Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Purdue, home of the QB killer

When I go through my lists of pass rushers, looking for the next potential gem, one peculiarity keeps popping up.  Purdue, despite being a rather mediocre college program, produces a disproportionate number of good pass rushers.  Not Miami.  Not USC.  Not Ohio State.  Purdue.  It makes no sense to me.  They don't really produce many great NFL players at other positions, but this seems to be something they do rather well.  They even have the Den of Defensive Ends listed on their team website, pointing to their primary peculiar accomplishment.

I've already shown the basics of my approach for finding pass rushers here, so I thought I would lay out a list of the rather strong collection of Boilermakers, that keep their school on the national radar.  Some are going to be bigger stars than others, and some might just be situational pass rushers, but they are all interesting to some degree.  These are just the players from 1999 to the present.

Player                      Year           Kangaroo Score        Agility Score        Total        Avg. TFL

Rosevelt Colvin 1999 0.545 0.754 0.556             N/A
Chike Okeafor 1999 0.392 0.707 0.306             N/A
Akin Ayodele  2002 0.496 1.102 0.672             N/A
Shaun Phillips 2004 -0.290 0.893 -0.005 15.75
Rob Ninkovich 2006 0.267 1.013 0.446 13.25
Ray Edwards 2006 1.421 -1.566 0.509 11
Anthony Spencer 2007 -0.215 -0.025 -0.011 17
Cliff Avril 2008 0.287 0.215 0.301 15
Ryan Kerrigan 2011 0.805 0.007 0.632 22.25

As I've said before, I'm usually looking for explosive players (measured by the Kangaroo Score), hopefully with a measure of agility added to the mix.  The Avg. TFL number, is the player's average number of tackles for a loss in their last two years in college.  If a player has a total score over 0.500, and is averaging over 15 TFL, then I consider them a high priority draft prospect.

If there ever was a school that repeatedly produced outliers, who exceeded my expectations, it would be Purdue.  It's not that their players are bad athletically.  It's just that their athletic measurements tend to be in the good to somewhat mundane category.  A few, such as Shaun Phillips or Anthony Spencer, are even well below average, though Phillips was quite agile.  Only Kerrigan, Colvin, Ayodele, and Edwards would have probably caught my computer's attention.  However you want to look at it, I'm past the point of  wanting to bet against players from Purdue.  Almost none of them turn out to be bad.

I've often wondered if they had a head coach, or position coach, who had a particular type of player he recruited.  Or perhaps, they have someone who really does a great job of coaching technique to the players.  Generally, I feel that coaches do very little to change or improve players, but whatever is going on in West Lafayette is intriguing.  The weirdest part about it is that I know they switched head coaches in 2012 and 2009, so it is difficult to attribute it all to one man (though they've only produced one pass rusher, Kerrigan, since the last switch).  Joe Tiller seems like the most obvious person to look to, but he is is 70 now, and probably not looking to dip his toes into the NFL waters at this point.  I kind of like the idea that their is a senior citizen 'meat-head whisperer' out there.  If anyone has any theories, I'd be glad to hear them. 

Maybe it's all just a coincidence.  The sample size still isn't exactly huge.  It only looks peculiar when you compare the results to other top schools that might only produce 2-4 decent pass rushers in the same time span.  All I know is, when draft season rolls around, and I see a defensive end/outside linebacker prospect from Purdue listed, I pay attention, even if the measurements seem a bit off.  Statistics be damned, they're putting something in the water in Indiana.

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