Purdue and Illinois could be in for long seasons, but each have an impact player you should get to know.
Boilermakers DT Jake Replogle comes in at No. 9 on Pro Football Focus’s list of elite players on non-contending teams. Illinois DE Dawuane Smoot caps the list at No. 10.
Replogle, an anchor in the middle, finished with 60 tackles, 14 for loss, and two sacks last season. From PFF:
Jake Replogle was a model of consistency for the Boilermakers last season, posting positive pass rush grades (46 total pressures) in every game and only twice dipping below average against the run. He also leads all returning DTs in defensive stops and run-stop percentage from last season, and second in pass rush productivity.
Replogle isn’t an explosive player off the snap, but dominates at the point of attack with his physicality against blockers and willingness to chase down plays away from him. With this being his senior season, he is going to be a popular name come next April.
Smoot, an edge rusher, had 40 tackles, 15 for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles as a junior in 2015. From PFF:
Smoot had eight games with at least four pressures, highlighted by his ten total pressures performances against both Wisconsin and Ohio State. His 60 total pressures in 2015 is second only to Tennessee’s Derek Barnett (62) among returning DEs, a significant feat considering the incredible talent at the position.
Not surprisingly, Smoot finished second in pass rush productivity last year (Michigan’s Taco Charlton was first), and with his combination of power and speed off the ball, there’s no reason to expect him not to continue to develop.
Purdue went 2-10 last year; Illinois 5-7.