listed in the pro-style category. Scout.com rates him as the Class of 2017’s No. 49 quarterback, No. 13 on the West Coast and No. 7 in California. 247 Sports ranks him as the nation’s No. 11 pro-style quarterback and the No. 35 overall prospect in California.
Last year Sipe threw for 2,842 yards and 31 touchdowns against just six interceptions. His big strength is accuracy.
Washington, Colorado State, Boise State and Old Dominion were among the schools recruiting him hard.
Necessity has Purdue in quarterback-hunt mode. It only has three on scholarship for the upcoming season in projected starter David Blough, Elijah Sindelar and incoming freshman Jared Sparks.
Speed matters and the Boilers should get plenty of that from Illinois defensive back Mitch West. The 5-10, 175-pounder’s sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash time in a recent college camp impressed Purdue coaches, who need guys who can handle both cornerback and safety, as West can.
The Boilers haven’t forgotten the running game, even with Markell Jones topping the tailback charts.
They’ve gotten a commitment from three-star Tennessee running back Antwuan Branch, who rushed for 2,600 yards (including six straight 200-yard rushing games) and 30 touchdowns last season, impressive given it was his first season at the position. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, he spent the previous season as a linebacker good enough to lead the team in tackles and earn all-district honors.
Branch is one of Purdue’s main offensive recruiting priorities because of his ability to block and receive as well as run, combined with his overall toughness and physical play.
He picked the Boilers over Vanderbilt, East Carolina, North Carolina State and Western Kentucky.
Then there is 6-6, 220-pound defensive end Tijaun Mason out of Tennessee. He has a big upside given he’s grown seven inches in the last three years and is likely to add significant weight and strength in the next couple of years.
He comes from a winning program at Memphis’s Trezevant High School. Trezevant won the 2A state title last season (Mason recorded two sacks in the 40-35 win over Marion County) after finishing as state runner-up the year before. In 2013, when Mason was a freshman, Trezevant reached the state semifinals.
Mason, who grew up playing quarterback as well as defensive end, also was being recruited by North Carolina State and Eastern Kentucky.
Mason, Sipe, Branch and West all committed during an 11-day June span.
Purdue has recruiting needs for linebacker, receiver, tight end and both the offensive and defensive lines.
Receiver is a top priority given veterans DeAngelo Yancey, Dominique Young, Bilal Marshall and Cameron Posey are in their final seasons.
The Boilers could use a true center, as well as defensive ends. They figure to sign around 20 players in this class.
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