Brad Lambert, who engineered a turnaround of Purdue's defense in his one season as Boilermakers' co-defensive coordinator, will depart West Lafayette to take the defensive coordinator position at Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons announced.
Lambert previously coached at Wake Forest for 10 seasons, the last three as defensive coordinator from 2008 to 2010, before leaving to take the head coaching job at Charlotte, which he held from 2011 to 2018.
"Wake Forest is a special place and I am fired up to return to Winston-Salem and build off the sustained success Coach (Dave) Clawson, his staff and the student-athletes have achieved," Lambert said in a statement. "I want to thank our players at Purdue for all their hard work and dedication over the past year and Coach Jeff Brohm for giving our family a chance to join the Boilermaker community. I look forward to getting to know our players and hitting the ground running this spring."
Lambert's departure means the Boilermakers will be looking for a fourth defensive coordinator in the last four seasons. After Nick Holt was let go following the 2019 campaign, Bob Diaco helmed the Purdue defense for a year in 2020 before Lambert got the job.
Though Lambert called the plays, Ron English and Mark Hagen also served as co-defensive coordinators for the Boilermakers this season. Purdue gave up just 22.4 points per game in 2021, 34th in the country. A year earlier, the Boilermakers had the No. 67 scoring defense at 29.8 points per contest.
English and Hagen could be candidates to fill the open position as defensive play-caller, but even if Purdue brings in a candidate from outside the program, there is likely to be somewhat more continuity than there has been in the past, owing to Brohm's increased involvement with the defense this season.
Following the difficult 2020 campaign, in which Purdue was unable to stop most teams, Brohm re-thought not only his defensive staff, replacing Diaco with Lambert, Hagen and English, but also resolved to spend more time with those assistants in defensive game-planning. Brohm has always been an offensive-minded coach – he played quarterback, after all – but he discovered this season he had a unique perspective to add to the defensive planning process.
"I’ve been on the offensive side of the ball throughout my career, other than bits and pieces, letting those guys do their work to a certain degree,” Brohm said at Big Ten Media Days this summer. "Now I want to be fully involved. ... All the coaches I’ve brought in have a complete understanding of how this room is going to work. I’m going to be heavily involved.
"That started from day one. From research. From study. From studying ourselves. From studying opponents. Putting it together. I was heavily involved with our defensive staff, trying to put together the best package."
Purdue's defense in 2021 used the terminology Brohm prefers and it played the style he wants: aggressive. He wants his players hunting sacks and takeaways and taking chances. The Boiler players also enjoyed having Brohm give his input on how an offense would go about exploiting the gameplan they were installing and the best ways to counteract those schemes. No matter whom Purdue hires as its next defensive coordinator, Brohm's involvement will remain constant in 2022, making the transition easier for the players.