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For Brees to win the Heisman, he'll need more help from his D than he got last
The question, as ludicrous as it sounds, is posed to Akin Ayodele with a straight
face: Might the junior linebacker be as valuable a player to the Boilermakers as
quarterback Drew Brees? "Come on ... me?" says Ayodele. "I
can only hope to have the success I did last year. But having Drew means
everything. Because of him the whole team has that confidence you need to win in
the Big Ten."
| The Book
| An opposing team's coach sizes up the
"Their offense does a great job of spreading you out, but they have trouble in
the red zone. It sounds funny, but you want to keep their offense on the field.
In other words, avoid the quick strike.... Brees presents problems; he never
throws a bad ball. You've got to pressure him, but you can't sacrifice too much
coverage to do it.... Their running game is spotty.... The defense plays as hard
as any in the Big Ten, but the secondary is a bit
This is all true enough, but for Purdue to have a serious shot at going to its
first Rose Bowl since 1966, the Boilermakers must avoid the shootouts they so
often lost in '99, when they gave up more than 28 points a game to Big Ten foes.
Enter Ayodele, who finished last year with 11 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss
despite having to learn a new position: defensive end. During the spring, coach
Joe Tiller moved Ayodele back to outside linebacker, his natural position.
"On D, everything starts with Akin," says Tiller.
Ayodele, a surprise hit in '99, will be even more smashing now that he's back
at linebacker. |
On offense everything, of course, starts with Brees, who followed a stellar 1998
(3,983 yards, 39 touchdown passes) with an impressive '99 (3,909 yards and
25 scores). Big numbers, however, won't come easy this fall. Purdue's
receiving corps is the weakest it's been since Brees arrived in West Lafayette,
and then there's the schedule. The Boilermakers face a nasty five-game stretch
that includes Penn State and Wisconsin on the road and Michigan and Ohio State
at home. During a similar stretch last season, Purdue saw a 4-0 start give way
to a hellish 2-3 October. The Boilermakers weren't the same after that, blowing
a 25-point lead to Georgia in the Outback Bowl, the biggest meltdown in Division
I-A bowl history. "That game pains me more than any other in my
Ayodele shares his coach's pain. "This year, though," he says,
"we'll be finishing
Issue date: August 14, 2000
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