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INDIANAPOLIS — Coming off an extremely successful 2021 season, Purdue football coach Jeff Brohm kicked off press conferences Wednesday during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

The Boilermakers, who last year finished with nine wins for the first time since 2003, have high hopes for the upcoming season. The program will look to carry its momentum following a thrilling 48-45 overtime victory over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl into the start of 2022. 

After Brohm took to the podium, he emphasized his excitement for the upcoming season and the importance of improving all three phases of his team in order to push toward potential Big Ten Championship contention. 

"I like our collection of guys on our team," Brohm said during his opening statement. "I think we have a great group of young men that are hungry, they play with a chip on their shoulder, they work extremely hard, they're out to prove themselves. And those guys were a lot of fun to coach."

Here's a look at all the topics Brohm touched on during his opening press conference before being made available at an individual podium:  

Purdue's Undisputed Starting Quarterback 

There's no question about who Purdue's starting quarterback is for the 2022 season, no competition to determine who will be under center in Week 1. Aidan O'Connell is back with the Boilermakers for his final season of college football after a stellar year leading Brohm's offense. 

O'Connell, who was one of four Purdue players in attendance for Big Ten Media Days, finished the 2021 season with 3,712 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions after taking the starting job from Jack Plummer. He put up 2,161 yards and 19 touchdowns in the Boilermakers' final five games of the year. 

A former walk-on, O'Connell enters his sixth season with Purdue this upcoming season. 

"Aidan O'Connell is our quarterback who's here, a tremendous leader who has earned his spot as our starting quarterback over the years," Brohm said. "He's earned it the hard way. He's a man of great faith. He's worked from the very bottom all the way to being our starting quarterback." 

O'Connell was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2021 and set the single-season completion percentage record, completing 71.8% of his passes. He didn't officially take control of the offense until the second half of Purdue's game against Illinois in the third week of the season. O'Connell made his first start last season against Minnesota the following week. 

"It's unfortunate his head coach didn't start him at the beginning of the year, but we were able to figure that out," Brohm said. 

Outlook at the Wide Receiver Position

Purdue football will be without its top-three leading receivers from the 2021 season. David Bell and Jackson Anthrop have both moved on from the program, while Milton Wright was deemed academically ineligible for the upcoming year. 

This year's roster featured a bevy of players who are inexperienced in Brohm's offense, led by senior Broc Thompson — a transfer last season from Marshall who underwent surgeries on both knees. Several pass-catchers for the Boilermakers were unable to participate in spring practices due to injuries, but Brohm indicated they are nearing full health for the start of the season. 

Thompson ended his 2021 campaign in a huge way, notching Music City Bowl MVP honors by recording seven catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. Behind him, TJ Sheffield, Mershawn Rice and Abdur Rahmaan-Yaseen are a group of young players looking to make an impact in the passing game. 

"This year we're going to have newcomers you may not have heard about as much," Brohm said. "I do think we've built very good depth in that room, and we have a lot of guys I think can emerge and step up and hopefully play close to that level if they're playing well."

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Purdue also added an explosive, do-it-all transfer in former Iowa receiver Tyrone Tracy. The redshirt senior is quickly learning Brohm's complex offensive system and could prove to be a difference-maker in a variety of roles this season. 

Only time will tell who will be available right out of the gates as the program turns its head toward fall camp. 

Defense Evolving Without George Karlaftis

Defensive end George Karlaftis was a dominant force for the Purdue defense over the last three years, but the team will have to adjust without the recent NFL draftee during the 2022 season. 

However, the Boilermakers have a number of experienced players across the defense, and they are poised for breakout seasons. Brohm brought seniors Jalen Graham and Cam Allen with him to Big Ten Football Media Days, two athletes that have steadily improved during their college football careers. 

Graham and Allen, alongside several seniors on the defensive side of the ball, have combined to expand their leadership roles in the absence of Karlaftis this upcoming season. 

"We have to play complementary football in order to win, but I have great confidence in our defense," Brohm said. "I think we'll see more guys emerge. We lost George Karlaftis, who was an outstanding player, great leader, tremendous teammate. We're going to have to find ways to pick up the pieces from there." 

Looking Ahead at the Penn State Nittany Lions

Surely the Purdue football season opener can't come soon enough for Boilermaker fans. Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette will be filled to the brim for a "Blackout" game against the visiting Penn State program. 

The last time the two teams clashed was in 2019, which ended in a 35-7 loss at State College, Pennsylvania. 

"They had 28 points before we could blink, and we had to fight just to stay in the ballgame," Brohm said thinking back on the matchup. 

Last year, Penn State finished with a 7-6 overall record. The Nittany Lions finished tied for second in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing just 17.3 points per game. They also gave up 199.8 yards through the air during the 2021 season, which ranked third in the conference. 

"We understand that they're well-coached. They have great talent. They're going to be hungry, out to prove themselves," Brohm said. "We've got to play at a high level and execute and do a lot of small things right in order to win that football game.

"Fortunately for us, we do have it at home. Our fan support has been outstanding the last couple of years for sure. They're looking forward to playing a great opponent, and we're looking forward to getting on the field."

The Boilermakers will take on the Nittany Lions on Thursday night, Sept. 1 with kickoff set for 8 p.m. ET live on FOX. 

  • KEVIN WARREN DISCUSSES BIG TEN EXPANSION, MEDIA RIGHTS DEAL: Kevin Warren opened the 2022 Big Ten Football Media Days on Tuesday by discussing several topics, including the potential for further conference expansion and the conference's upcoming media rights deal. CLICK HERE 

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