CHICAGO — Purdue has 10 starters back on defense.
That list includes first-team All-Big Ten defensive tackle Kawann Short and second-team All-Big Ten cornerback Ricardo Allen.
But there are some new pieces on defense – the coaches.
Tim Tibesar is in his first year as the team’s defensive coordinator/linebackers coach. Greg Burns and Kevin Wolthausen joined the staff in February as the defensive backs and defensive line coaches, respectively.
“The transition has been great,” Allen said during Big Ten media day Friday at Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. “(Tibesar) is a great coach. He makes sure everyone on the team knows their exact role.
“Me as a corner, I know exactly what (Short) has to do. Our safeties know what our linebackers have to do. It’s a great thing because we all move faster, play faster, and it’s working out really well.”
The basic defense will be a 4-3.
“They brought their own plays in,” Allen said, “and every coach has their own special set of plays, but everything really is the same.”
Tibesar joined Purdue’s staff after three seasons with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
He spent two years as the linebackers coach before becoming the defensive coordinator in 2011. The Alouettes finished the regular season as the CFL’s top-rated run defense, giving up 92.4 yards per game.
“He’s not just a linebackers coach or a defensive coordinator. When things hit the fan, it’s ‘D tackles, why didn’t you do this or that,’ ” Short said.
“He goes through every position. He knows every position. He knows how every position is supposed to be played.”
Tibesar also spent three years at Kansas State (2006-08). He was the defensive coordinator the last two seasons.
“The players have rallied around his coaching style,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said. “I really like the scheme he has brought. It’s multiple in its presentation to the opposition, but simple in its teaching and application.”
Burns spent the previous four seasons as the cornerbacks coach at Arizona State. He spent 2007 as the secondary coach at Kansas State under Tibesar.
Eastern Michigan, Louisville, Arizona, Oklahoma and Arizona State have been among the coaching stops for Wolthausen. He joined the Boilermakers from the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League, where he was the defensive line coach.
With depth and experience – especially on the defensive line and secondary – the pieces could be in place to improve after finishing ninth in the conference in total defense last season.
“We have a lot of guys back, a lot of juniors and seniors back,” Short said. “We know what we are capable of. We know what we can do. We just have to execute it and stay healthy.”