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, who have opted out to focus on the NFL Draft and a handful of players who have entered the transfer portal.
“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.
Like Kelly did last January, Purdue’s situation has Walters mostly watching bowl preparations. The Boilermakers will be coached by Brohm’s younger brother Brian before he leaves to become offensive coordinator at Louisville. Three other assistants have already 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 chomping 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.