Purdue's Safeties Prepared to Bring the Noise This Spring

JD Arland

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The first major tenet of the new Bob Diaco defensive scheme has been revealed. Diaco will use safeties as the “voice” of the defense, according to  safety Brennan Thieneman.

“The safeties are given more responsibilities in terms of setting fronts and calling the field,” said Thieneman, a fifth-year senior from Noblesville, Ind.. “It’s a lot more official in the [play]-calling.”

Last year, the Boilers counted on former defensive coordinator Nick Holt to make the call to defenders, and it didn't work out very well because Holt was let go after the season. The Boilers had a tough time defending against the pass last year. Teams threw for an average completion rate of 61%, and the Boilers allowed 20 passing touchdowns. 

This year, it will be the guys on the field who control their destiny much more.

“Last year was more assumed things,” Theineman said. “This time, different calls call for things that [safeties] have to point out. There’s a lot more to the call than just coverage.”

This will require some players to step outside their comfort zone. Simeon Smiley, a fifth-year senior from Pensacola, Fla., will have to be a little more vocal after being moved from cornerback into the safety spot.

“I’ve always been a quiet guy,” he said with a chuckle on Monday. “I mean, it’s cool. It’s what I have to do. It’s my job, just be loud and set all the calls.”

This new scheme won’t come easily. Thieneman said the defense is adapting slowly to the changes. It's getting better as the Boilermakers begin their second week of spring practice.

One person who's a perfect fit for these communication changes is sophomore Cam Allen. The cornerback-turned-safety exudes confidence and swagger on and off the field, and a position switch has him amped up even more.

“Honestly, it don’t matter where you put me on the field, for real,” Allen said through a smirk.

Allen was recruited by Jeff Brohm and his staff as a three-star defensive back from Bluefield, Va. During his senior year, Allen led Graham High School to a 14-1 record and a state championship, earning All-Region honors in the process.

He is used to position changes because the 2018 Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year also played quarterback in high school and accounted for an amazing 61 touchdowns as a senior. So bouncing around is nothing new to him.

He played in 11 games as a freshman for Purdue, and made a statement in his very first game against Nevada when he was ejected for targeting. After cleaning up his play, Allen made 26 solo stops at cornerback, and pulled in one interception.

The new defensive scheme run by Diaco will need some of the young safety’s confidence.

“Yeah I like to communicate a lot,” Allen said. “So whenever coaches tell us ‘that’s my main job for us on the back end,’ you know I’m going to try to do that and practice that every day.”

Allen is the young guy in the safety room along with Thieneman and Smiley, the fifth-year seniors. But he's fitting right in.

“He seems a little more comfortable now. He’s got that confidence,” Thieneman said of Allen. “You know he’s played, and you feel like he’s been here for five years. He thinks he can push me around after he only played one season.” 

Comments (2)
No. 1-2
Tom  Brew
Tom Brew


It will be interesting to see HOW MUCH improvement they can make. They need a big jump for sure.


This will be a welcomed change! Last year’s defense struggled for sure.