Without best players, No. 17 LSU, Purdue look to adjust in Citrus Bowl

Brian Kelly understands Ryan Walters’ situation.

It was just over a year ago that Kelly had just been hired as LSU head coach and watched a depleted team that he was about to take over lose to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.

Now Kelly’s No. 17 Tigers are the opponent for the recently hired Walters and a depleted Purdue team in the Citrus Bowl on Monday in Orlando, Fla.

Kelly watched offensive line coach Brad Davis serve as interim head coach and coach a team with just 38 scholarship players and a wide receiver playing quarterback in the 42-20 loss to the Wildcats.

Purdue (8-5) has seen several key players opt out as Walters ascends from Illinois defensive coordinator to succeed Jeff Brohm, who left to become head coach at Louisville.

“They’re playing LSU and they’re going to play hard,” Kelly said of the Boilermakers. “They’re going to play for four quarters. They’re a Big Ten team. They’ve got scholarship players.”

Kelly hasn’t avoided key departures this season either. LSU (9-4) will be without starting defensive linemen BJ Ojulari, Ali Gaye and Jaquelin Roy as well as star wideout Kayshon Boutte, who all opted out to focus on the NFL Draft. A handful of players have also entered the transfer portal.

Boutte announced Wednesday night that he’s entering the draft, reversing course from his announcement earlier this month that he would be returning to Baton Rouge, La.

“Our focus has been much more on what we do and how we do it, and our preparation, more so than really concerning ourselves with what Purdue’s situation is,” Kelly said.

Purdue’s situation has Walters mostly watching bowl preparations just as Kelly did last January. The Boilermakers will be coached by Brohm’s younger brother Brian before he leaves to become offensive coordinator at Louisville. Three other assistants already have moved on to Louisville.

“It provides opportunities for other guys to show up and show everybody what they’ve got,” Brian Brohm said. “This is the Citrus Bowl, ranked opponent, SEC, played in SEC championship game.

“The ones that have been playing are excited to have this opportunity. The guys that might get a bigger role because somebody else stepped away, they’re champing at the bit to show what they can do.”

Boilermakers quarterback Aidan O’Connell, record-setting receiver Charlie Jones, tight end Payne Durham and defensive leaders in cornerback Cory Trice and linebacker Jalen Graham opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Jones and Durham were First-Team All-Big Ten selections, and O’Connell was a second-team selection.

Austin Burton will make his second start of the season at quarterback. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 166 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 28-26 win over FAU on Sept. 24. Michael Alaimo will be the backup quarterback.

Former New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees has temporarily returned to his alma mater to prepare the quarterbacks for the bowl game.

“He’s (Burton) chomping at the bit to get out there and lead these guys,” Brian Brohm said of Burton. “I anticipate trying to get (Alaimo) in the game in some form or fashion.”

This is the first time LSU and Purdue have played each other in a football game.

–Field Level Media