Purdue coach Jeff Brohm built significant momentum for the Boilermakers early in his tenure and that newfound energy paid off with a top 25 recruiting class in 2019. After two down seasons in 2019 and 2020, however, the Boilermakers' momentum seemed to have fizzled and they slipped to No. 76 in the 247sports.com team recruiting rankings in 2021, easily the worst finish of Brohm's tenure.
Brohm re-thought a significant portion of the program in the offseason between 2020 and 2021 and those adjustments he made – including a change at defensive coordinator from Bob Diaco to Brad Lambert – paid immediate dividends on the field (the Boilermakers went 8-4 this season and will play in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30) and on the recruiting trail. Purdue did not have an outstanding recruiting class in 2022, but it did much better than 2021 and it did very well relative to its peers. The Boilermakers, who received 20 Letters of Intent on Wednesday's early signing day, have the No. 38 freshman class in the country and the second-ranked class in the Big Ten West behind only Iowa.
"A lot of positions we felt like we've been able to improve with some young talent," Brohm said. "Quite a few of these guys are going to come in and compete right off the bat and we're going to give them every opportunity to do that. ... We're excited, it's a great day and we're looking forward to building on this."
The Boilers also added a trio of important transfer commitments Wednesday. Here is a look at the class in detail.
In-state talent at the top
Purdue's freshman class is led by a pair of four-star commitments from within Indiana's borders: quarterback Brady Allen from Fort Branch and defensive lineman Joe Strickland from Indianapolis. Both are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Rondale Moore, David Bell and George Karlaftis, highly-rated home-grown recruits in Brohm's tenure who went on to All-American careers with the Boilermakers. Allen and Strickland will enroll at Purdue in the spring semester.
"Brady Allen and Joe Strickland in our opinion are two difference-makers," Brohm said. "Outstanding talents, productive on the field, great work ethics, want to be at Purdue."
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Allen is the No. 15 quarterback in the class and the 227th-ranked recruit nationally, making him the highest-rated quarterback Brohm, a quarterback himself in college and in the professional ranks, has lured to West Lafayette. Allen had a monster senior season, throwing for nearly 4,300 yards, completing almost 69% of his passes for more than 11 yards per attempt and tossing a whopping 58 touchdowns against only six interceptions. He led his Gibson Southern team to a 14-1 record and a Class 3A state championship, beating Strickland's Brebeuf Jesuit in the title game.
"He's got prototypical size that you don't get a lot, he's over 6-5, he can see the field, he's got a good motion, he can deliver the ball accurately," Brohm said of Allen. "When you watch him, he delivers the ball very well. He's a student of the game, he studies it, he has all the quarterback traits you're looking for as far as leadership, toughness, good teammate, cares about winning. His desire to represent the state and come to Purdue is outstanding so we appreciate that. ... He has all the intangibles, plus the physical skills you're looking for and now it's just about getting him into the offense and seeing what he does best."
Allen likely won't compete for the starting job right away because All-Big Ten quarterback Aidan O'Connell is returning for his final season of eligibility in 2022, but Brohm has used at least two starting quarterbacks (often because of injury) in every year he has been at Purdue and Allen could be in the mix for the backup job with veteran Jack Plummer transferring. He'll have to compete with fellow former four-star recruit Michael Alaimo for that spot.
"(Allen) took a lot of pride in not only committing to Purdue, but helping recruit our other prospects here," Brohm said. "He was always involved and was just tremendous from the get-go."
Strickland is a 6-4, 250-pound defensive end who could play immediately following the departure of All-American end George Karlaftis to the NFL. Strickland, the No. 250 recruit in the country and No. 7 in Indiana, had 62 tackles in his final season at Brebeuf, including 9 1/2 sacks and 27 quarterback hurries, and Karlaftis played a significant role in Strickland's recruitment.
"He's a special talent we think could be outstanding. We're going to give him the opportunity to get on the field right away," Brohm said of Strickland. "Tremendous work ethic, he puts in the effort, the time, he's athletic, he plays hard. We've been fortunate to have George set the standard at that position the last three years with his desire and his work ethic. Joe wants to try to repeat that and I think he has an outstanding chance to do that."
Transfer portal success
In addition to the 20 freshmen Purdue signed Wednesday, the Boilermakers had an outstanding day on the transfer portal recruiting trail. They received commitments from a trio of players moving from other Power Five programs, all at skills positions of relative need. Here is a breakdown of each of the three:
- Christopher Brooks, RB, Cal: Brooks is an important depth piece for the Boilermakers at running back, where they will be losing All-Big Ten performer Zander Horvath. They do have veteran King Doerue and Indiana transfer Sampson James in the room, but Brooks is an experienced player with a productive pedigree. Brooks was one of the Pac-12's better running backs in 2019, when he had more than 1,000 total yards and 12 total touchdowns. He played in only three games in 2020 before bouncing back with 607 rushing yards on 5.2 yards per carry, plus 19 catches for 131 yards and seven total touchdowns, in 2021. He is a leading candidate for Purdue's RB1 going into his final season of eligibility.
- Tyrone Tracey, wide receiver, Iowa: Tracey, who entered Iowa as a running back after earning Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year honors for Decatur Central, is another player who had a great 2019 (36 catches, 589 yards, three touchdowns), but has not quite reached those heights since. Part of that could be Iowa's quarterback situation, which has not been particularly good in either 2020 or 2021 and it's possible a passer like O'Connell, plus a creative offensive mind like Brohm, could unlock some of the 5-foot-11, 200-pound receiver's potential. He'll likely compete with Tyler Sheffield for snaps in the slot and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
- Elijah Canion, wide receiver, Auburn: Canion is not as experienced as the other two transfer commits from Wednesday, but he flashed explosive ability in six games over two seasons with the Tigers. He'll have three years of eligibility left after catching seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown in his collegiate career to date. The 6-foot-4, 214-pound Canion is a big, physical receiver on the outside and will get a chance to perform opposite Milton Wright next season with David Bell departed for the NFL.
Purdue's class features a local talent in Snider linebacker Domanick Moon, who had 86 tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble in his senior year with the Panthers. He was the first player to send in his Letter of Intent on Wednesday and will join fellow former Panther Lawrence Johnson, a defensive tackle, on the Boilermaker roster as well as a trio of other northeast Indiana products: cornerback Hayden Ellinger (Bishop Dwenger), wide receiver Cam Childers (Carroll) and safety Ryan Brandt (Angola).
"He's got some toughness, athleticism to him," Brohm said.
Snider coach Kurt Tippmann raved about Moon's work ethic and blend of size and speed.
"Domanick is a football player through and through," Tippmann said. "He loves football, loves everything about it, loves studying it, loves watching film, loves training. ... He's a linebacker that runs the field really well, but also the size to be able to match up with some of the Big Ten guards and centers that will try to get up to the second level. He also has the speed to be able to play against wide-open offenses that you're going to see in college football these days."