Purdue recruits for frontline need Boilermakers sign 24 for Class of 2017

In Jeff Brohm’s pass-happy system, if you can’t protect the quarterback, you got nothing.

So as Purdue’s new football coach approached his first recruiting class, one priority dominated everything else:

Bring in the offensive linemen.

And so the Boilers did.

They signed five on Wednesday as part of their 24-player class to address the biggest need for next season.

They have a strong quarterback in David Blough, who led the Big Ten in passing. They have a talented running back in Markell Jones. But if Purdue can’t protect Blough or open holes for Jones, it has no chance.

And Brohm definitely wants to have a chance.

So joining the team are offensive linemen DeShon Washington (6-5, 275), Viktor Beach (6-5 285), Jelen Jackson (6-3, 255), Ethan Smart (6-6, 290) and Mark Stickford (6-6, 250).

“We needed to add depth to that position,” Brohm said during Wednesday’s press conference, “so we worked hard to do that and make sure that was addressed first.”

Brohm took the Purdue job after three seasons of impressive success at Western Kentucky. He’s pushing for a turnaround after four years of misery under Darrell Hazell and so, while putting together a new staff, focused on what the needs were.

“You try to identify, why didn’t we win last year? What do we need to get?”

Of course, when you win just nine games in four seasons, needs are everywhere you look. The biggest besides the offensive line were the defensive line, receiver and the secondary.

“We did want to identify where we needed some help,” Brohm said on a Purdue video. “We were very diligent in that aspect. We went after young men we thought could fit in that mode and who we could develop a quick relationship with.

“It’s hard when a new staff comes in. With the guys who were already committed, they don’t know us, and we don’t know them.”

Purdue signed a couple of potentially dynamic playmakers – receivers Keyron Catlett and Tyler Hamilton, and defensive back Kenneth Major.

The 5-10, 180-pound Catlett caught 213 passes in his Kentucky high school career for 3,617 yards (a 17.0-yard average) with 36 touchdowns.

The 5-9, 168-pound Hamilton, from South Carolina, was a running and receiving threat. As a senior he rushed for 634 yards and five touchdowns, and had 610 receiving yards and five more TDs.

Major was an all-state player from Kentucky. Teams rarely threw his way as a senior. As a junior, he returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

Purdue signed five junior college players — receivers Isaac Zico and Terry Wright, offensive lineman Ethan Smart, defensive back T. J. Jallow and defensive end Kai Higgins. Brohm said the Boilers won’t emphasize that route in the future.

“We always want to build from the high school ranks. But looking at the roster, we did need some immediate help in certain positions. This year went after them a little bit more. You get guys who can come in a little further along development-wise than high school players. They’re also experienced in playing against the best competition. Going forward, it’s not something we’ll invest in extremely strong in, but we wanted to make sure got help.”

The 6-2, 205-pound Jallow was a four-star prospect out of East Mississippi Community College. Zico was a junior college honorable mention All-America for Georgia Military. Last season he caught 46 passes for 938 yards (a 20.4-yard-per-catch average) and 14 touchdowns.

Brohm said it’s possible five more players could be signed for this class.

While Brohm and his staff were in scramble mode for this recruiting period, they will be well positioned for the future. Brohm said the Boilers already have “identified the top prospects from about 10 different states.” He and his staff also are hitting in-state programs hard, something that slipped dramatically under Hazell.

Brohm only signed two in-state players. He said it will be a major point of emphasis in the future.

“It is important to recruit Indiana and a three- to four-hour radius,” he said. “It was obvious that it had not been done to the level needed. We needed to make up some ground. I feel we have made some headway.” <br>

<center> For more on college football follow Pete DiPrimio on Twitter at pdiprimio. </center><br>

<center> PURDUE CLASS OF 2017 </center><br>

Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Hometown

Jacob Abrams, DB, 6-2, 190, Carmel, Ind.

Griffin Alstott, QB, 6-2, 205, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Derrick Barnes, LB, 6-1, 240, Covington, Ky.

Viktor Beach, OL, 6-5, 300, Fort Meyers, Fla.

Keyron Catlett, WR, 5-10, 180, Hopkinsville, Ky.

Allen Daniels, DL, 6-2, 300, Dacula, Ga.

DJ Edwards, WR, 6-2, 180, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Tyler Hamilton, WR, 5-9, 168, Hilton Head, S.C.

Kai Higgins, DE, 6-4, 245, Pomona, Calif.

Jalen Jackson, OL, 6-3, 260, Powder Springs, Ga.

T.J. Jallow, CB, 6-2, 205, Olive Branch, Miss.

Cornel Jones, LB, 6-2, 230, Miami, Fla.

Tobias Larry, LB, 6-1, 200, Lakeland, Fla.

Dedrick Mackey, DB, 5-11, 165, Miami, Fla.

Kenneth Major, DB, 6-0, 190, Hopkinsville, Ky.

Robert McWilliams, DE, 6-4, 210, Coral Gables, Fla.

Darius Pittman, TE, 6-3, 235, Bay Saint Louis, Miss.

Giovanni Reviere, DL, 6-5, 270, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Nick Sipe, QB, 6-4, 190, Villa Park, Calif.

Ethan Smart, OL, 6-6, 290, Southaven, Miss.

Mark Stickford, OL, 6-6, 260, Carmel, Ind.

DJ Washington, OL, 6-4, 275, Louisville, Ky.

Terry Wright, WR, 5-11, 170, Memphis, Tenn.

Isaac Zico, WR, 6-0, 190, Milledgeville, Ga.