WEST LAFAYETTE - This is the fifth in a series breaking down each Purdue position group heading into the 2022 season.
Kieren Douglas (sixth year, 67 tackles, 3 TFL); Semisi Fakasiieiki (seventh year); OC Brothers (RS-junior, 12 tackles); Jacob Wahlberg (RS-junior, 6 tackles, 1 INT); Clyde Washington (Jr., 6 tackles); Ben Kreul (RS-soph. 4 tackles).
Domanick Moon (Fr.).
The group has two of the most experienced linebackers in the country based on longevity with Douglas and Fakasiieiki, who was injured last year during preseason practices and never played. If the defense is going well, these two will likely lead the team in tackles. Brothers and Washington bring more athletic ability to the position and will need to defend in space. Don’t look for more than two linebackers on the field since Jalen Graham will be at the nickel position. The opponents’ scheme will dictate who’s on the field for the Boilermakers.
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▶ Will a linebacker lead the team in tackles? Jaylan Alexander did last season with 113 and we’ll see if that mark is topped this season.
▶ Can Brothers have a breakout year? He would seem poised to take a big step after transferring from Auburn prior to last season and settling in on special teams. Brothers is more comfortable and understands his role. He has the athletic ability to make an impact.
▶ Is there enough depth? After Douglas and Fakasiieiki, there’s not a lot of experience. But Brothers, Washington, Wahlberg and Kreul will need to mature quickly to make a difference.
What to like
The game experience is a bonus at the top of the depth chart, and it should benefit as the defense navigates the early part of the schedule. Douglas enjoyed a solid season in 2021 playing next to Alexander and was free to make plays. He’s blossomed into a strong presence on the defense. Fakasiieiki’s last game was Dec. 5, 2020, against Nebraska and the California native will be hungry. The athletic ability of Brothers and Washington is a plus.
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Opponents putting the linebackers in space and forcing them to play sideline-to-sideline. Douglas and Fakasiieiki are downhill defenders and have proven solid against the run. But spread teams can take advantage and the duo will need help from other parts of the defense. As long as the defensive line remains solid and leans on its depth, the linebackers can continue to make a difference.
By the number
10: Interceptions by Purdue linebackers since 2017
“I felt like last year it definitely allowed me to watch the game, learn the game and improve and just to get a good feel for the game. Coming here last year has really provided me the opportunity to see the field, learn how the Big Ten works and everything like that. This year, I’ve taken on more of a leadership role and I’m stepping up and just trying to be the best player I can.”
-Brothers on starting his second season with the Boilermakers
Mike Carmin covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier and USA Today Network. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter and Instagram @carmin_jc
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: 2022 Purdue football preview: LBs follow Kieran Douglas, Fakasiieiki