Purdue's defense got a huge jolt Friday, as standout linebacker Jason Werner received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.
Werner, who missed the 2006 and 2008 seasons with back problems, recorded 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last year, his first full season as a starter. He also recorded two forced fumbles and an interception.
The 6-4, 221-pound Werner will be instrumental in helping Purdue improve against the run. The Boilers allowed a Big Ten-worst 173.4 rush yards per game in 2009.
"This is great news for Jason, our football family and all of Boilermaker Nation," head coach Danny Hope said in a statement. "He’s a heck of a player who did a great job last season and can be even better this year. He can be one of the top players at his position in our league. Getting him back also helps us from a leadership standpoint because we don’t have a very big senior class, and he’s a great leader and teammate. All the way around, it’s exciting to have Jason back."
Werner, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, has completed his bachelor's degree and already had started graduate work. He had continued to work out while he awaited word from the NCAA.
This marks the second consecutive year Purdue received good news about a veteran defender, as safety Torri Williams was granted a sixth year last February. Williams led Purdue with 84 tackles in 2009.
With Werner back and end Ryan Kerrigan anchoring the line, Purdue has a few solid pieces to build around on defense. The Boilers must get better against the run, and they'll need to rebuild in the secondary after losing all four starters.
Purdue also announced Friday that defensive graduate assistant Nick Cavallo has left to become defensive line coach at Campbell University.