8/28/2023 Boilermaker Water Cooler Chat: New Leaf Edition

Photo: Mark Elsner

Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports.

It’s been a while, folks. 5-ish months. 23 weeks. 161 days to be exact, since my last article. Hope that timeframe has treated you well. I’m fine. No, really, I am fine.

I, like many of you fellow Purdue folk, have spent the majority of duration from March until now gently rocking in a dimly lit room laughing at my own reflection on an empty rocks glass… as one does while mulling over Purdue’s 2023 March Madness performance. Or something like that anyways.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Just as time is inevitable, so is the gentle ease of heartbreak, and as the clock flipped over to August, and soon September. That means one thing!

As a former football player and somewhat coherent sports reporter, it is now time for my favorite time of year! Snap out of the funk, folks! Crack the smelling salts, brew a pot of coffee, and get ready for breakfast club! Step outside, smell the fresh air, and turn over a new leaf!

I’m back, baby!

Football Staff 2023:

Coworkers, friends, family, the usual folk have asked me what I think about this year’s football team. The answer is simple.

I have no freaking idea.

That is a good thing.

Purdue brings in a new face to run the place, as skyrocketing coach Ryan Walters takes his first head coaching gig, leaving rival Illinois to lead the Boilermakers. He replaces Jeff Brohm, a successful coach in his own right at Purdue, who left for greener pastures his alma mater, Louisville.

Ryan Walters is a ball of frenetic energy, a stark contrast vs. a pretty stoic Brohm. Being only 37 years old Walters brings energy that an older generation of coaches normally don’t. Judging by the media that I have seen, Walters’ players have bought it, and have created an endearing relationship with their new coach.

That being said, we don’t know what to expect. Walters has -literally- zero head coaching experience. Likewise, Walters is an incredible defensive mind, which is not what the Boilermaker faithful are used to. How does that translate? Walters has said that as a defensive coach, he knows what offense gives him fits, and this is where things get curious here in West Lafayette.

To lead the offense, Graham Harrell has been brought in as offensive coordinator. Harrell has a history of a spread, air-raid offense. This fits the mold of the historically successful offenses in Purdue’s history. Harrell has plenty of experience as an OC, most recently at high profile locations such as USC and West Virginia.

On defense, Walters will retain play calling duties, but has pulled Kevin Kane from Illinois as his defensive coordinator. Kane does have defensive coordinator experience at Northern Illinois and SMU, but with Walters’ influence on the defense, it will be interesting to see how much Kane influences that side of the ball.

Photo: Mark Elsner

What Does This All Mean?:

Unfortunately, Walters has been keeping his philosophy close to the vest, so we really don’t know. As he is establishing his philosophy, there has been little media access.

That could be a good thing.

By keeping the identity of the program a secret, that means that early opponents will have no idea how to scout the Boilermakers. This leads to the potential for an early advantage.

For a prognosticator like myself, this isn’t a great thing. No information is not great for a “Week Zero” article, even if I can get you to read through 2000+ regardless.

The bottom line is, a winning program is what is best for Purdue, and Walters isn’t showing his hand quite yet.

Keep Your Eye On:

Photo: Mark Elsner
  • Devin Mockobee: The breakout, walk-on, running back was an excellent surprise in the 2022 season. He ended the year with 920 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was so impressive, that Ryan Walters put Mockobee on scholarship as his first item of business for the program. Look for big things from the RB going into year two.
  • Hudson Card: The big-get from the transfer portal for Walters’ program is the Texas Transfer QB. Indications from camp are that he is a natural leader, with the ability to both throw and run, being a serviceable dual threat. He is filling the shoes of Aidan O’Connell who ended his career with 9,219 and 65 passing TD. Card could put up big numbers in Harrell’s offense, which would mean big things for the former Longhorn.
  • Receivers: Purdue is now without a star wide receiver, as Charlie Jones has head off to the NFL. Who is going to step up in Harrell’s offense to be the next Chuck Sizzle, David Bell, or Rondale Moore? There are plenty of options, but as of this preseason, no known superstars. That’s not to say that a Purdue offense can’t thrive without superstar pass catchers, just ask Kyle Orton and Drew Brees how many NFL starting WRs they had.
  • Defense as a Whole: With a defensive minded coach, comes opportunities on that side of the ball. This is the quintessential year that I would need to shell out $5 for a program to learn who the personnel are on this side of the ball. I have full faith that Walters will put the best players out there in order to excel in his system, but with the transfer portal deeply affecting the defensive side of the ball, we’re going to see who steps up.


