Purdue Football 2021: Position Previews – Wide Receivers

Rondale Moore is gone, drafted 49th overall by the Arizona Cardinals, and the Boiler faithful will have to watch him on Sundays from now on.  One of the greatest receivers in school history despite only playing in 20 games, Moore leaves behind a group of receivers ready to write the first chapter on their own.  It goes without saying that David Bell is now the unquestioned go to option for the Boilers, but a talented and experienced group are ready to prove this ain’t a one star show.  Let’s take a look at Purdue’s arsenal of options this fall.

David Bell – Starter

After a 1000+ yard true freshman season campaign, David Bell didn’t miss a beat heading into 2020 despite all the craziness going on in the world and the season.  Bell hauled in 53 receptions for 625 yards in just 6 games, well on pace for another 1000+ yard season in a normal year, and averaged 11.8 yards per reception.  Where Bell really excelled in 2020 was in the redzone, scoring 6 of his 8 touchdowns from inside the redzone.  The staff has complete faith in Bell as a leader and the go to option when they need him, there isn’t a better example than the end of the Illinois game in 2020.  Up by a touchdown, and backed up his own redzone  facing a 3rd and long, Brohm rang up Bell’s number for a fade to seal Purdue’s win over the Illini 31-24.  If that isn’t trust, I don’t know what is.  

Milton Wright – Starter

In 2020, Milton Wright took some big steps forward in his progression as a receiver at Purdue.  Wright brought in over twice as many receptions per game compared to his freshman year and still was able to average a great 12.7 yards per reception over six games.  Much more than just a viable option, I’m looking for Wright to continue his progression and potentially even push Bell in receiving yards this season.  Going into 2020 Wright’s hand skills were the biggest question and he seems to have put in tons of work the past two off seasons sto improve that and  wouldn’t be surprised to even see him get around the 1000 yard mark on the year.

Jackson Anthrop – Contributor

After a broken foot towards the end of the 2019 season, 2020 wasn’t all too kind to Jackson Anthrop either as he was injured during training camp and had surgery to repair his shoulder.   Despite returning for the final four games of the season Anthrop was minimally utilized, bringing in just 3 receptions for 33 yards.  Anthrop has had two very solid seasons so far at Purdue in 2017 and 2019 averaging 42 receptions and 380 yards in those seasons and is poised to add a third in 2021.  The crafty 5th year veteran will be pushed by rising sophomore TJ Sheffield, but his experience, leadership and sure handedness will be something Purdue will lean on all season long.  

TJ Sheffield – Contributor

Sheffield will be entering his third season in the program this fall, but hasn’t seen much action on the offensive side of the ball.  But last year Sheffield started to show glimpses of the greatness he is capable of when the ball is in his hands on the kick return game.  Sheffield averaged 20.9 yards per return and had a long of 41 yards against Nebraska.  In terms of playing style Sheffield has above average speed and quicks and would likely be used in a similar mold as Rondale Moore in Jeff Brohm’s offense.  A big question going into the season will be his availability to start the season due to recently reported off-field issues.  Regardless, when Sheffield hits the field in 2021 he will push Jackson Anthrop for the starting role in the slot. 

Mershawn Rice – Contributor

The website we use for stats, Stat Reference, doesn’t even have Mershawn Rice in the system yet because injuries put a halt on playing for the third year so far during his career.  But Rice is looking to put that behind him in 2021 and ready to live up to his hype coming out of high school.  All reports over the past three years have been that the staff really like what they see and believe Rice can be a meaningful contributor, so should the injury bug be behind Rice be ready for another potent option on the outside.  

Broc Thompson – Contributor

Broc Thompson makes his way to Purdue this year and a pretty unique path.  Thompson is originally from Indianapolis, where he attended Ben Davis High School and was part of the 2018 recruiting class and was committed to Western Illinois, before choosing to go to Prep School at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.  Following the 2018 season, Thompson enrolled early at Marshall and would spend two seasons at the FBS level, where he had 33 receptions for 562 yards over 11 games.  Thompson is definitely one to watch out as the third outside receiver option this season.  He has performed well at camp and has by all accounts meshed well with the wide receiver group and team.  

Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen – Contributor

ARY is another receiver to watch out for as an option for WR3 as we enter 2021.  Yaseen only appeared in one game in 2020 before redshirting the rest of the season, but was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school.  Staff has said he is one of the most polished receivers they have had come in as a true freshman, which is very high praise.  Yaseen is a great student and appears to be an extremely hard worker and dedicated student of the game ala Rondale Moore.  My pick for a surprise breakout season in the receiver corps this year.

Marcellus Moore – Potential Contributor

Marcellus Moore is another young receiver in the room that didn’t see the field his freshman year.  At 5’8” 170 lbs Marcellus is small in stature but extremely fast, so fast in fact he competed in the 2020 Olympic trials this past summer in the 100m dash and holds multiple Top 10 indoor track sprint times for Purdue.  There is obviously a lot you can do with someone that fast, but like with most small speedsters durability is a concern that we will have to wait and see. With Anthrop and SHeffield the likely leading candidates at slot, I think we are more likely to see Marcellus this season as a kick return specialist or even as a running back, and if that does happen be ready for a show.  

Collin Sullivan – Potential Contributor

Sullivan is another receiver from the 2020 recruiting class that didn’t see the field as a true freshman.  Similar to ARY, Sullivan will be working to compete for the WR3 spot on the outside this fall.  While we haven’t seen much action, the coaching staff has indicated that they really like what Sullivan is doing, just that there have been so many options.  Sullivan will certainly be another contender for breakout offensive star in 2021.

Kory Taylor – Reserve 

Taylor has always been a very interesting person to watch and wait for him to breakout and really utilize his height to his advantage and really be a threat over the top and in the red zone.  Unfortunately we just haven’t had a chance to see that in his three seasons in West Lafayette.  If we are to see Taylor this fall, it would likely be on a special teams unit.

Deion Burks – Redshirt

Burks makes his way to Purdue via Michigan high school power house Belleville where helped lead the Tigers to a 10-1 record, only losing to the eventual state champs in the semi-finals.  At 5’11” 180 lbs, Burks has solid size in the slot and the quicks to match putting up a very good 4.15 shuttle during the opening.  Burks is unlikely to play in 2021, but will be someone to watch as he develops during his time at Purdue.

Preston Terrell – Redshirt

Terrell makes his way to Purdue via Brownsburg high school.  During his junior and senior seasons, Terrell had 106 catches for 1,648 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Bulldogs.  With the complexity of the playbook and stiff competition on the outside Terrell will almost for sure redshirt this fall in preparation for competing for a spot in 2022.

Purdue has a bevy of walk-ons to fill out the roster and work the scout team:

Andrew Sowinski – Bishop Chatard (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Alex Maxwell – St. Leon (East Central, Indiana)

Camden Childers – Carroll (Fort Wayne, Indiana)

Ben Van Noord – Northwestern (Springfield, Ohio)

Hayden Praise – Rockherst (Kansas City, Missouri)

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