- Mitch Sherman, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our series on replacing important players around the Big Ten turns next to Purdue. The Boilermakers, after three wins in Darrell Hazell’s second season, have shown progress but remain in need of upgrades and improvement across their roster.
B1G SHOES TO FILL: Akeem Hunt, RB
Why: The speedy back played an important role for four years at Purdue. As a senior, he rushed for 949 yards and six touchdowns and caught a team-high 48 passes for 293 yards and two scores. Earlier in his career, Hunt starred as a return specialist. With uncertainty and youth at quarterback, Purdue relied on Hunt in crucial moments. He simply made plays when the Boilermakers struggled to stock the offense with talent.
Replacement candidates: Keyante Green (5-9, 219, sophomore), D.J. Knox (5-7, 197, sophomore), David Yancey (5-10, 213, sophomore), Keith Byars II (5-1, 204, sophomore), Markell Jones (5-11, 207, freshman)
The skinny: The Boilermakers are also replacing Raheem Mostert, who formed a nice duo with Hunt that fueled the offense for Purdue. Green, a former ESPN 300 recruit out of Georgia, rushed for 199 yards last year. Knox and Yancey played little as reserves. Byars has not played. Jones, an early enrolling freshman, rushed for more than 3,500 yards as a high school senior last fall and offers intriguing athleticism. Purdue coaches would prefer to find a set of backs to share the load.
B1G SHOES TO FILL: Landon Feichter, FS
Why: He was the best player on the Purdue defense last season as a fifth-year senior, earning defensive MVP honors in a vote of the players and honorable-mention All-Big Ten from the coaches and media. Feichter led the team in tackles with 105 – second most among defensive backs in the league -- and snagged a team-high five interceptions.
Replacement candidates: Leroy Clark (5-10, 190, junior), Robert Gregory (6-1, 219, junior), Evan Feichter (6-0, 190, junior), Tim Cason (5-11, 195, redshirt freshman), Brandon Roberts (5-11, 198, redshirt freshman),
The skinny: Taylor Richards is also gone at safety, leaving a large hole in the heart of the secondary. Though Frankie Williams is solid at corner, Purdue must find a playmaker from the group of inexperienced safeties. Gregory is a converted running back. Clark played cornerback the past two seasons. After ranking 10th in the league in passing yards allowed per game, Purdue has big questions in the secondary.