The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, December 14, 2021 1:10 am

Bell, Karlaftis will not play in bowl

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue All-Americans David Bell and George Karlaftis will not play in the upcoming Music City Bowl, Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm announced Monday. Bell and Karlaftis had already announced they would be leaving Purdue and entering the NFL Draft next spring after three seasons apiece.

For more on their decisions to depart West Lafayette, click here:

Brohm discussed the bowl game with both players and, though he will support their final decision, it seems as though he tried unsuccessfully to convince them it was in their best interest to play in the bowl game against Tennessee on Dec. 30

"I'm always going to give my opinion," Brohm said. "I like for guys to finish what they started and to continue to try and prove themselves and improve their stock. Any time you have a chance to play a really good opponent, especially in a bowl game when it's the only game on TV, if you play well, things can benefit you to a great degree.

"At the same time, I understand the position they're in. With all our players, we want to communicate what we think. Obviously, they hear other opinions and then they weigh that and do what's best for them. We're going to support both those guys, they've done a tremendous job for us, great ambassadors for the program, performed at a high level and really have a bright future."

Bell and Karlaftis were arguably Purdue's two best players and the Boilermakers are not the same team without them. At wide receiver, Brohm singled out Broc Thompson, who had 23 catches for 240 yards and two touchdowns this season after transferring from Marshall, as a player who will have to step up in Bell's absence. Thompson has been playing hurt all year, according to Brohm and will have some offseason work done to fix those issues, so it's unclear how close to 100% he will be in the bowl game. At defensive end, junior Jack Sullivan, who had 3 1/2 tackles for loss and two sacks playing across from Karlaftis this season, will get a shot in the limelight. A plethora of younger players could also get some opportunities as Purdue attempts to fill the significant gaps Bell and Karlaftis leave behind.

"These guys will step up and do a good job," Brohm said. "We have played without (Karlaftis) before, but at the same time, George was a dominant force on defense. He created havoc, he got in the backfield and did a lot of things that helped us play better. He was a difference-maker. David Bell demanded a lot of attention and he still made a ton of plays, caught contested balls, ran good routes, was clutch when we needed him. We're gonna miss those guys. Those are difference-makers you like to build a team around and they'll be missed. But we've got hungry football players and somebody needs to step up. If it wasn't now, it would be next year, so the time has come for new guys to emerge."

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