[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In today's 3-Point Stance, I'm looking at the top defensive linemen in the portal, the 5 reasons why Purdue could win the Big Ten West, and the best head coaching hires since 2017.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="243" img_size="large" alignment="center"][vc_column_text]I continue my look at the best from the transfer portal with the defensive tackles.
1. Jaxon Player (Baylor)
The Tulsa transfer was among the best in the country last season, finishing the season as the sixth-best interior defender per PFF. He enters the season as the best at his position in the Big 12 and All-American potential.
2. Mekhi Wingo (LSU)
A massive pickup for new coach Brian Kelly, Wingo is a disruptive force in the middle. Last year as a freshman at Missouri, he was named to the Freshman All-SEC team and had a memorable pick-six early in the season. Pairing him with Maason Smith and Jaquelin Roy will give LSU one of the top tackle rotations in the country.
3. Jonah La'ulu (Oklahoma)
The big old-school defensive end from Hawaii is coming off of a season where he tallied 40 pressures, 33 hurries, and four sacks. He'll have even more opportunities to really get after the quarterback playing in the Big 12.
4. Jeffery Johnson (Oklahoma)
Johnson was a four-year starter at Tulane and proved to be a reliable force for the Green Wave. He's joining La'ulu for new coach Brent Venables in a revamped defense that should see both of these guys have chances to shine.
5. Nesta Jade Silvera (Arizona State)
A two-year starter for the 'Canes, Silvera improved every season in Coral Gables but now heads to Arizona State for an even bigger role. He excelled against the run at Miami, and Herm Edwards is betting he'll be able to do the same for the Sun Devils.
[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="244" img_size="large" alignment="center"][vc_column_text]I continue my look at the sleepers in each Power Five division with Purdue in the Big Ten West.
1. Aidan O'Connell and the Passing Game
Under the radar, O'Connell was one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the conference last season. He threw for over 3,700 yards and 28 scores, finishing third in the Big Ten in yards, yards per attempt, and total touchdowns. Yes, they lose David Bell - and that's not to be underestimated - but they've proven that they can replace guys seamlessly before.
2. Jeff Brohm
Brohm has had a couple of ups and downs during his five-year tenure in West Lafayette, but you can tell he's got the program on the right track. They've finished in the top 15 of the nation each of the past four seasons in passing offense, and twice been runner-up in the West - no small feat considering the team that he inherited.
3. Transfers that Fit
Purdue didn't bring in a huge class - only five players - but the ones that they did address some of their key issues. As previously mentioned, standout wide receiver David Bell is off to the NFL, so they brought in Tyrone Tracy (Iowa) and Elijah Canion (Auburn), both of whom have promise in Brohm's scheme. They also added former four-star Reese Taylor from Indiana, who should start immediately at cornerback. They also had a hole at guard with the departure of Tyler Witt and brought in Sione Finau from FAU to fill it. Smart, under-the-radar additions for the Boilermakers.
4. Young Defenders
One of the breakout second-year players in the conference is going to be Yanni Karlaftis, little brother of future first-round pick George Karflaftis. A Rivals250 player from the 2021 class, he spent his redshirt year bulking up, and now is poised to take over for his older brother. And watch out for 2020 four-star Greg Hudgins lining up opposite of him. They also added a pair of four-star ends for the 2022 class in Nic Caraway and Joe Strickland, both of whom could receive early snaps in their rotation.
5. The Schedule
Purdue got a gift from the schedule gods this season - they avoid both Michigan and Ohio State for their cross-division matchups, and though they get Penn State, it's at home in the opening week after they'll have spent a lot of their fall camp gearing up for this particular game. Their one true tough road game will be at Wisconsin, but gets Iowa at home, and should be favored in all of their other games outside of potentially at Maryland.
[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="250" img_size="large" alignment="center"][vc_column_text]And finally, who have been the best head coaching hires over the last five years? I don’t include the new hires here.
1. Sam Pittman, Arkansas
Pittman’s 12-11 record might not impress you but consider what Arkansas was before he arrived and the schedule he’s had to deal with. 9 wins last year was amazing.
2. Mel Tucker, Michigan State
Just look at what he’s done in a short time. Mark Dantonio was good but a massive drop off was expected and Tucker made sure it didn’t happen.
3. Ryan Day, Ohio State
Taking over at Ohio State may be easier than many places but he’s kept the high standard and recruiting has been amazing.
4. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
Kiffin led Ole Miss to 10 wins last season and has people talking about them year round. That’s impressive.
5. Dave Aranda, Baylor
After Matt Ruhle left many expected Aranda to be over his head and for Baylor to falter.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]