Ryan Walters has his work cut out for him. New staff, new personnel, and in my opinion a strength of schedule that is in the 10% of hardest in the nation. Purdue plays the normal Big Ten West slate and adds a tough Fresno State squad, a road game at Virginia Tech, a return game against Syracuse, and BOTH Michigan and Ohio State from the Big Ten East.

Yeah, that’s pretty rough.

Normally when a season starts, I play that normal game where you pencil in wins and losses. W, W, W, W, W, W, L, W, W, W… you know what I mean.

With this team being a relatively unknown entity, who knows how this season could go. Purdue very much could be a bowl team, they also could very much be staying home this upcoming post season. Most prognosticators are predicting that Purdue will finish near the bottom of the Big Ten West, some even saying that the Boilers will finish with worse records than doormat programs like Northwestern and Indiana.

Me, I will not even begin to sniff a season prediction. I think there is plenty of talent on this team, but there are too many contributing factors in order for me to make an educated guess. Ryan Walters is keeping things quiet on his front. The new faces on each side of the ball are a question mark. The schedule is tough and Purdue lost a ton of productive talent from the Brohm years.

That being said, at this point in his tenure, I have been given no indication that I should doubt Ryan Walters. He seems to be a fighter. He seems excited. He seems passionate.

I an sure as hell NOT in the business of betting against Coach Walters. There may be hiccups along the way like there is with any new coaching staff. There may be bumps in the road. I’m here for it.

Do not sleep on the Boilermakers.

A Look Ahead:

Saturday is the day, folks. Purdue kicks off the Ryan Walters era in the newly christened/remodeled Ross Ade Stadium. The Tiller Tunnel will be dedicated to the legendary former coach, and the student section has a brilliant looking new end zone to party in!

Purdue has a very established opponent in Fresno State coming in for a nooner. While the Boilers should be favorites in the game, Fresno is a team with a tremendous history, and a great head coach in Jeff Tedford. The Bulldogs have a history of spitting out NFL talent, so do not trust that they are just some “Mountain West” opponent used as a tune-up game. This team can play.

With that being said, ESPN Matchup predictor gives Purdue a 74% chance of victory, but with a betting line which has shrunk to Purdue -4 after opening at Purdue -6.5. Vegas believes that this game should be a close one.

Either way, Boilermaker faithful, the time is here. We are just a handful of days away from turning over a new leaf. We are just a few more “sleeps” away from a new-look stadium. A new energy. A new era.

I for one, can’t wait for Saturday. The All American Marching Band. The Tailgates. The Breakfast Club. The Old Gold and Black.

See you all on gameday! Boiler up!

For more content like this follow @ISC_Purdue on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. For a deeper look into the mad mind of Ben Kolodzinski, follow him at @BRKolo on Twitter. WARNING: Viewer’s discretion is advised…

About Benjamin Kolodzinski 93 Articles
Blending the passion of a sports fan with years of media experience, Ben Kolodzinski is a unique personality for ISC Purdue. Since the 2017-18 NCAA seasons, Ben has written weekly columns for ISC, with a style that can only be described as snarky, irreverent, and often times irrelevant. A 2008 graduate from Purdue West Lafayette, Kolodzinski has worked for several local and regional media outlets. Best known for his television and radio work at Lakeshore Public Media (Lakeshore Public Television, and 89.1 The Lakeshore), Kolodzinski helped grow Northwest Indiana's only nightly news show Lakeshore News Tonight, along with The Region's only local sports shows Prep Sports Report, and Prep Football Report. As of 2022, Kolodzinski hosts Lakeshore Gamenight, a prep football radio show and cohosts Lakeshore PBS Scoreboard, a prep football TV highlight show. Kolodzinski is known, locally, for having a fun loving and gregarious personality, and for attempting to inject humor into his reporting... sometimes successfully.

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