Purdue coach Danny Hope says his team is moving on without linebacker Dwayne Beckford, who was dismissed from the team on Wednesday. “We’re getting ready to play a football game and win the football game without Dwayne,” Hope said to the media on Wednesday.
Beckford, the team’s top returning tackler who had 91 stops in 2011 with seven tackles for loss and three sacks, was arrested on Monday and charged with two counts of possession of paraphernalia and one count of possession of a synthetic drug. The incident that led to his arrest occurred a week earlier on Aug. 20.
This is a big blow to the Boilermaker defense, which was thought to be the strength of the team. With Beckford—who by far was the team’s best linebacker but had missed spring drills serving a suspension for another incident–the linebacker corps was considered suspect. Without him, the unit could struggle.
Sophomore Joe Gilliam and senior Antwon Higgs figure to be the most likely players to assume Beckford’s spot at middle linebacker. Another player in the mix is junior Sean Robinson, who began his career as a quarterback before moving to defense in the spring.
Gilliam, 6-1, 227, is most likely to be the starter this Saturday in the opener vs. FCS Eastern Kentucky. Gilliam, who primarily has been an outside linebacker in his career, has played in 11 games with one start. Hope has described Gilliam as the team’s fourth-best linebacker behind Beckford and outside ‘backer starters Will Lucas and Robert Maci.
Higgs is a 6-3, 246-pounder with nine career tackles and no starts. Robinson is a 6-3, 240-pounder with no career tackles.
On Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference with reporters, Hope discussed the Beckford situation as it stood at that time (read the AP story here). You can hear his Hope’s answers here:
The Boilermaker defense still will be strong up front with tackle Kawann Short and end Ryan Russell. And the secondary looks solid with corners Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson serving as anchors under new coordinator Tim Tibesar.
But their loads are now bigger with Beckford gone, as Purdue aims for a second bowl in succession.
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